The early optimism trainer Norm Casse had in the three-year-old filly Southlawn has proven to be well founded, especially after the daughter of Pioneerof the Nile posted a 7-1 upset of the $376,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) on Saturday.
Entering the 1 1/16-mile Oaks off a season-opening allowance win at Fair Grounds last month, in which she romped by eight lengths, Southlawn pulled off another surprise by toppling what were deemed beforehand the best fillies on the grounds.
“This is a filly we liked last year. We thought she was a Breeders’ Cup-type filly, and it just didn’t pan out,” Casse said. “She’s good now.”
Southlawn saved ground and rated in a pocket near the back of a compact field of five as longshot pacesetter Christian d’Oro held a slim advantage over 6-5 favorite Hoosier Philly around the first turn. Also in close pursuit were Pretty Mischievous, the Rachel Alexandra (G2) winner and 13-10 second choice, and Silverbulletday S. winner The Alys Look.
Hoosier Philly, looking to rebound from her first career loss in the Rachel Alexandra, took a short lead approaching the quarter pole, but was quickly overtaken by Pretty Mischievous, who opened up a solid lead in the stretch and appeared as if she would be tough to run down. However, after escaping the pocket, Southlawn uncorked a tremendous stretch kick and won going away by 3 1/4 lengths under Reylu Gutierrez.
“I wanted to save all the ground that I could,” Gutierrez said. “The way she’s been working, the way Norm’s prepared her, I knew that once I saw the clear she would burst through.”
Owned by Bob Masterson, Southlawn paid $17.40 after covering the course in 1:44.38 over a fast track. Pretty Mischievous finished second, 3 3/4 lengths ahead of The Alys Look. Hoosier Philly weakened to fourth, while Christian d’Oro was pulled up before the finish.
Southlawn earned 100 Kentucky Oaks (G1) qualifying points for the victory, while Pretty Mischievous earned 40 points, boosting her total to 103. The Alys Look earned 30 points and now has 54, while Hoosier Philly increased her total from 25 to 45. Christian d’Oro earned 10 points.
Southlawn has come a long way since her juvenile campaign. Fifth to eventual division champion Wonder Wheel (trained by Norm’s Hall of Fame father Mark) in her debut, Southlawn followed up with a five-length maiden score at Ellis Park going a mile. However, she struggled in the fall, finishing seventh in the Pocahontas (G3) and then going unplaced in a pair of allowances on the turf. She’s now won three of seven starts with earnings of $318,369.
Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm and sold as Keeneland September yearling for $290,000 Southlawn was produced by the stakes-winning Mo d’Amour, a daughter of Uncle Mo.