Jockey Mike Smith gambled at the rail with favored Lady of Shamrock and it paid off with a convincing victory in the $350,000 American Oaks (gr. IT) on the turf July 14 at Betfair Hollywood Park (VIDEO).
Lady of Shamrock, who was dangerously close to the fence coming out of the far turn, stayed tight through the lane and surged past Best Present Ever past mid-stretch. She drew off for victory by 1 1/4 lengths as the 3-2 pick.
"It got pretty tight," the Hall of Fame rider Smith told TVG afterward. "Those grade Is will make people do kind of crazy things. Once I got her in there, she's so explosive. She really took off."
My Gi Gi, who defeated Lady of Shamrock by a nose in the Honeymoon Handicap (gr. IIT) June 9, finished with interest to get second in the 1 1/4-mile test of sophomore fillies. Best Present Ever ran third, 2 3/4 lengths behind the winner.
Final time was 2:03.19 over firm going.
John Sadler trains Lady of Shamrock, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Scat Daddy owned by Kosta Hronis. Sadler won the Hollywood Juvenile Championship (gr. III) earlier on the Hollywood program with Scherer Magic. Grovendale Sales bred the winner, who is out of the Blushing John mare Blushing Issue.
“I thought at a mile and one-quarter she’d eventually get a lane or a seam. I’m glad (Mike Smith) didn’t alter the strategy even though it was a paceless race," Sadler said. "We still like to let her settle and she’s doing really well that way.
"In turf racing you need to catch a break, you need to find a lane, and she did. She has a real good turn of foot. I think clearly she’s the best 3-year-old filly on turf in the country. We’re very excited about her. We’ll probably run her in the Del Mar Oaks (gr. IT).’’
The $300,000 Del Mar Oaks at nine furlongs is Aug. 18.
Lady of Shamrock scored her third stakes win of the year, following victories in the China Doll Stakes and Providencia Stakes (gr. IIIT) this spring at Santa Anita Park with Smith aboard. In the 1 1/8-mile Honeymoon, her first start on the Hollywood turf, Lady of Shamrock shifted out for jockey Alonso Quinonez in the stretch run and closed for fifth to just miss to My Gi Gi.
In the American Oaks, Smith saved ground near the rear of the eight-horse field as Irish-bred invader Nayarra, tracked by British import Miss Cato, surprisingly took the early lead while posting dawdling fractions— :25.39 for the opening quarter mile, :50.43 for the half, and 1:15.79 for six furlongs.
Best Present Ever, always close for Victor Espinoza, took the lead rounding the final turn as Nayarra faltered. Lady of Shamrcock continued to advance along the inside. Best Present Ever took the lead into the stretch but drifted out in the lane as she edged away, creating a narrow opening for Smith aboard Lady of Shamrock.
Lady of Shamrock continued to gain along the fence before she got command near the sixteenth pole. She opened up quickly on her tiring rival as My Gi Gi, rallying for Joe Talamo, flew home late.
Smith said the race opened up for Lady of Shamrock on the final turn.
"(Nayarra) didn’t corner too well and that really helped us out because I was able to get up in there and on through," he said. "I know what she is capable of, but she was a little on her toes warming up, and I was a little bit concerned she might be a little bit aggressive, but honestly she turned off really well once the gates opened and after that got into a great rhythm."
Miss Cato finished fourth, followed by Stormy Lucy, Left a Message, Nayarra, and Colonial Flag.
Lady of Shamrock, an $11,000 juvenile purchase in May 2011, won for the fifth time in nine lifetime starts and boosted her earnings to $465,400 with the winning slice of $210,000.
Under equal weights of 121 pounds, Lady of Shamrock paid $5, $3, $2.20. My Gi Gi returned $5.60 and $3.40, and rounded out a $21.80 exacta. Best Present Ever was $4.20 to show.
“She ran great," Talamo said of My Gi Gi. "I was surprised (Lady Of Shamrock) got through on the rail, that was a real tight spot. My filly gave it a roll and I was very proud of her.”