There are several special aspects of the story of Lilacs and Lace, a homebred daughter of Flower Alley, who burst onto the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) scene with a victory in the April 9 Ashland Stakes (gr. I).
For starters, Refinement, a daugter of Seattle Slew and the dam of Lilacs and Lace, delivered a full sister to the Ashland winner on the same night of her prestigious victory, which was seen by some as a good omen of things to come.
Another interesting aspect of Lilac and Lace's journey is the background of her co-owners James Covello, Judy Hicks, and Kathryn Nikkel. The latter two bred the filly in Kentucky.
James Covello, who has owned more than 40 horses in various partnerships over the years, including several graded stakes winners, has recently invested in several promising Thoroughbreds. One of his other latest success stories has come with 2011 stakes winner Swift Warrior, who he owns with James Dolan.
Covello bought a majority interest in Lilacs and Lace after she won the Jan. 1 California Oaks at Golden Gate.
Lilacs and Lace was raised at Hicks’ Brookstown Farm near Versailles, Ky., and was broken at Mark Dedomenico’s Pegasus Equine Rehabilitation and Training Center near Redmond, Wash.
Hicks and Nikkel, who decided to race Lilacs and Lace after she failed to meet her $35,000 reserve as a yearling, own around a dozen mares in partnership, which are boarded at Brookstown. Hicks runs the farm, while Nikkel, a resident of Dana Point, Calif., manages their racing stable and broodmare holdings.
“We traditionally don’t do a lot of racing, but we felt like we liked (Lilacs and Lace) enough to take a chance since she just didn’t make enough money at the sale,” said Nikkel, who campaigned Lilacs and Lace mostly at Golden Gate during her juvenile campaign. “The Tapeta surface (at Golden Gate) is fabulous to develop young horses over,” she explained.
Nikkel said leading up to the Ashland, she couldn’t even say she was “quietly confident” Lilacs and Lace might win that race, considering she had finished fourth, beaten 12 lengths, in her previous start, the March 26 Bourbonette Oaks (gr. III).
“(Trainer) John Terranova made an absolutely fabulous call to run her (in the Ashland),” Nikkel said of the trainer, who has saddled the filly in her last two starts. Before that, she was conditioned by Duane Offield. “It was a brave decision to make off being beaten in the Bourbonette. But Terranova was there with her and said she was spot on and he had to give it a go, and he was absolutely correct. So I applaud him for making a perfect decision.”
Some may wonder how Lilacs and Lace will handle the Churchill dirt since she’s raced the majority of her starts on synthetic surfaces, but Nikkel doesn’t see the unknown as a problem.
“Her pedigree is more geared toward the dirt than synthetic, and she trained fabulously at Palm Meadows over a traditional course, and we’ll think she’ll love the Churchill surface,” said Nikkel. “I would say right now, we’re absolutely geared up for the Oaks.”