Jacks or Better Farm's homebred AWESOME FEATHER (Awesome of Course) had already asserted her dominance over the juvenile filly ranks at Calder, but on Friday the Stanley Gold trainee was ready to take on the rest of her division when lining up in the $1,818,000 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Churchill Downs.
After tracking the pace in second during the opening stages, Zayat Stables' homebred A Z WARRIOR (Bernardini) accelerated away from her foes in upper stretch and went on to a comfortable 1 3/4-length score in Saturday's $300,000 Frizette S. (G1) at Belmont Park. Trained by Bob Baffert, the dark bay filly established herself as a top contender for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) with a smashing performance in her dirt debut.
Thor-Bred Stable LLC's RIGOLETTA (Concerto) wasn't given much chance of winning Sunday's $210,000 Oak Leaf S. (G1) during the Oak Tree at Hollywood meet, but the bay lass proved all her naysayers wrong with a gutsy half-length score over 1-2 favorite Tell a Kelly (Tapit). Sent off the 32-1 second longest shot in the seven-filly race, Rigoletta paid $67.40, $11.30 and $4.60 for finishing 8 1/2 Cushion Track furlongs in 1:44 under jockey David Flores.
Beverly Anderson and Edward Seltzer's WYOMIA (Vindication) led throughout to defeat odds-on choice Delightful Mary (Limehouse) by 2 3/4 lengths in Saturday's $225,470 Mazarine S. (Can-G3) for two-year-old fillies at Woodbine.
Guided by Emile Ramsammy, the Daniel Vella trainee covered 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack in 1:43 4/5.
Peter Moehrke, Rafter JR Ranch and STD Racing's WICKEDLY PERFECT (Congrats) rated close to a blistering pace, took over when the speed collapsed past the quarter pole, and had enough left to fend off challengers from the back to land the $150,000 Sorrento S. (G3) at Del Mar on Friday night. Under Rafael Bejarano, the near 6-1 fourth choice was clear by a length at the wire and completed 6 1/2 furlongs on Polytrack in 1:17.
Southern California invader WICKEDLY PERFECT (Congrats), who suffered her first career loss last time out in the Darley Debutante S. (G1) at Del Mar, got back on the winning track with a wire-to-wire victory in Friday's $400,000 Alcibiades S. (G1) on opening day at Keeneland. Under a well-judged ride by Rafael Bejarano, the 3-2 favorite maintained a safe two-length margin in her two-turn debut, and thereby propelled herself into the November 5 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Churchill Downs.
Jeff Nielsen's FULL MOON BLUES (Petionville) made all the running to register an 11-1 upset of the $98,000 Tempted S. (G3) for juveniles fillies over a mile. Malcolm Franklin guided the Maryland-based filly through splits of :24, :48 1/5 and 1:13, and drew away to defeat favorites Tap for Luck (Tapit) and Dixie City (Dixie Union) in a time of 1:38 2/5 over a track labeled good.
Phillips Racing Partnership's homebred WINTER MEMORIES (El Prado [Ire]) ran away from her rivals in Sunday's $150,000 Miss Grillo S. (G3) at Belmont Park. With jockey Jose Lezcano aboard, the James Toner trainee circled the field rounding the turn and took command entering the stretch. From there, the gray lass turned the 1 1/16-mile turf test into a paid workout as she drew off under her own power to be 5 1/4 lengths clear on the wire.
Mark Dedomenico's WONDERLANDBYNIGHT (Sky Mesa) rallied into contention off the far turn and drew clear in the final furlong for a 2 1/2-length score in Saturday's $100,000 Arlington-Washington Lassie S. (G3). Trained by Michael Reavis and ridden by E.T. Baird, the chestnut juvenile filly survived a claim of foul by the jockey of runner-up Jordy Y (Congrats) to capture her graded debut, completing a mile over Polytrack in 1:36 3/5.
Starlight Partners' POSITION LIMIT (Bellamy Road) raced on the outside just in behind the leaders during Sunday's $150,000 Adirondack S. (G2) at Saratoga, began her run four wide on the turn and drew off in the stretch to capture the 6 1/2-furlong test by five lengths under jockey John Velazquez. The Todd Pletcher trainee finished up in 1:17 1/5 to move her record to a perfect two-for-two following a 6 3/4-length maiden victory on July 14 at Belmont Park.
Lansdon B. Robbins III's homebred LE MI GEAUX (First Samurai) had a bumpy start in Friday's $100,000 Schuylerville S. (G3) on Saratoga's opening day, settled near the rear, then came with a game run in the stretch to overtake longtime leader Stopspendingmaria (Montbrook) and score by 1 1/2 lengths. The chestnut miss was sent off the 9-1 fourth choice in the six-filly field and paid $20.20, $7.70 and $3.60 to her backers.
In the $195,084 Natalma S. (Can-G3) at Woodbine, Robert S. Evans' homebred NEW NORMAL (Forestry) led throughout to take the one-mile feature by 1 1/2 lengths under Javier Castellano. Establishing splits of :23 4/5, :47 4/5 and 1:12 1/5, New Normal maintained a one-length advantage much of the way, turned back a brief challenge by Dos Lunas (Hennessy) a furlong out, and pulled away again to finish in 1:36 2/5.
Eldon Farm Equine's JUST LOUISE (Five Star Day) prevailed in a thrilling 110th running of Saturday's $108,800 Debutante S. (G3), winning by a neck over the fast-closing Tristanme (Bwana Charlie) following a prolonged stretch battle with 3-5 favorite Salty Strike (Smart Strike). Making her stakes debut for Dale Romans, the juvenile filly remained perfect in two starts at Churchill Downs and completed six furlongs in 1:11 4/5 beneath Robby Albarado.
E. Paul Robsham Stable's homebred R HEAT LIGHTNING (Trippi) was content to allow the rest of the field to go on during the early running of Sunday's $250,000 Spinaway S. (G1) at Saratoga, but was determined to be first under the wire for trainer Todd Pletcher.
In an explosive move reminiscent of her maiden win at Del Mar on August 15, Ike and Dawn Thrash's TELL A KELLY (Tapit) inhaled 5-2 favorite Wickedly Perfect (Congrats) in midstretch of Saturday's $250,000 Darley Debutante S. (G1) and burst clear to a 4 1/2-length victory. By emphatically brushing aside the hitherto unbeaten Sorrento S. (G3) winner, Tell a Kelly stamped herself as a serious juvenile.
MainGate Inc., the premier event retail and online merchandising company in the country, and Churchill Downs, home of the world’s most legendary racetrack and the Kentucky Derby, announce a three-year partnership for MainGate to be an official licensee, handle official off-site retail locations and to launch the new Kentucky Derby e-commerce website, KentuckyDerbyStore.com.
Once again, the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) is likely to serve as a preview of the Kentucky Oaks (G1) five weeks later on April 30.
On Saturday morning, the connections of the first four horses under the wire in Friday's 44th running of the Fair Grounds Oaks all admitted that the Kentucky Oaks is their next planned target, and the fact that four of the last five Fair Grounds Oaks winners have gone on to win the Kentucky Oaks underlines the strong connection between the two events.