by TERESA GENARO
At the Mark Casse barn in the morning, Chocolate Kisses is more inclined to bites than displays of affection, but on the racetrack, she was as professional as they come when she broke her maiden in the second race at Saratoga on July 22.
Facing a field of mostly untested fillies, Chocolate Kisses, owned by Debby M. Oxley, was coupled with her stablemate Toy Moon, owned by Oxley’s husband John. Sent off as the even-money favorite, the two bay fillies set the pace in the 1 1/16-mile race on a firm Mellon turf course.
Chocolate Kisses made her first start at Churchill Downs last month in a 5 1/2-furlong off-the-turf race in the slop, finishing second. Rain came to Saratoga early Sunday morning, but not enough to significantly change the condition of the turf course, much to Debby Oxley’s relief.
“I was just hoping for safe turf,” she said. “I always get concerned when we get a little rain like this that it’s going to be slippery. Fortunately, we didn’t get even rain for that.”
Under Irad Ortiz Jr., the daughter of Candy Ride sat just off the lead on the outside of Toy Moon, drawing even with her stablemate, then taking the lead to win by a length. Aunt Ashley overtook Toy Moon for second.
Debby Oxley selected and purchased the filly last year at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale, paying $410,000 for her. Chocolate Kisses was bred in Kentucky by Pin Oak Stud and is out of Grade 3 winner Brownie Points (Forest Wildcat).
“I loved her pedigree,” said Oxley in the winner’s circle. “She’s from a wonderful family, and after I bought her, I got really lucky because it got even better with Synchrony.”
A half-brother to Chocolate Kisses, Synchrony is a multiple graded stakes winner who has won or placed in four graded stakes this year.
Of the decision to run the filly on the turf after a decent showing in her first start on the dirt, Oxley said, “I think Mark thinks turf is easier on horses, especially the two-year-olds. I think he prefers to start them on turf. A lot of times, he’ll start them on turf even when we don’t think they’re turf horses to get them going.”
The Oxleys have two winners, including Catherinethegreat, winner of the Schuylerville (G3) on opening day, and a second from four Saratoga starts this year.
“Last season we had I don’t know how many seconds we had,” said Debby. “We couldn’t get a win. It’s a nice way to start the meet.”