For much of Thursday's Group 3, $250,000 U.A.E. Oaks, runaway pacesetter Mary Fildes threatened to pull a shocker. But Godolphin's Falls of Lora rallied from well back to foil the audacious front runner, handing the team its incredible eighth victory in just 12 runnings of the fillies' classic.
Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies runner-up Grace Hall is set to launch her sophomore campaign on Saturday as the probable favorite and horse to beat in the Grade 2, $250,000 Davona Dale Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The 1 1/16-mile race has drawn nine total runners, including Disposablepleasure, who will be Grace Hall's main threat.
Saturday's Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds lost an entrant Monday when the undefeated sophomore filly Applauding was withdrawn following a four-furlong breeze in :50 4/5 over the fast main track at Fair Grounds.
"She didn't work to my satisfaction and I'm going to scratch her," trainer Al Stall Jr. said. "She just wasn't herself. I don't know if something's bugging her internally or what. She just wasn't right."
Believe You Can will only have to contend with six rivals in Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes at Fair Grounds, but her biggest threat looks to come from a filly making her stakes bow in the 1 1/16-mile race.
Grade 3 winner Now I Know, the Oklahoma-bred gray who saw her undefeated status snapped in the $75,000 Martha Washington at Oaklawn Park last Saturday, has been retired after exiting the one-mile race with a fractured left knee.
Trainer Don Von Hemel, who co-owns and co-bred the three-year-old filly with Wayne Stockseth, told Daily Racing Form that Now I Know would be sent to Oklahoma City for possible surgery. She will eventually be bred.
Amie's Dini was the second choice in Saturday's $75,000 Martha Washington Stakes at Oaklawn Park, but ran like a favorite when holding previously unbeaten 1-2 choice Now I Know by 1 3/4 lengths on the wire.
Dual Grade 2-winning filly On Fire Baby will be pointed toward the Grade 3, $125,000 Honeybee at Oaklawn Park on March 10 as trainer Gary 'Red Dog' Hartlage seeks the best schedule to get the talented three-year-old to peak at Churchill Downs in the first week of May.
"It's all about the best road for getting to Louisville," Hartlage said. "I have no problem waiting a few more weeks with the way she's been training if this puts on that road."
Dixie Strike (Dixie Union), the lesser half of an entry bet down to 4-5, saved chalk players with a strong stretch rally in Saturday's $105,000 Florida Oaks at Tampa Bay Downs.
Owned by John Oxley and trained by Mark Casse, Dixie Strike was ridden here by Jose Lezcano.
"I think Dixie Strike could be a Kentucky Oaks filly," Casse said. "We're going to have to map out a plan to get there."
Trainer Mark Casse will invade Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday with a trio of three-year-olds looking to take the next step on the road to Churchill Downs. Sovereign Award finalist Prospective, a son of Malibu Moon, will go in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes while Northern Passion and Dixie Strike will line up in the $150,000 Florida Oaks for three-year-old fillies on turf.
Broadway's Alibi ran lights out in the slop at Gulfstream Park on Sunday when dominating the Grade 2, $200,000 Forward Gal Stakes under jockey John Velazquez. The dark bay daughter of Vindication was making her stakes bow in the seven-furlong contest and frolicked home a 16 3/4 length winner over the sealed dirt for trainer Todd Pletcher.
"She's fast," Pletcher stated. "I don't know about distance. I guess we'll have to find out at some point."
Phil Daniels et al's Willa B Awesome lived up to her name on Saturday with a nice front-running win in the Grade 3, $100,000 Santa Ysabel Stakes at Santa Anita. The Walther Solis trainee headed straight to the front when the gates opened and had more than enough in reserve to withstand the late run of 3-1 second favorite Killer Graces in the lane.
Despite owning just one prior start, Lanni Family Trust's Reneesgotzip ran away with the Grade 2, $150,000 Santa Ynez Stakes at Santa Anita on Sunday. Ridden by Corey Nakatani, the Peter Miller trainee finished 6 1/2 furlongs on the fast dirt in 1:15 1/5, returning $4, $2.80 and $2.60 as the even-money favorite.
Peachtree Stable's Sacristy, a smashing Churchill Downs maiden winner in her first opportunity on dirt, followed up promptly in her stakes debut in Sunday's Grade 3, $100,000 Old Hat Stakes at Gulfstream Park. Trained by Wayne Catalano and ridden by Kent Desormeaux, the 6-5 choice unleashed a powerful rally down the stretch and drew off by 1 3/4 lengths. The newly-minted sophomore took 1:10 4/5 to complete six furlongs on the fast track, returning $4.60, $2.80 and $2.40.
Borislow et al's Killer Graces fanned three-wide rounding the turn of Saturday's Grade 1, $402,000 Hollywood Starlet Stakes and rallied in the lane to be a half-length in front of Charm the Maker on the wire of the 8 1/2-furlong affair. Jockey Joe Talamo piloted the Jerry Hollendorfer pupil to finish in 1:44 on Hollywood Park's Cushion Track.
Glencrest Farm's Disposablepleasure recovered from a bad stumble at the start, and survived an objection, to prevail as the 6-5 favorite in Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 Demoiselle Stakes at Aqueduct.
Anita Cauley's homebred On Fire Baby crushed her rivals in Saturday's Grade 2, $169,350 Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs, winning off by 6 1/4 lengths, and became only the seventh filly to sweep Churchill Downs' fall stakes for two-year-old fillies with the gate-to-wire decision.
The Gary Hartlage-trained filly captured the Grade 2 Pocahontas Stakes on the opening weekend of the fall meet.
With the scratch of morning-line favorite Assateague, fellow East Coast shipper More Than Love was bet down to even-money in Friday's Grade 3, $100,000 Miesque Stakes at Hollywood Park. The John Terranova II juvenile gave her backers fits as she engaged in an all-out stretch duel with Starship Flare, the 29-1 longest shot on the board, but ultimately averted the upset. Under Ramon Dominguez, More Than Love forced her nose in front at the wire, completing one mile on the firm turf in 1:36 1/5.
Don Von Hemel and Wayne Stockseth's homebred Now I Know turned the Grade 3, $500,000 Delta Downs Princess Stakes into a veritable procession on Saturday afternoon. Assuming command at the start and under no pressure throughout, Now I Know galloped with ease around the six-furlong oval and opened up late to win by four lengths to remain undefeated in five career starts.
My Miss Aurelia gave owners George Bolton and Stonestreet Stables a reason to celebrate on Friday when running away with the $1,818,000 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs. Powering down the center of the track, the Smart Strike filly easily moved her record to a perfect four-for-four when crossing under the wire in 1:46 for 1 1/16 miles on the good dirt with Corey Nakatani aboard.
Stephanie's Kitten came flying late to collar pacesetter Stopshoppingmaria in deep stretch and surged to a three-quarter length victory in Friday's $909,000 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Churchill Downs. Winner of the Grade 1 Alcibiades Stakes on Keeneland's Polytrack in her previous start, the Ken and Sarah Ramsey homebred was ridden by John Velazquez.