Separated by a length at the end of Houston Ladies Classic (G3) in late January, Lady Apple, Serengeti Empress, Street Band, and Mylady Curlin will square off again Saturday in the $350,000 Azeri (G2) at Oaklawn Park, a 1 1/16-mile tune-up for next month’s Apple Blossom H. (G1).
A four-time Grade 3 winner, Lady Apple wore down the speedy Serengeti Empress to win by a half-length at Houston, and returns Saturday to a track over which she is 3-for-3, including a victory in last year’s Fantasy (G3). Serengeti Empress, winner of the 2019 Kentucky Oaks (G1) and an Eclipse Award finalist, could face increased early pressure from Awe Emma in the Azeri, but looms a logical danger again.
Street Band couldn’t sustain her rally in the final furlong of the Ladies Classic, but the Larry Jones trainee ran big to win the Cotillion (G1) and Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) last term and can’t be discounted. Mylady Curlin is 8-for-16 lifetime with a couple graded victories and can earn a share or more with a peak performance for Brad Cox.
A field of seven was also entered in $350,000 Essex H. for older horses at the same 1 1/16-mile trip. All are familiar faces at the meet, with Pioneer Spirit a potential rebound candidate with the possibility of a wet track in the forecast.
Bankit seeks to get on the right side of a photo after two tough beats in a division of the Fifth Season S. and Razorback H. (G3) earlier in the meet, while Snapper Sinclair and Guest Suite also likely to relish the potential off track. Laughing Fox, winner of the Oaklawn Invitational last season, figures to move up off a dull try in an allowance prep to Night Ops, while Bravazo is still in search of his better form from a couple seasons ago.