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.
"I think the reason she was a big price is she's more of a grinder, but going two turns sometimes that grinding works well," trainer Dan Hendricks said. "When David won on her (in her maiden victory), she kind of grabbed the bit and got out there but once she gets out there she relaxes. She's not over-aggressive, she just kind of grabs the bit like, 'OK, let's go,' but as soon as he gets her settled she's fine."
The juvenile miss tracked the early pace set by Indian Gracey (Indian Ocean) through fractions of :23 3/5, :47 2/5, 1:11 4/5 and 1:37 1/5 in Saturday's Oak Leaf. Tell a Kelly, who entered this one off an easy 4 1/2-length win in the Darley Debutante (G1) at Del Mar, was biding her time in the back before moving up along the fence into the second turn. She angled out upon entering the stretch and took off to split the now dueling Indian Gracey and Rigoletta. The three battled it out in tight quarters in the final strides, but Rigoletta was determined and took command just in time for the wire, with Tell a Kelly holding Indian Gracey to third by a length.
"I just tried to put her into a good position," Flores explained. "She was in the bridle the whole way. She's got one of those long strides so I was surprised she was so aggressive early. (Alonso) Quinonez (on Tell a Kelly) was going to sneak in there but I just kind of put my filly back in there, and boy is she game. When Tell a Kelly bumped her, it got her into the race more...she got aggressive and fought back. I thought I was going to get beat but that seemed to make her madder."
"The reason I tried to go between horses is that she wasn't going by the one in front (Indian Gracey) and I didn't think I had enough horse to go around," Quinonez said. "I thought it would be easier just to push out Rigoletta a little bit and keep going. She was working real good and everything set up perfectly for her, but we really didn't have any excuses.
Tell a Kelly was worth $2.60 and $2.10 while Indian Gracey gave back $4 as the 17-1 fifth pick. The $1 exotics returned $58.30 (exacta), $715 (trifecta) and $1,855.20 (2-6-3-1 superfecta). It was another 8 1/4 lengths back to Izshelegal (Maria's Mon), who was followed under the wire by True Way of Grace (Yes It's True), Alienation (Rock Hard Ten) and Pacific Pride (Storm Cat).
Rigoletta, who broke her maiden at Del Mar on August 8 under Flores by 1 1/4 lengths, ran third to Tell a Kelly in the Darley Debutante last out but managed to turn the tables here. If it's up to Hendricks, she'll face off against that rival yet again in the November 5 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Churchill Downs.
"My vote is we run," he stated. "No guts, no glory. You're going for the championship. I'd love to go."
Bred in Florida by Ocala Stud, Rigoletta now boasts a 4-2-0-1, $180,820, record. She was purchased for $35,000 as an OBS April two-year-old. Out of the winning Almost Aprom Queen (Montbrook), the juvenile miss has an unnamed yearling half-sister and a weanling half-brother, both by High Cotton. Almost Aprom Queen is herself a half-sister to Grade 3-placed multiple stakes victor Sea of Green (Seacliff) and multiple stakes heroine Lady Gin (Saint Ballado). This is the same female family as Grade 1 queen Collect the Cash (Dynaformer), dam of this season's Blue Grass S. (G1) and Ontario Derby winner Stately Victor (Ghostzapper).