The CCA Oaks, a 1 1/4-mile event for 3-year-old fillies on the dirt, is the final grade I race of the Belmont spring/summer meet. Also entered is the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Never Retreat and longshot Flaming Slew.
Music Note, running for Godolphin Racing, should be a tough customer based on her last three performances – all easy wins. Most telling was her latest, a 3 1/2-length score in the June 28 Mother Goose Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont where she stalked the pace under Javier Castellano and pulled away in the stretch. In that race she defeated three rivals, including Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner Proud Spell, who wasn't the only one with a bad trip.
“The Mother Goose was a strangely run race,” said Rick Mettee, bin Suroor’s assistant. “Three of the four fillies in the race broke bad. We were lucky that Music Note was able to recover quickly after she stumbled and pull a good trip outside of all the trouble. There is no guarantee of that happening again. In a short field, strange things can happen.”
Music Note, who has won three of four overall and will get Castellano again, is a daughter of A.P. Indy--Note Musicale, by Sadler’s Wells. She was bred in Kentucky by Gainsborough Farm.
“We look at this Coaching Club as a big race because, if one of our horses wins, it gives them a good break to the (Aug. 16, grade I) Alabama at Saratoga,” Mettee continued. “In fact, we were going to run Music Note in the Alabama after the Mother Goose, but after I talked to Saeed, he felt that it made no sense to have her wait seven weeks. She’s a very athletic, uncomplicated filly, and she rebounded nicely out of the race. There were more positives to running in the Coaching Club than in leaving her in the barn.”
Stablemate Little Belle, running in the name of Darley, was beaten five lengths by Proud Spell in the May 2 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), but is still a big threat. Also a daughter of A.P. Indy, but out of the Mr. Prospector mare Dubai Belle, she won three straight races entering the Kentucky Oaks, including a neck victory over Bsharpsonata in the April 5 Ashland Stakes (gr. I) on the Keeneland Polytrack. Proud Spell ran third in that one. She also scored in the Feb. 24 Busher Stakes at Aqueduct.
Like Music Note, Little Belle has been training very well at Belmont. Her last work was six furlongs in 1:14.37 on July 12.
If either of Suroor’s fillies don’t hit the winner’s circle, it is likely to be Helen Alexander and Helen Groves’ Acoma. The bay filly enters off a half-length victory in the one-mile Dogwood Stakes (gr. III) May 31 at Churchill Downs. She also has a pair of 1 1/16-mile victories to her credit this year. Trained by David Carroll, Acoma will be making her first start outside of Kentucky.
“She’s bred to run all day,” said Carroll, who schooled her at Belmont July 17. “She’s done everything right for us so far, and we looked hard at the Mother Goose. But we didn’t want to go Mother Goose, Coaching Club, and Alabama. She is still developing and that would have been a lot to ask. We settled on the Dogwood, and now we have a fresh filly. The Dogwood was a one-turn mile and she ran a good time (1:34.56). We’re just hoping that Julien (Leparoux, jockey) can get her to settle and run her race.”
$300,000 Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I, Race 9, 5:15 p.m.), Three-Year-Old Fillies, 1 1/4 Miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Acoma (KY), 121, Julien R. Leparoux
2. Little Belle (KY), 121, Rajiv Maragh
3. Never Retreat (KY), 121, Michael J. Luzzi
4. Flaming Slew (KY), 121, Eibar Coa
5. Music Note (KY), 121, Javier Castellano