What great showdowns we had at Oaklawn Park this past weekend! The highlight event was the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1). It lived up to its expectations, yet threw us a curve ball with an upset winner.
We also had a thrilling finish in the competitive $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G1), where six horses made a straight line in deep stretch to decide the victor. Here's how all the scores were settled, starting with Friday's two stakes races.
Friday's $150K Rainbow Stakes was won by BLAME J D, ridden by Ramon Vazquez, trained by Aidan Green, owned by James W. Matheney, Jr. — in a commanding score!
BLAME J D at 8-5 broke out on top for Ramon Vazquez, but conceded the lead to the speedy 10-1 shot DUSTY HILL, who opened the quarter in 21.97 and the half in 45.54. They were winging through the backside, more than fifteen lengths from front to back. BLAME J D was racing just two lengths off the lead, before he came cruising toward the leaders approaching the turn. He was still in hand, while the others were battling but of no consequence. Ramon Vazquez cuts him loose and BLAME J D accelerates immediately, drawing off to a four length win. MRS. BEANS got up for second, ROLLING FORK ran third. The final time for the six furlong sprint over the wet fast track was 1:09.73.
BLAME J D paid $4.40 to win, $2.80 to place, and $1.00 to show. He is by BLAME out of TIPPING POINT by SPEIGHTSTOWN. He improves his record to 2 wins and 1 third from 4 total starts, pushing his earnings to $155,050 while achieving his highest speed figure to date.
Friday's $150K Rainbow Miss Stakes was won by HILLARY G, ridden by David Cabrera, trained by Thomas Vance, owned by Linda Mazoch, Michael J. Mazoch, and Austin Gustafson — drawing clear late for an impressive score.
HILLARY G broke evenly under David Cabrera and took a tracking trip behind pacesetter HEATED ARGUMENT through opening fractions of 21.87 and 45.68. It was a quick pace. They were strung out over a lot of ground approaching the turn. HILLARY G looms up to HEATED ARGUMENT and takes the lead at the top of the stretch. KABOOM BABY comes with her rally from the back, but is lugging in and out. But HILLARY G found another gear with a sixteenth to go; she spurts away nicely, drawing off to win by almost three lengths. HEATED ARGUMENT fought on to keep second, KABOOM BABY ended up third. The final time was 1:11.22.
HILLARY G paid $12.60 to win, $6.00 to place, and $4.00 to show. She is by EVEN THE SCORE out of LETTERS IN SILVER by SILVER HAWK. She wins her second consecutive victory, pushing her earnings to $150,475, while achieving her highest speed figure for the effort.
Saturday's $1,000,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) was won by SILVER STATE, ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr., trained by Steven Asmussen, owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC and Willis Horton Racing LLC — in a driving finish!
SILVER STATE broke slightly to the right but recovered for Ricardo Santana Jr. to race in mid pack, while WARRIOR'S CHARGE set the pace of 22.73 for the quarter and 47.06 for the half. They raced strung out through the backside, about fifteen lengths covering them front to back. SILVER STATE raced along the rail, about seven lengths off the lead. With three furlongs to go, the pace quickens and they bunch up turning for home. SILVER STATE makes an eye catching move, angling five wide for his stretch run. Six horses make a line across the track — FEARLESS, WARRIOR'S CHARGE, EXPRESS TRAIN, SILVER PROSPECTOR, SILVER STATE, OWENDALE — all with a chance to win it. But it is SILVER STATE finishing the strongest; he sustains his rally and forges past his rivals for the victory. FEARLESS ran with him enough to be second, EXPRESS TRAIN fought on for third.
The final time was 1:49.56 for the one mile and one-eighth over the dirt.
SILVER STATE paid $11.40 to win, $5.00 to place, and $3.40 to show. He is by HARD SPUN out of SUPREME by EMPIRE MAKER. He's now won five consecutive races, pushed his earnings to $1,230,094, while achieving his highest speed figure of his career. He's a perfect 3-for-3 at Oaklawn Park.
Saturday's $1,000,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) was won by LETRUSKA, ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., trained by Fausto Gutierrez, owned by St. George Stable LLC — in a stretch duel to the wire!
LETRUSKA was a step slow leaving the gate for Irad Ortiz Jr., but seized the lead by the first turn, setting opening fractions of 23.56 and 47.96. The pace was a moderate one, yet the big three — LETRUSKA, SWISS SKYDIVER, MONOMOY GIRL — had kicked away from the back runners by at least twelve lengths.
LETRUSKA raced uncontested through the backside, ears pricked, while MONOMOY GIRL and SWISS SKYDIVER were a length away, tracking her from second and third. The tempo quickens and its still primarily a three horse race.
Turning for home, MONOMOY GIRL makes her characteristic move. She cruises up to the lead, in hand, looking like she's going to blow right on by them. But LETRUSKA goes with her. SWISS SKYDIVER fails to keep up. At the top of the stretch, LETRUSKA is not ready to throw in the towel! Irad Ortiz Jr., goes left handed on LETRUSKA, taps the tank twice, and LETRUSKA responds with another gear, charging back up to MONOMOY GIRL to stick her neck out in front and win the favor of the head bob. MONOMOY GIRL settled for second, SWISS SKYDIVER finished six lengths back in third. The final time was 1:43.14.
LETRUSKA paid $8.80 to win, $3.00 to place, and $2.10 to show. She is by SUPER SAVER out of MAGIC APPEAL by SUCCESSFUL APPEAL. She earns her first Grade 1 victory, improving her overall record to 13 wins, 1 second, 1 third, from 18 total starts. Her earnings now exceed $1.1 million and she achieved her highest speed figure to shoe.
What an incredible race! The older female division this year is stacked with talent. These classy ladies put on a show and it'll be exciting to see them face each other again. Let us also not forget about GAMINE and VALIANCE, who are training up for their next starts. But today was all about LETRUSKA asserting her authority in the Filly and Mare division. Here's another look at the photo finish and replay: