The Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. I) on Sept. 30 was expected to be a rematch of Del Mar's Debutante Stakes (gr. I), a race won by Habibti, with Who Loves Aleyna second and Tempera third. But it looks as though Habibti will be the only one of those three contesting the one-mile Oak Leaf.
Who Loves Aleyna, an Out of Place filly trained by Bruce Headley, worked on Sept. 23, going seven furlongs in 1:26.60. According to Santa Anita's press office, Who Loves Aleyna pulled up bad from that workout, and her next workout is on hold. Prior to her runner-up effort in the Debutante, the Florida-bred filly was third in the Landaluce Stakes (gr. III) in July at Hollywood, which followed a maiden win at that track in May.
Trainer Eoin Harty has decided to train Tempera up to the Oct. 27 Breeders' Cup without another prep race. Instead of running the Sorrento Stakes (gr. II) in the Oak Leaf, Godolphin Racing's blue silks will be carried by Imperial Gesture, winner of a maiden race at Saratoga in August.
"I feel if I give Tempera another hard race I will have blown my wad for the Breeders' Cup," Harty said. "I came back too soon at Del Mar (the Sorrento was run Aug. 4, with the Debutante on Aug. 26). She got revved up in her last start and lost her race in the post parade. She needs to learn how to relax."
Tempera won the Sorrento by nine lengths, coming from just off the pace. She moved to the lead midway through the seven-furlong Debutante, then weakened in the stretch. The daughter of A.P. Indy out of the top-class Mr. Prospector racemare Colour Chart was an impressive maiden winner at Hollywood in July.
Imperial Gesture ran poorly in her first attempt to break her maiden, finishing fifth in a 5 1/2-furlong sprint in late July at Del Mar. When a seven-furlong maiden race in the condition book at Del Mar wasn't run, Harty opted to send Imperial Gesture to Saratoga, where she scored by 10 3/4 lengths on Aug. 24 going seven furlongs.
A half-sister to 1994 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner Sardula, Imperial Gesture is from the first crop of foals sired by Langfuhr, a son of Danzig who won three grade I races, the Vosburgh, Carter, and Metropolitan Handicap. He was a $350,000 purchase as a weanling at the 1999 Keeneland November breeding stock sale.
Harty said Tempera is a "naturally brilliant filly" but that Imperial Gesture "has the edge mentally" over her stablemate. "She has just improved from week to week, getting bigger and stronger," he said of Imperial Gesture. "If we run second to Habibti with her and it looks like she can improve a bit, I'll be alright."
Habibti and Imperial Gesture both worked five furlongs on Sept. 25 in preparation for the Oak Leaf. Habibti was timed in :58.80, the fastest of 34 workouts at the distance at Santa Anita. Imperial Gesture recorded the second-fastest work at the distance when she was clocked in :59 flat.
Neither of the winners of two Juvenile Fillies prep races on Sept. 22 were nominated to the Breeders' Cup program as foals. Joanies Bella, winner of the Arlington-Washington Lassie Stakes (gr. II) at Arlington, is not nominated and neither is her sire, Mercer Mill. That would necessitate a $200,000 nomination for her to run. Playing 'n Gold, winner of the Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies Stakes at Turfway, was not nominated and her owners would have to pay a $90,000 supplemental fee (her sire, Honour and Glory, is nominated to the program).