Likely in need of a race when a length behind Midnight Bisou in last month’s Azeri (G2), Elate looks to turn the tables on that rival Sunday in Oaklawn Park‘s premier event for fillies and mares, the $750,000 Apple Blossom H. (G1). Held on Arkansas Derby eve in recent years, the 1 1/16-mile Apple Blossom has found a new home post-Derby Day with the extension of the Oaklawn meet into early May.
Though conceding two pounds to Elate in the Azeri, which she will be asked to do again in the Apple Blossom, Midnight Bisou seemingly benefited from a season-opening win in the January 27 Houston Ladies Classic (G3), leaving her tighter for the Azeri, in which she slipped up the inside to win over Elate, who had taken more of an overland route.
Second in the three-year-old filly rankings to Monomoy Girl last term, Midnight Bisou has won or placed in all 13 career starts and has won four of seven since joining the Steve Asmussen stable.
The Azeri was Elate’s first run since August, when she ran champion Abel Tasman to a neck in the Personal Ensign (G1). It was the second and final start of an injury-abbreviated campaign, which began with a facile score in the Delaware H. (G2).
Wonder Gadot, who beat the boys in the first two legs of the Canadian Triple Crown, the Queen’s Plate and Prince of Wales, last season, looks to take a step forward off a second-placed allowance finish at Oaklawn on March 8. The Mark Casse trainee was largely ineffective late last year, but can be right there with a return to the form that saw her finish close in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Fantasy (G3) last spring.
The Manitoba-bred Escape Clause enters with improving form having produced blowout wins in the La Canada (G3) and $100,000 Harry Henson Memorial in two of her last three, and could inherit the role of pacesetter. Chocolate Martini, who won the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) last year, seeks a new career high after opening her 2019 account with a second-level allowance win in late February.