Photo Courtesy: Oaklawn (Coady Photography)
HOT SPRINGS, AR (OAKLAWN) - Rose to Gold led off the Racing Festival of the South with a dominating gate-to-wire win in Wednesday's $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn on Wednesday and with the victory solidified her spot in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) May 3 at Churchill Downs. The filly earned 100 points for her win to bring her total to 164 based on the new qualifying system the Louisville, Ky. Track is using to determine the field for the Oaks. She currently ranks second on the list behind Beholder, who also has 164 points, but more career earning.
"She's proven she wants to go there and we're going to give her every opportunity to get there," said winning trainer Sal Santoro. "I'm extremely proud of her. If my daughter had just won the Nobel prize, that's how proud of her I am."
Owned by Kathleen Amaya and Raffaele Centofanti and sent off as the 3-5 favorite in the field of seven 3-year-old fillies, Rose to Gold covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:45 4/5 over a track rated sloppy after a downpour moments before post time. She drew off to win by 4 ½ lengths while toting co-highweight of 121 pounds. Manuka Honey, the 3-1 second choice who got off to a poor start, quickly raced into contention, settling into second place early, but was no match for the winner.
Marathon Lady was another 5 ½ lengths back in third. Liberty Girl, Inspired Exchange, Hung the Moon and Legal Mind completed the order of finish.
"If she'd had a better start, she would have had a better finish," said Reynaldo Abrue, who saddled Manuka Honey for trainer John Terranova. "Even though she didn't break good, she ran her race. And you can't take anything away from the winner."
Edgar Prado was aboard Manuka Honey and echoed that sentiment. "My filly tried really hard and she could have been a lot closer if she hadn't had the bad start. When she did get to the winner, that other filly just took off."
Rose to Gold returned $3.40, $2.80 and $2.80. The victory was her fifth in seven lifetime starts and the second consecutive stakes win at Oaklawn. Rose to Gold, who captured the $150,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) here on March 9, increased her lead on the far turn and extended it through the lane under firm right-handed urging by regular rider Calvin Borel.
"She kept giving me 12, 12 12," said Borel referring to the fractions of :23.31, :46:55, and 1:12.36 set by the winner. "When I asked her, she really responded even though the track and the weather were like that. She's a very, very talented filly and I think there's even a lot more there."
Add Joe Bravo, who was aboard Marathon Lady, to the Rose to Gold fan club. "Wow, wasn't that a nice filly that Calvin was on?"
With the winner's $240,000 share of the purse, the Kentucky-bred daughter of Friends Lake out of the Tabasco Cat mare Saucy improved her bankroll to $717,889.
"I had never been to Oaklawn before. This is the greatest racetrack with the greatest people," said Santoro. "I leave here tomorrow with mixed emotions."
The Racing Festival of the South continues with the $100,000 Carousel Stakes on Thursday, the $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) and the $75,000 Instant Racing Stakes on Friday, and the $100,000 Northern Spur Stakes, the $250,000 Count Fleet Stakes (G3), the $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2), and the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) on Saturday.