American Oaks Features Top Fillies in Final 2018 Grade 1
Field Draws Runners From All Over The Country
By Margaret Ransom
In late 2001, the now defunct Hollywood Park presented a unique race to attract international horses and worldwide attention on a competitive level with some of the biggest races around the world, targeting a division that doesn’t exactly get a ton of love on its own in America throughout the year, the sophomore turf fillies division. So in mid-2002, the American Oaks (GIT) – a 10-furlong turf event for 3-year-old fillies – was born.
With Santa Anita having absorbed many of Hollywood Park’s great stakes, the American Oaks has been offered now as the last grade 1 of the year for a handful of years at the Arcadia oval. Regardless of position on the calendar, it has attracted and produced some star-quality names over the years. The Bobby Frankel-trained Megahertz won the inaugural American Oaks (after the disqualification of a rival) over a full and highly competitive field and since then, some of the more notable names to have visited the American Oaks winner’s circle over the past 14 years include champion Wait a While, Japanese import Cesario, and other fan favorites Panty Raid, Pure Clan, Emollient, Spanish Queen, Decked out and Daddy’s Lil Darling a year ago.
The usually beautiful Southern California weather is in full force for the weekend. Though the temperatures are expected to be uncharacteristically chilly and hovering around 60, the sun will be out and the turf course will be firm.
A field of nine was entered for the 1 ¼-mile turf event, but Kodiak West was withdrawn and Amandine won the Lady of Shamrock Stakes on opening day, so while she’s not out officially yet, her scratch is imminent. That leaves a field of seven, led by Alice Bamford’s Sands Point Stakes (GIIT)-winning homebred Californiagoldrush in her first start in more than three months. She’s lightly raced, undefeated at Santa Anita, owns three wins from four starts on turf and while she’s never tackled this distance before, the daughter of Cape Blanco is certainly bred for it. Flavien Prat is back aboard for Hall of Famer Neil Drysdale.
Paved is the local favorite and the morning-line favorite making her first start since a troubled 12th in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (GIT) nearly two months ago. The Mike McCarthy-trained daughter of Quality Road defeated the boys earlier this year in the El Camino Real Derby, then went back to her own division and won the Honeymoon Stakes (GIIT) with ease. She also ventured into facing older runners and was a strong second to grade 1 winner Vasilika before her rough trip in the Breeders’ Cup. This race is more to her level and her liking, she likes the Santa Anita lawn and will have Drayden Van Dyke back aboard.
Princess Warrior will attempt to give trainer Kenny McPeek a second consecutive win in this race after having saddled Daddy’s Lil Darling to victory a year ago, and if this daughter of Midshipman can repeat her win from the Mrs. Revere Stakes (GIIT) at Churchill Downs last out five weeks ago, she could be dangerous for the mild upset. Since switching to turf six months ago she’s earned a nice record of two wins, a second, a third and a fourth in five starts, so grass is clearly her forte, and she’s well-traveled, so her latest stop in California shouldn’t be much of a concern. Regular rider Brian Hernandez Jr. is in town for the mount.
Colonia ships in off a win 3 ½ months ago in the Valley View Stakes (GIIIT) at Keeneland and the French-bred import is in capable hands with trainer Graham Motion. She tested the turf course with a nice work on Christmas Eve and as an all-weather specialist she should appreciate the firm conditions. Regular rider Joe Bravo is in town for the race and all she may need is a decent pace early to launch her patented late run down the lane to get to the wire first.
Competitionofideas ships in to California for top East Coast connections Klaravich Stables and trainer Chad Brown. The daughter of Speightstown makes a big jump up in class after a third in the Winter Memories Stakes at Aqueduct five weeks ago but figures to appreciate the added distance here. Jockey Joel Rosario returns and if this filly can handle the challenges, she’s a good bet here.
K P Pergoliscious makes a big jump in class, but trainer Jeff Mullins is already off to a spectacular meet so it’s a good bet he’s sending one out ready. Retro carries some impressive connections but has struggled since breaking her maiden at Del Mar 15 months ago.