Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s Stays in Vegas heads a wide-open field of 13 sophomore fillies Saturday in Santa Anita’s Grade I, $ 300,000 American Oaks, to be contested at a mile and one quarter on turf. The Oaks, which has been carded as the eighth race on a nine-race New Year’s Eve program, will serve as North America’s final Grade I event in 2016.
Also prominent in Saturday’s Oaks are trainer Keith Desormeaux’s Decked Out, trainer Richard Baltas’ Mokat and Queen Blossom, an Irish-bred who will be making her U.S. debut for trainer Graham Motion.
STAYS IN VEGAS: Sent from the gate in the Grade I, one mile turf Matriarch at Del Mar on Dec. 4, this Kentucky-bred filly by City Zip just missed, as she ended up third, beaten a head by multiple Grade I winner Miss Temple City. Although her lone win this year came six starts back in the one mile turf Grade III Senorita Stakes here on May 7, she’s been very consistent, amassing four third place finishes in 2016—all in graded turf stakes at a flat mile and at a mile and one eighth. While the mile and a quarter looms a question mark, Stays in Vegas looms extremely dangerous if she’s allowed to set a soft pace under Flavien Prat. Owned by Jim and Janet Rome’s Jungle Racing, LLC, KMN Racing, LLC or LNJ Foxwoods, she is 12-5-1-4 overall with earnings of $ 418,934.
DECKED OUT: A dedicated deep closer, Decked Out comes into the American Oaks as a fresh horse, having been rested since running a better than looked 12th in the Grade I, 1 ¼ miles turf Rodeo Drive Stakes here on Oct. 1. Second, beaten a head two starts back in the Grade I, 1 1/8 miles turf Del Mar Oaks on Aug. 20, this Kentucky-bred filly by Street Boss has kept good company in 10 starts this year and seems a good fit at the distance, particularly if there’s a live pace. Her only win this year came six starts back in Santa Anita’s Grade III Providencia Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on turf April 9. Owned by Voss, Big Chief Racing, LLC and Head of Plains Partners, LLC, Decked Out will be ridden back by Desormeaux’s Hall of Fame brother, Kent, who has guided her to both of her lifetime wins.
MOKAT: An emphatic 3 ¾ length winner of the Grade II, one mile turf San Clemente Handicap three starts back on July 23, she was subsequently fourth, beaten three quarters of a length in the Grade I Del Mar Oaks Aug. 20. Following that, she ran an even fifth at 11-1 in the Grade I, 1 1/8 miles turf Queen Elizabeth Cup Oct. 15 at Keeneland. A Kentucky-bred filly by Uncle Mo, she’s owned by J K Racing Stable, LLC and will be ridden for the first time by Drayden Van Dyke, who will likely stalk the early pace. With an overall mark of 11-2-2-2, she has earnings of $ 318,040.
QUEEN BLOSSOM: Lightly raced in her native Ireland, she has two wins from five starts and has been idle since well beaten in a Group III stakes at a mile and a quarter on turf May 11. Ensconced for the past several months with Motion at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, she has a late running style that should be effective at the Oaks distance of a mile and a quarter. Of great benefit is the fact that top eastern-based rider Joel Rosario will ship west to ride for owners Team Valor International, LLC and Gary Barber.
THE GRADE I AMERICAN OAKS
IN POST POSITION ORDER WITH JOCKEYS AND WEIGHTS
Race 8 of 9 Approximate post time 4 p.m. PST
- Lady Valeur—Rafael Bejarano—121
- Stays in Vegas—Flavien Prat—121
- Dreamarcher—Luis Contreras—119
- How Unusual—Alex Solis– ALT—119
- Cheekaboo—Mike Smith—121
- Sassy Little Lila—Luis Saez—119
- Decked Out—Kent Desormeaux—121
- Queen Blossom—Joel Rosario—121
- Mrs. Norris—Victor Espinoza—119
- Sheeza Milky Way—Brice Blanc—119
- Dynamic Mizzes K—Corey Nakatani—119
- Barleysugar—Tyler Baze—119
- Mokat—Drayden Van Dyke—121
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