Oaklawn Already Proving Key for Top Older Females

The presence of future Eclipse Award winners Swiss Skydiver and Gamine and Kentucky Oaks champion Shedaresthedevil, among others, made 2020 the year of the 3-year-old filly at Oaklawn.
It’s early, but 2021 could be the year of older fillies and mares. Shedaresthedevil and Vault, both from the barn of trainer Brad Cox, recorded major victories last weekend after finding the winner’s circle earlier this year at Oaklawn.

Favored Shedaresthedevil ($5.40) won the $500,000 La Troienne Stakes (G1) at 1 1/16 miles Friday at Churchill Downs. Envoutante and Finite, both 2021 Oaklawn runners, finished second and third, respectively. Co-owned by Staton Flurry of Hot Springs, Shedaresthedevil was exiting a victory in the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) March 13 at Oaklawn.
Shedaresthedevil was a finalist for champion 3-year-old filly of 2020 after winning four races, including Oaklawn’s $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) and the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1).

Vault ($8.80) notched her biggest career victory to date in the $200,000 Ruffian Stakes (G2) at 1 mile Sunday at Belmont Park. Vault ran three times this year at Oaklawn, highlighted by a March 27 allowance victory. Ruffian third Our Super Freak ran twice this year at Oaklawn.

Cox was Oaklawn’s third-leading trainer this year with 29 victories.

Swiss Skydiver was the country’s champion 3-year-old filly of 2020 after winning such races as Oaklawn’s $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) and the Preakness, the third leg of the revamped Triple Crown. Gamine won an entry-level allowance race last year at Oaklawn en route to an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion female sprinter.

The Champions

Familiar names topped the Oaklawn standings during the weather-shortened 51-day meeting that ended Saturday.
Ricardo Santana Jr. finished with 68 victories to capture his eighth riding title (all since 2013) and shattered his single-season record for purse earnings ($5,642,523). Santana set the previous record ($4,317,757) in 2019.

Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen captured a record-tying 11th Oaklawn training title (all since 2007) with 60 victories. Hall of Famer Henry Forrest won 11 titles between 1947 and 1963. Asmussen’s victory total is the fourth-highest single season total in Oaklawn history. The late Cole Norman set a single-season record with 71 victories in 2003 and won 62 races in 2005. Asmussen won 64 races in 2019, when he set a single-season Oaklawn record for purse earnings ($5,644,609). Asmussen ($6,057,877) became the first trainer in Oaklawn history to reach $6 million in a single season this year.

M and M Racing (Mike and Mickala Sisk) won 20 races to capture its fourth consecutive owner’s title. M and M set single-season Oaklawn records for victories (61) and pure earnings ($1,782,351) in 2019.

Oaklawn was scheduled to race 57 days this year, but lost eight live dates in February to severe winter weather. Two Wednesday cards were added (March 31 and April 28) to help offset the lost dates.

Bailey’s Return

Apprentice jockey Chel-c Bailey, who worked as exercise rider during the 2021 Oaklawn meeting, said she plans to resume her riding career this summer in the Mid-Atlantic, possibly Delaware Park, which opens its 77-day meeting May 26.

Bailey has four career victories, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization, with the first three coming in 2020 at Oaklawn. Owing to racing’s uncertain landscape because of COVID-19 and restrictions surrounding the new virus, Bailey had only 19 mounts after the 2020 Oaklawn meeting. Her last mount was Dec. 5 at Turfway Park.

“I feel like the world kind of just needs to get back to normal,” Bailey said. “There’s just so much craziness going on with COVID and now things like Arlington shutting down. I don’t know if it’s a significant difference or not, but I did have an opportunity, I could have gone to Arlington, and gone to ride up there. There’s a huge opportunity for females up on the East Coast and they like bugs. There’s weekend racing, there’s weekday racing, there’s afternoon, there’s night. There’s way more opportunity.”

Bailey, noted for an unbeaten MMA career, said late last month that she was shopping for an agent. Bailey galloped horses throughout most of this year’s Oaklawn meeting for 2020 Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox. After Cox shipped most of his horses to Kentucky or Indiana late last month, Bailey began galloping for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen during the waning stages of the Oaklawn meet.

“I’ve never been up there,” Bailey said, referring to the Mid-Atlantic. “We’ve only kind of gone to Kentucky, here and Minnesota, so it’s kind of unknown territory. Kind of move up there, I wouldn’t say wing it, but the plan is to ride in that area.”

Bailey’s husband, David Kembrey, galloped horses for trainer Mike Puhich this year at Oaklawn. Bailey rode her first race in September 2019 at Canterbury Park.

Finish Lines

Jackie’s Warrior, third in the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds Feb. 27 at Oaklawn, won the $500,000 Pat Day Mile (G2) Saturday at Churchill Downs for perennial Oaklawn training champion Steve Asmussen. Jackie’s Warrior paid $6.60 as the favorite. … Oaklawn had 509 claims totaling $9,093,500 during the weather-shortened 51-day meeting that ended Saturday. … Oaklawn will be open for training through Sunday, with the barn area closing May 11.