(from Hollywood Park report)
Though she has her work cut out against a formidable field in the $750,000 American Oaks Invitational (gr. IT) Saturday at Hollywood Park, the intriguing Anamato could become the first Australian-bred and trained horse in recent history to win a major North American race.
A victory by the Australasian Oaks (Aus-I) winner who is 8-1 on the morning line would be at least a mild surprise in the 1 1/4-mile American Oaks, which, in its sixth year, continues to draw international attention.
Anamato is in the capable hands of leading trainer David Hayes, son of legendary Australian trainer Colin Hayes.
She will face a tough international field of nine that includes Japanese Oaks (Jpn-I) winner Robe Decollete; Supposition from the stable of renowned Irish trainer Dermott Weld; locally based multiple graded stakes winner Valbenny; group III winner Just Little from France, and top eastern based fillies Panty Raid and Baroness Thatcher, first and third-place finishers in the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (gr. II).
The American Oaks, on the Hollywood lawn, is scheduled as the tenth of eleven races on Saturday’s program that also includes the Vanity Invitational Handicap (gr. I) and the Triple Bend Invitational (gr. I).
Anamato arrived at Hollywood Park in mid-June. She has won three of seven starts in 2007 — all group races — with the most prominent coming in the Australasian Oaks when she prevailed in a field of 16 as the favorite.
The 4-year-old daughter of Aussie stallion sensation Redoute's Choice will be the first Australian starter in the American Oaks, which is for 3-year-old fillies in the Northern Hemisphere and 4-year-old fillies in the Southern Hemisphere. She'll carry a four-pound penalty (125) against her rivals.
"I've been here before, but this is the first time with a horse," Hayes said. "We had a filly invited last year who was not quite good enough. Anamato is one of the top three fillies in Australia. Miss Finland (also trained by Hayes) is tops, and Anamato is not far behind. If she brings her A-game, she will be competitive."
Anamato, listed at 8-1 along with Baroness Thatcher on the morning line, has won four of 17 races and $638,6723 for Royce and Julie Ritchie.
Hayes, 44, is a member of one of Australia's most prominent racing families. His late father set many records before his death in 1999 at age 75, winning 41 metropolitan trainers' premierships at Adelaide and Melbourne. He trained 5,333 winners, including 524 individual group or listed winner,s and won the Melbourne Cup (Aus-I) twice with Beldale Ball in 1980 and At Talaq in 1986.
David Hayes has carried on the family tradition. He began training in Australia in 1990, enjoyed a decade of success in Hong Kong from 1995 to 2005 and returned to Australia in 2005. He has trained 35 group I winners, including Jeune in the 1994 Melbourne Cup.
Robe Decollete, the 3-1 morning-line favorite, scored a 10-1 upset in the 11/2-mile Japanese Oaks in her last start on May 20. She has won three of eight starts for earnings of $1,578,610 and has the leading Japanese jockey up in Yasunari Iwata.
Irish-bred Valbenny, unbeaten in three starts at Hollywood Park, enters the Oaks with successive wins in the Senorita Stakes (gr. IIIT) and the Honeymoon Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. IIT). The Paddy Gallagher trained filly is second choice at 7-2 on the morning line. She has won five of eight starts for earnings of $269,653.
Panty Raid and Audacious Chloe were each shipped in by the nation’s leading trainer, Todd Pletcher.
Panty Raid has back-to-back victories, including the Black-Eyed Susan on the Pimlico main track, and is three-for-five overall with earnings of $242,275. Listed as the co-third choice along with Just Little at 5-1, she will be starting on turf for the first time.
Audacious Chloe, listed at 6-1, is unbeaten in three straight races on turf this year and is four-for-five on turf dating to Aug. 20. Her latest victory came June 8 in the Little Silver Stakes at Monmouth Park. Each of her 2007 victories has come in an ungraded stakes race. She is five-of-eight overall for earnings of $255,873.
Edmund Gann’s Just Little, trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, has won four of six starts in France, including a group III race two starts back at Longchamp. She enters the Oaks with earnings of $165,156.
Baroness Thatcher was shipped in from trainer Patrick Biancone’s Kentucky base for the Oaks. Third in the Black-Eyed Susan, she won the Santa Ysabel (gr. III) in January at Santa Anita and was narrowly defeated by super filly Rags to Riches in Las Virgenes (gr. I) in February. A winner of two of nine starts for earnings of $210,523, she is 8-1 on the morning line for her turf debut.
Juddmonte bred Supposition, a winner once in four starts a year ago in Ireland, will be making her first start of 2007. She is listed at 15-1.
Comminique, fourth in the Regret Stakes in her last start on June 16 at Churchill Downs, has won one of six starts and is 20-1 on the morning line.
$750,000 American Oaks Invitational Stakes (gr. IT, Race 10, 4:43 p.m.), 3-Year-Old Fillies, 1 1/4 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, ML Odds
1. Baroness Thatcher (KY), Corey S. Nakatani, 121, 8/1
2. Supposition (GB), Rafael Bejarano, 121, 15/1
3. Valbenny (IRE), Alex O. Solis, 121, 7/2
4. Panty Raid (KY), Edgar S. Prado, 121, 5/1
5. Robe Decollete (KY), Yasunari Iwata, 121, 3/1
6. Anamato (AUS), Michael Rodd, 125, 8/1
7. Communique (KY), Richard Migliore, 121, 20/1
8. Audacious Chloe (KY), David R. Flores, 121, 6/1
9. Just Little (FR), Victor Espinoza, 121, 5/1