Always Shopping has the Kentucky Oaks (G1) to prepare for following a victory Saturday in the $300,000 Gazelle (G2) at Aqueduct.
A tracking second behind pacesetter Positive Spirit until upper stretch, Always Shopping edged away from that rival in the final furlong to win the nine-furlong Road to the Kentucky Oaks series prep by 1 3/4 lengths.
Bred and owned by Mike Repole, trained by Todd Pletcher, and ridden by Manny Franco, Always Shopping covered one circuit of the fast Big A strip in 1:52.91. She returned $9.90. Positive Spirit clung to second by a neck over Off Topic, with Proud Emma fourth and 19-10 favorite Espresso Shot fifth in the field of six.
"There wasn't really any pace looking at the race on paper," Pletcher said. "It was one of those races where you had no really good idea of who would be on the lead. We decided to just let Manny do his thing and he put her in a good spot. He said he felt like he had a lot of horse the whole way."
Always Shopping earned 100 Oaks qualifying points, boosting her total to 110. Positive Spirit added 40 points to make her total 50, while Off Topic earned 20 and Proud Emma 10.
Fifth and second twice in her first three outings, Always Shopping is now two-for-two in stakes company. She graduated in the $100,000 Busanda on February 3, also over 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct.
"I think the key is if she can continue moving forward," Pletcher said. "I think she's proven that two turns, a mile and an eighth, is her thing. I actually think she'd be better off in a race with some pace where she could settle and make one run. I'm proud of her."
Bred in Kentucky, Always Shopping is by Awesome Again and out of Grade 1-placed stakes winner Stopshoppingmaria, by More Than Ready. She is a half-sister to stakes winner Mo Shopping.