Piece of My Heart has noticeably improved around two turns this year and can stamp herself as a potential Kentucky Oaks (G1) contender on Saturday with a victory in the $300,000 Delaware Oaks (G3) at Delaware Park over 1 1/16 miles.
The daughter of Flat Out, who cost a mere $7,000 as a yearling, has won three of five since stretching out in distance. Her latest success came in the $80,000 Gardenia Stakes at Oaklawn Park, which she won in wire-to-wire fashion by 1 1/2 lengths over returning rival Comical.
“She is doing real good,” said trainer Mac Robertson following a string of recent works. “It looks like she gets over the Delaware Park surface really well. Hopefully, she will run the same as last time. It took her a little while for her, but she got awful good at Oaklawn and she is doing really good here, so we are looking forward to Saturday.”
Comical, who won the Schuylerville Stakes (G3) last summer before placing in the Del Mar Debutante (G1) and Chandelier Stakes (G1), was slow to round back to her best form after being transferred to the Steve Asmussen stable after her juvenile campaign, but was a clear second in the Gardenia and could be the one to take catching if she flashes more early foot from post 1.
A glut of other 3-year-old filly stakes over the 10 days, among them the Iowa Oaks (G3), Indiana Oaks (G3), and Ashland Stakes (G1), is likely to spread the division’s population thin and the depth of the Delaware Oaks is evidence of that. If she chooses Delaware over Iowa, Queen Bridget might deserve a look as a closer in a pace-filled race. She rallied to finish a distant third to Gamine in a May 2 allowance at Oaklawn Park two back.
Hopeful Growth, who’s won two of three including a 7-furlong allowance at Tampa Bay Downs last out, is a threat for a share or more with mild improvement. Ex-claimer Dream Marie seems somewhat exposed but has placed twice behind Tonalist’s Shape in a pair of stakes at Gulfstream this term.
The Delaware Oaks will award Kentucky Oaks qualifying points of 50-20-10-5 to the top four finishers.
Later on Saturday’s card, Gufo and Pixelate figure to take a good chunk of the support in the $125,000 Kent Stakes, a 9-furlong turf event for 3-year-olds.