Fox Hill Farm's Round Pond, winner of the 2006 Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) and five of her six career starts at Oaklawn Park, is expected to return for her "home court advantage" next month. She heads a list of 15 older fillies and mares nominated for the $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I).
The 1 1/16-mile Apple Blossom will be run April 7, along with the $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II).
Over the course of its history, the race has produced numerous champions, including Azeri, Gourmet Girl, Banshee Breeze, Escena, Twice The Vice, Heavenly Prize, Jewel Princess, Paseana, Bayakoa, North Sider, Lady's Secret, Track Robbery, Bold 'N Determined, Northernette, Hail Hilarious, and Susan's Girl.
Round Pond began her career at Oaklawn as a 3-year-old, losing her first start, but coming back to capture three in a row, including the 2005 Fantasy Stakes(gr. II). She won both of her 2006 starts at Oaklawn, including a memorable Azeri Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. III), in which she went virtually step-for-step with Happy Ticket before edging that mare in the final jump. Later in the year that same twosome ran one-two in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.
For her career Round Pond has won seven of 12 starts with two second and two thirds. But in her only start this year she finished out of the money for the first time when she was fourth in Gulfstream Park's Rampart Handicap (gr. II). She has earned $1,948,700.
Also nominated for this year's Apple Blossom are the one-two finishers in the 2006 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), Lemons Forever and Ermine. Both raced successfully at Oaklawn last year prior to their big race at Churchill Downs. Lemons Forever won a one mile allowance at Oaklawn in her only local start for trainer Dallas Stewart, while the Ronny Werner-trained Ermine captured Oaklawn's Honeybee Stakes just prior to finishing second in the Kentucky Oaks. Later in the year she took the Falls City Handicap (gr. III) at Churchill Downs and started this year with second place finishes in both the Santa Maria and Santa Margarita Handicaps (both gr. I) at Santa Anita.
India, winner of the 2007 Azeri Breeders' Cup, is expected to represent the strong stakes barn of trainer Todd Pletcher. Pletcher won the 2006 Apple Blossom with Spun Sugar. India has won three in a row and is undefeated in races around two turns.
Joint Effort, winner of the La Troienne (gr. III) and Dogwood Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs in 2006 and the 2007 Sunshine Million Distaff Stakes at Santa Anita, may be making her first Oaklawn appearance for trainer Dale Romans. Join Effort races in the silks of Donald Dizney, who raced Wekiva Springs to a second place finish behind Geri in the 1996 Oaklawn Handicap.
Wonder Lady Anne L, winner of the 2006 Coaching Club American Oaks at Belmont Park also appears on the list of nominees.
The full list of nominees for the 2007 Apple Blossom Handicap: Baghdaria, Brownie Points, Delicate Dynamite, Ermine, Eyes On Eddy, Fiery Pursuit, India, Joint Effort, Lemons Forever, Rahy's Appeal, River Savage, Rolling Sea, Round Pond, Take D' Tour, Wonder Lady Anne L.