September 24, 2023

Farrell, Tequilita square off in Dogwood

Farrell with Channing Hill aboard coasts to victory in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) (c) Hodges Photography/Amanda Hodges Weir

Grade 2 heroines Farrell and Tequilita will meet up on Saturday while going seven furlongs in the $100,000 Dogwood Stakes at Churchill Downs.

The duo actually faced off once before, as part of the May 5 Kentucky Oaks (G1) field. On that occasion, which occurred over a sealed, sloppy track, Farrell finished last of 14 and Tequilita filled the seventh spot. This time around, the pair are once again part of a 14-strong field of sophomore fillies running under the Twin Spires.

Farrell was the 9-2 second choice in the Oaks based on her former victories at Churchill as well as her unbeaten three-year-old record entering the nine-furlong affair. The Wayne Catalano trainee raced exclusively at Churchill last year, breaking her maiden sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs in October, finishing third in the Rags to Riches Stakes and capturing the Golden Rod Stakes (G2) by six lengths to close out her juvenile campaign.

Farrell proved unbeatable at Fair Grounds, kicking off 2017 with a 2 3/4-length triumph in the Silverbulletday Stakes. The Malibu Moon filly added easy wins in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2) and Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) to her resume before entering the Kentucky Oaks, which is the last race in which she competed. The dark bay miss was freshened following the “Run for the Lilies,” but has been working up a storm since last July.

Regular rider Channing Hill reunites with Farrell in the Dogwood.

“It was disappointing,” Hill said of the Kentucky Oaks. “I didn’t think (the sloppy conditions) would bother her but obviously it did. You never know with this game but that’s why you have to run them. She did everything else good but like the track.”

“I had a perfect set up,” Catalano agreed. “It was a speed-favoring track. I know from being a (former) jock, on a track like that, I knew how the front two were going to ride, so I was laying where I wanted. It was up to her at that point and Channing said she couldn’t handle the track at all. I knew it was going to be tough because of the track.”

Tequilita breezed four furlongs in :48 over Churchill Downs’ fast main track on Friday, April 28, 2017 (c) Churchill Downs/Coady Photography

Tequilita , who is cross-entered to the Charles Town Oaks (G3) on Saturday, took the Gulfstream Park route to the Kentucky Oaks after breaking her maiden at Keeneland in her fourth start and adding Laurel Park’s Smart Halo Stakes to her resume as a juvenile. She completed the winning hat trick by scoring a half-length victory in the seven-furlong Forward Gal Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream, then ran second in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2).

While Farrell was close up early and faded badly in the Kentucky Oaks, Tequilita never even factored. The Union Rags lass rebounded a bit to be third in the Test Stakes (G1) after given a brief vacation, and keeps Luis Saez in the irons for this contest.

Also entered in the Dogwood are Student Body and No More Babies. The former, a bay daughter of Colonel John, captured an Ellis Park allowance by 11 lengths on July 14 before fading to fifth over a sealed, sloppy track at Saratoga in the Prioress Stakes (G2) three weeks ago. No More Babies, a gray filly by Exchange Rate, scored an allowance/optional claiming win at Churchill sprinting six furlongs prior to running a close sixth when trying turf for the first time in a Saratoga stakes on July 31.

Also in with a chance are Covenant, who earned a 104 BRIS Speed rating when breaking her maiden by 6 3/4 lengths on July 24 over a sealed, sloppy Saratoga track, and Pinch Hit, a track and distance winner on May 27 who finished fourth in the one-mile Groupie Doll Stakes (G3) at Ellis Park on August 13.