The Thoroughbred Corporation's Atlantic Ocean, a $1.9-million sale purchase who's been mostly disappointing in her 2-year-old season, woke up with a switch to the turf on Friday in Hollywood Park's $200,000 Miesque Stakes (gr. IIIT), posting an impressive one-length victory.
The strapping daughter of Stormy Atlantic out of the Seattle Slew mare Super Chef took the one-mile Miesque in a winning time of 1:34.63 on a firm course.
Ridden by David Flores, trainer Bob Baffert's charge vied easily on the outside of Heart Ofa Champion through early fractions of :23.39 and :46.66, assuming command through the stretch and winning while gearing down as 8-1 shot Tangle came on for second, about 1 1/2 length ahead of Major Idea, also owned by The Thoroughbred Corp.
Ocean Drive, the 3-5 favorite in the field of eight fillies, was in contention at the head of the stretch, but lacked any punch in the stretch run.
The Florida-bred Atlantic Ocean was a record buy at Barrett's March 2-year-old sale. After winning the Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies at Turfway Park in September, she lost her next three starts – including the Alcibades (gr. II) and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) – by a combined 44 lengths. This was her first try on grass and her first graded stakes victory.
"Bobby said she's always trained like a champion on the dirt in the mornings, she just never lived up to our expectations," assistant trainer Tim Yakteen said. "And today the turf was the key. This looks like it's gonna be the key to her future."
Bred by Arthur I. Appleton, Atlantic Ocean has won three of her eight starts this year. The $120,000 winning purse, her biggest to date, improved her career bankroll to $234,780.
"She handled the grass very well," Flores said. "She broke real nice and I could feel right away that she was handling the course. So I just tried to get her relaxed the first part. When I pushed the button, she went on pretty strong. It was a pretty good feeling. She had been working really, really well on dirt. Who knows how good she might be. She's only two."
John Velazquez, who rode Ocean Drive, was puzzled by his filly's lackluster performance.
"She had a good trip," he said. "She just didn't fire today. For whatever reason, she wasn't herself. And I don't know why. She just didn't really run. I wish I could pinpoint the reason, but she was just going through the motions out there when I tried to encourage her on the backside. She just didn't put in any effort."
Off at 4-1, Atlantic Ocean paid $10.60, $5.20 and $5.20. Tangle returned $9.20 and $13.80.