Courtesy Daily Racing Form
Barbara D. Livingston
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Whether it was 12 furlongs at Belmont Park, 10 furlongs at Belmont, or nine furlongs at Saratoga, trainer Todd Pletcher has enjoyed uncanny success in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks.
Saturday, at Saratoga, Pletcher will go for his ninth victory in this Grade 1 fixture for 3-year-old fillies with the New York-bred Gambling Girl, who takes on five rivals in what appears to be a pretty wide-open race.
Gambling Girl has not raced since May 5 in a fast-closing second to Pretty Mischievous in the Kentucky Oaks. Pletcher said he wanted to keep Gambling Girl racing at 1 1/8 miles and a freshening was probably in order too, given she had made 10 starts from June 2022 through the Oaks.
Gambling Girl, who finished second in the Grade 3 Gazelle at Aqueduct in April, really thrived at Churchill Downs, Pletcher said, which is why he elected to keep her training there until Monday, when she shipped to Saratoga.
In the Kentucky Oaks, Gambling Girl was toward the back of the pack in a 14-horse field and had to swing six wide in the lane before making a run at Pretty Mischievous which fell a long neck short under Irad Ortiz Jr.
“I was hoping they’d go. In those big races and big fields they go. It was a good pace in front of me so that was great for me,” Ortiz said. “When it’s a slower pace maybe she can be a little closer.”
Wet Paint had a great winter at Oaklawn Park, winning three stakes that ultimately made her the favorite for the Kentucky Oaks. Like Gambling Girl, Wet Paint was well off the pace in the Kentucky Oaks, though her late run wasn’t as strong as that of Gambling Girl.
Wet Paint, a daughter of Blame trained by Brad Cox, finished second to loose-on-the-lead Hoosier Philly in the listed Monomoy Girl at Ellis Park June 17. Hoosier Philly is back in the CCA Oaks.
“Her last race was a really good race,” Cox said. “We didn’t really have much chance with no pace on [and] the way the track was playing. I’m totally looking forward to her moving forward off that race.”
Hoosier Philly went 3 for 3 and was a two-time stakes winner at age 2. Her two races at Fair Grounds this winter were below par. Hoosier Philly underwent throat surgery known as a myectomy and she responded with a good second to Taxed in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan before winning in the Monomoy Girl.
“This is the race that tells us where we are in the division. I think Saturday is a real big test for us,” trainer Tom Amoss said.
Hoosier Philly could be the speed of the field or she could be sitting just off She’s Lookin Lucky, who comes off a first-level allowance going 1 1/8 miles at Ellis Park and who has Kendrick Carmouche aboard. Hoosier Philly breaks from post 5 under Edgar Morales while She’s Lookin Lucky has post 6.
“She’s tactical, she doesn’t have to be on the lead,” Amoss said. “She’s had time up here and she’s done everything well. I look for her to run her ‘A’ game. Let’s hope it’s good enough.”
Southlawn perhaps could fall through the cracks from a betting standpoint. Southlawn was a dominant winner over Pretty Mischievous in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks in March, but was beaten 10 1/2 lengths by Pretty Mischievous in the Kentucky Oaks.
Trainer Norm Casse said he didn’t like the trip Southlawn got in the Kentucky Oaks and that the plan was always to give her a freshening thereafter with this race in mind. Earlier this year, Southlawn came off an 89-day layoff to win a first-level allowance race going 1 1/16 miles at Fair Grounds.
Florent Geroux will ride Southlawn from the rail.
Sacred Wish finished a good second in the Gulfstream Park Oaks in April before a no-show effort in the Black Eyed-Susan. She comes off a runner-up finish to wet track-loving Sunset Louise in an allowance run in the mud at Belmont on June 16.
The CCA Oaks goes as race 9 on an 11-race card that begins at 1:10 p.m. and includes the Grade 3, $200,000 Caress for female turf sprinters.
The CCA Oaks will be broadcast nationally on Fox, which will have live telecasts over the next six Saturdays culminating with the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers Aug. 26.