American Oaks Draws 10 for Saturday’s Feature at Santa Anita
The opening day at Santa Anita was a good one this week, and the final racing weekend of the year has three more graded stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita. The feature is for 3-year-old fillies in the $300,000 American Oaks, and 10 are entered to run in the 1 1/4 mile Grade 1 race. Two of the three favorites will break from the outside from the powerful barn of Chad Brown.
The American Oaks once had the name, the purse, the date, the setting, and even a brief flirtation of sponsorship with American Airlines. Now it’s just another race on an attractive New Year’s Eve weekend program.
No. 8 Rymska (FR) looks like a filly coming into her own. She lost a large portion of her season because of a bout of tendonitis after her Feb. 4 victory in the Sweetest Chant Stakes (G3T) at Gulfstream Park, but came back to win the Commonwealth Oaks presented by the Virginia Equine Alliance and the Virginia HBPA (G3T) at Laurel Park in September and scored an impressive victory last time out in the Winter Memories Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack Nov. 23.
Rymska missed some major engagements that we would have liked to run her in, like the Belmont Oaks and Queen Elizabeth—races we thought she would do well in,” said Brown. “But that gave us a fresh horse in the fall and this became her big, grade 1 target after we were forced to miss some time.”
No. 9 New Money Honey, the only grade 1 winner in the field, took the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1T) at Santa Anita and won the Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes (G1T) in July. She comes into the American Oaks fresh off a sixth-place finish last time out in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup S. (G1T) at Keeneland, and the layoff was by design.
“I didn’t see a suitable race for (New Money Honey) that I liked for a prep for this race,” Brown said of the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro. “Bringing her into the race fresh off a little layoff was a better approach than squeezing in a race… (But) this is her last race of the year after a lengthy campaign”.
“She’s been through a lot of training and a lot of breezes at a lot of tracks. But she’s a big, strong horse who has handled it well.”
Desert Duchess is also entering the American Oaks on a three-race win streak for trainer Mike Maker. The Hard Spun filly, who was a $35,000 claim from a May 21 race at Belmont Park, took a while to get going, but won her fourth start for Maker in a Saratoga starter allowance Sept. 1, She then took a conditional allowance at Kentucky Downs Sept. 14, and earned her first stakes win in blowout fashion (3 3/4 lengths) last time out Nov. 4 in the Cellars Shiraz Stakes at Gulfstream Park West.
The final entrant from the eastern quartet shipping in is Normandy Farm’s homebred Daddy’s Lil Darling, the advance-race favorite, who has been runner-up in four grade 1 events in her 14-race career (three on dirt, one on turf), but has yet to break through at the top level for trainer Ken McPeek.
Daddys Lil Darling’s last win came in the Sept. 10 Dueling Grounds Oaks at Kentucky Downs, but even with all the near misses, the only negative McPeek brought up from 2017 was that she didn’t get to run in the Investec Oaks (G1) at Epsom in June. She was scratched at Epsom after a burst of thunder and lightning spooked the filly, which caused her to unseat jockey Olivier Peslier and run free.
Beau Recall deserves consideration as a long shot and underneath wagers, as she did finish in front of New Money Honey in the Queen Elizabeth II despite a troubled trip.
The American Oaks is Race 7 on the turf at Santa Anita on Saturday, Dec. 30 with post time at 6:30 local Pacific Time.