May 26, 2024

Lady Prancealot rides rail in American Oaks; Mo Forza makes it four straight in Mathis

Lady Prancealot outkicks Mucho Unusual to win the American Oaks ©Benoit Photo

Proving her distance capacity along with her bravery, 8-5 favorite Lady Prancealot speared through on the inside to deny Mucho Unusual in Saturday’s $301,053 American Oaks (G1) at Santa Anita.

The Richard Baltas trainee was the most accomplished contender, but the 1 1/4-mile trip was a question mark. Lady Prancealot furnished all the answers under a well-judged ride by Joe Bravo, who settled her on the inside off a contested pace.

Longshot leader So Much Happy was prompted by Vibrance through fractions of :24.45, :48.67, and 1:13.80 on a good course. Although the tempo was moderate at best, Vibrance didn’t appear to relax. By the time she put So Much Happy away turning into the stretch, she was already vulnerable and on the verge of being overtaken.

Mucho Unusual, a rail-skimming third early, was the first to angle out and pounce. Lady Prancealot, who had been following in her wake, found just enough room to dive back inside. Quickening while scraping the paint in deep stretch, the Irish import surged a clear of Mucho Unusual in 2:01.70.

“She was so relaxed post break,” Bravo said, “so turned off and relaxed like she had full control over the whole race. All I had to do was point her to the hole turning for home and she took me through. She made my job easy. If she was a fat horse, she would have never made it.”

Pretty Point rallied for third, another 1 1/2 lengths back, to outperform her 24-1 odds. Giza Goddess rounded out the superfecta, followed by Apache Princess, Vibrance, K P Slickem, and So Much Happy.

Owned by a partnership including Arntz, Durando, Iavarone, and McLanahan, Lady Prancealot was capping a productive sophomore campaign including victories in the Honeymoon (G3) and Valley View (G3) last out. The bay has compiled a career record of 17-5-4-3, $547,839, also reflecting placings in the Del Mar Oaks (G1), Providencia (G3), and Senorita (G3) as well as last term’s Surfer Girl S. and Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf. She began her career with David Evans in Great Britain, winning once at Chelmsford, placing twice, and improving from an 11th in the Marygate to finish fourth in the Hilary Needler.

“This filly came over here from Europe,” Baltas recalled, “and the first time she worked she had an issue and we gave her a bunch of time. We thought we bought a bad horse but we didn’t. She has been ultra-consistent. I want to give a ‘hats off’ to the guys at San Luis Rey Downs, my assistant trainer who has had her there most of the time. ‘Jersey Joe’ rode an awesome race and we are all happy now.”

Bred by Tally-Ho Stud in the Emerald Isle – formerly the stud home of sire Sir Prancealot who now stands in California himself – Lady Prancealot was a bargain €9,500 ($11,316) yearling at Tattersalls Ireland. She is out of Naqrah, a half-sister by Haatef to Group 2 vixen Baqah, who is in turn the dam of Grade 1 winner Almanaar. Lady Prancealot’s fourth dam is 1986 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) champion Brave Raj.

Mo Forza wins the Mathis Brothers Mile ©Benoit Photo

The day’s other graded turf stakes were similarly conducive to favorites. The 6-5 Mo Forza extended his winning streak to four in the $202,106 Mathis Brothers Mile (G2), and likely booked his ticket to the January 25 Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) at Gulfstream Park. Despite having to take the overland route for Joel Rosario, the Peter Miller sophomore rolled by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:34.26.

The 13-1 Originaire, briefly on hold turning into the lane, flashed home well for second. Neptune’s Storm felt the effects of chasing a taxing pace and tired to third. Barristan the Bold made an encouraging U.S. debut for Mark Glatt in fourth. Kingly, who never made the lead, wound up fifth. Proud Pedro, Ocean Fury, pacesetter Never Easy, Bob and Jackie, Loafers Boy, and Sash concluded the order of finish.

