September 24, 2023

Vertical Oak headlines deep American Beauty cast

Vertical Oak wins the Garland of Roses Stakes at Aqueduct under jockey Eric Cancel on December 8, 2018 (c) NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography/Susie Raisher

by John Mucciolo

An excellent field of 10 will travel six panels at Oaklawn Park on Saturday in the $100,000 American Beauty Stakes. Eight of the contestants are prior stakes heroines in a strong opening Saturday headliner at the Hot Springs, Arkansas, locale.

Grade 2 starlet Vertical Oak could be the one to beat in the affair. The Steve Asmussen trainee notched four stakes wins in 2018 and she shows a trio of local works in advance of her 2019 bow. The chestnut mare finished a solid third in the Carousel Stakes on the surface in her 2018 debut. Ricardo Santana Jr. will guide the daughter of Giant Oak.

Course specialist Swing and Sway won this race by 7 3/4 lengths last campaign for conditioner Ron Moquett. The speedy daughter of Maclean’s Music owns four wins on the Oaklawn oval and will bring a lot of speed to the field beneath David Cabrera. The bay mare prepped for this sprint with a third against allowance/optional claiming rivals in the slop at Fair Grounds most recently on December 13.

Amy’s Challenge bagged the Dixie Belle Stakes here last season prior to a runner-up finish in the Honeybee Stakes (G3) and a third-place showing in the Fantasy Stakes (G3). The McLean Robertson-trained four-year-old concluded her sophomore season with an even sixth in the Raven Run Stakes (G2) at Keeneland and is training rapidly in preparation of her seasonal bow.

Stakes winner Jessica Krupnick was a model of consistency last year and makes her Oaklawn Park debut in the American Beauty. The Uncle Mo mare is another showing fleet morning drills to ready for this dash.

Dogwood Stakes queen Divine Queen and stakes star Sister Nation also deserve mention in the talented field.

The race prior to the American Beauty is an optional-claiming test for three-year-olds that has attracted a pair of interesting prospects.

Steve Asmussen brings back Jersey Agenda for his sophomore debut in the one-mile event. The $250,000 son of Jersey Town was last seen finishing an impressive four-length maiden winner at Churchill Downs and he is firing bullet morning drills in the interim. Ricardo Santana Jr. retains the mount atop the Kentucky-bred.

Pole Setter flashed potential as a two-year-old, shown by a third-place run in the Iroquois Stakes (G3). The Brad Cox-conditioned son of Take Charge Indy has shown nice improvement since adding blinkers three starts back. The $220,000 juvenile purchase gets Fernando de la Cruz in the stirrups.