by J. Keeler Johnson
After a disappointing spring campaign, last year’s champion two-year-old filly Jaywalk got back on track with an eye-catching victory in the $300,000 Delaware Oaks (G3) on Saturday at Delaware Park.
Dropping in class out of the Kentucky Oaks (G1) and returning to her preferred front-running tactics made a big difference for the daughter of Cross Traffic. With Joe Bravo in the saddle, Jaywalk sprinted straight to the lead and posted accelerating fractions of :24.12, :47.77 and 1:10.72 while being pursued by 9-10 favorite Fashion Faux Pas.
For a brief moment, it appeared Fashion Faux Pas might challenge the champion, but turning for home Jaywalk found another gear and widened easily down the homestretch to hit the wire nine lengths in front. Although she was slowing down at the finish, she still managed to stop the clock for 1 1/16 miles in a respectable 1:43.21.
Considering how Jaywalk won the White Clay Creek Stakes at Delaware Park last year, it was no surprise to see her rebound while returning to the scene of her first stakes triumph. Trained by John Servis and owned by the partnership of D. J. Stable LLC and Cash is King LLC, Jaywalk’s powerful victory in the Delaware Oaks suggests she’s rounding back into top form and could still be a player in major division races this summer, including the Alabama Stakes (G1) at Saratoga and the Cotillion Stakes (G1) at Parx Racing.
The Saturday card at Delaware Park also featured the $200,000 Kent Stakes (G3) for three-year-olds on turf and the $200,000 Robert G. Dick Memorial Stakes (G3) for older mares over the same firm surface.
Award Winner, a half-brother to graded winners Oscar Nominated and Oscar Performance, was the even-money favorite to claim the Kent. But after getting rank early on and hauling jockey Corey Lanerie to the lead, Award Winner couldn’t find enough to hold off the late surge of pacetracking Eons, who rallied to win by a neck for trainer Arnaud Delacour and jockey Trevor McCarthy. The final time for 1 1/8 miles was 1:49.26.
Later, in the Robert G. Dick Memorial, Gentle Ruler proved her victory over Gaining in the May 25 Keertana Stakes at Churchill Downs was no fluke. Overlooked as the 7-2 second choice in the wagering behind even-money Gaining, Gentle Ruler was given a beautiful ground-saving ride by jockey Chris Landeros, and when an opening appeared turning for home, Gentle Ruler shot through and sprinted the final furlong in :11.66 to win the 1 3/8-mile race by 2 3/4 lengths in 2:13.70.
Theodora B. narrowly held off a late charge from Gaining to secure the runner-up spot.
Trained by Ian Wilkes, Gentle Ruler may have lost her first 11 races, but the daughter of Colonel John now boasts a four-race win streak and has emerged as a possible contender for the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) at Santa Anita.