Wait a While answered any questions about her ability to handle the turf when she demolished the field in the $750,000 American Oaks Invitational (gr. IT) for 3-year-old fillies at Hollywood Park Sunday.
Tainer Todd Pletcher wanted to put Wait a While back on the grass ever since she broke her maiden on the Belmont sod by five lengths last fall. But circumstances interfered repeatedly, including her last start in the Sands Point (gr. III) at Belmont, which was forced off the turf by driving rain. Wait a While won anyway over three rivals in gate-to-wire fashion by 4 1/2 lengths.
The connections of the winner had to wait a few minutes for the race to be declared official after Alex Bisono, rider of Foxysox, alleged interference against Wait a While and jockey Garrett Gomez. Bisono claimed that Wait a While forced him to take up near the quarter-pole as the winner was making her sweeping move to the front of the pack. But stewards disallowed it, saying Attima caused the traffic problem.
After clearing off, Wait a While continued to widen her advantage through the lane to win easily. The final time for the 10-furlong event was 1:59 1/5.
The Japanese filly Asahi Rising, the 8-5 favorite in the field of eight, came on belatedly under Victor Espinoza to take second by a half-length over the Canadian invader Arravale, ridden by Corey Nakatani. Galileo's Star finished fourth.
Asahi Rising was attempting to give Japan back-to-back victories in the American Oaks after Cesario's smashing victory in 2005.
"My filly broke slow out of the gate," Espinoza said. "It was her first time in this country. I didn't have a choice (but to rally late), but the owners are happy. They didn't know she could run from off the pace."
Attima outfought Foxysox for the early lead and led the field through an easy half-mile in :47 4/5 and 1:12 for six furlongs. She was under heavy pressure coming off the far turn, however, as Foxysox, always close, edged up on the outside. Wait a While, stalking in fourth on the outside after pulling Gomez early, made a bold move on the bend and was soon in control as she quickly pulled away under left-handed urging.
"She was a little aggressive -- the races on the dirt go a little bit quicker early on -- and it took me a little while to get her settled," Gomez said. "But once I got her settled, she dropped the bridle all the way up the backside. I'm not sure who it was that made the run at about the three-eighths pole, but I went ahead and got her up on her feet and she went to runnin'."
The winner has won five of 10 starts in her career and more than doubled her earnings to $888,087 for owner Ocala Horses LLC. The gray filly is by Maria's Mon
out of Flirtatious, by A.P. Indy
. W.S. Farish and W. Temple Webber bred her in Kentucky. She sold for $260,000 at Ocala in February 2005. Wait a While's only previous graded stakes victory came in the 1 1/8-mile Davona Dale (gr. II) on a sloppy sealed Gulfstream Park track Feb. 4.
"We know we've got a great filly here," said Cody Richardson, racing manager of Ocala Horses LLC (the nom de course of Alan Cohen of Weston, Fla.). "We've come really close several times in a couple of grade ones, and we really topped it all off here today."
Richardson said he would like to see Wait a While stay on the turf.
"Oh, I'd have to think so after today," he said. "She's obviously a very competitive filly on the dirt as well, but after a performance like this against this caliber of fillies, you'd have to think she'd be here for a while."
Wait a While, who had run third in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and second in the Ashland (gr. I) this spring, paid $7.80, $3.60, and $3 as the third choice of the public. Asahi Rising, third in the Japanese Oaks (Jpn-I) in her last start, returned $3.40 and $2.60. Arravale, six lengths clear of her nearest competitor, was $4.40 to show.
Galileo's Star nosed Sol Mi Fa for fourth. They were followed by Foxysox, Proxenia, and Attima.
"She just flattened out; I don't know what happened today," said David Flores, who rode the second choice Attima. "It was one of those days, you know? I've got no excuse at all. She was cruising, we had a great slow pace ... she should be able to pick it up at the three-eighths pole, but she was just flat."