Mo Forza’s skein includes an overdue maiden score, the Twilight Derby (G2), and Hollywood Derby (G1). The Mathis Brothers Mile boosted his bankroll to $499,460 from his 9-4-3-1 line.

A homebred racing for Barry and Dyan Abrams’ Bardy Stable along with OG Boss, the Uncle Mo colt is still figuring out the game. Miller is hopeful of much more to come, as he told Santa Anita publicity.

“He’s like big kid that finally learns to use his feet and hands and it’s all over. He always had the talent but he never really could put it all together. I think we haven’t seen the best of him yet. He is just starting to learn and once he relaxes a little bit better, and doesn’t want to lay in when he passes that last horse, I think the sky is the limit. He’s just a tremendous horse.

“A great job by Joel for harnessing him because he is a lot of horse and great job to Barry who bred the horse. To win the race for Barry, it’s a thrill.

“I think the (Pegasus) is our first option, if everything is going well. With no Lasix (in the Pegasus), the horse has never been a bleeder and so I don’t see any reason why the Pegasus wouldn’t be our next option.”

Little Red Feather Racing’s Mirth justified 7-5 favoritism in the Robert J. Frankel (G3), but in an off-the-pace style that was as dramatic as it was unexpected. Under the red-hot Mike Smith, she came again to nip lesser-fancied stablemate Tiny Tina in a Phil d’Amato-trained exacta.

Smith was in the midst of an historic day, highlighted by a Malibu (G1)/La Brea (G1) double that gave him the all-time North American record with 217 Grade 1 wins as a jockey. The Frankel result was a case study in Smith’s conjuring up one last thrust in time.

Mirth was supposed to dictate terms as in her Rodeo Drive (G1) score and her recent sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). But a plot twist came early as Smith reserved her well back, with Harmless instead setting the pace. Mirth launched her bid in the stretch, only to find Tiny Tina apparently outkicking her. In the final strides, Mirth summoned a little extra to prevail in 1:48.32 for 1 1/8 grassy miles.

“It may have been Mike Smith’s plan (sitting far back),” d’Amato said, “but I thought we would be sitting second maybe, not that far back. But Mike is a Hall of Famer so he figured it out.”

Smith explained that he was judging by the pace.

“There was a little more pace than I expected but that was fine because that helped me,” Smith said. “If it had been just one horse going out there on the lead, then I probably would have had to go early to press him. But this way, I just got to sit and wait and move when I wanted.”

The hard-luck story of the race was 3-2 second choice Excellent Sunset, who was bottled up in traffic before forcing her way into third. Don’t Blame Judy checked in fourth. Next came Curlin’s Journey, Streak of Luck, Ms Peintour, and Harmless.

Mirth advanced her line to 18-6-4-2, $395,563. Bred in Pennsylvania by Barlar, the four-year-old is by Colonel John and out of the stakes-placed French Deputy mare Di’s Delight.

Smith got off to a fast start in the $82,453 Lady of Shamrock S., guiding OXO Equine’s Brill to a smart turf debut. The Don Chatlos pupil was a pick-up mount after Flavien Prat was off mounts due to a stomach virus.

Unraced since a too bad to be true fourth in the Victory Ride (G3) back on June 5, the 7-2 chance took charge early here and kept on too strongly for 6-5 favorite Keeper Of the Stars to catch. Brill held sway by 1 3/4 lengths while negotiating the grassy mile in 1:35.75. .

A $1 million Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling purchase, Brill showed bright potential in her career bow at Del Mar as a juvenile. The Medaglia d’Oro filly, then trained by Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, was no match for Bellafina when fourth in the 2018 Del Mar Debutante (G1) and third in the Chandelier (G1). Brill didn’t progress much on the dirt earlier this season, winding up third in the Fantasy (G3) and fourth in the Black-Eyed Susan (G2), before changing barns. Her resume now reads 8-2-1-2, $231,040.