Nashoba's Key faces five rivals in the $400,000 Yellow Ribbon (gr. IT) for fillies and mares on Santa Anita's turf course during the Oak Tree meeting Sept. 29. Gaines says a patient approach has paid off for the 4-year-old California-bred daughter of Silver Hawk who did not debut until January,
Says Gaines: “Can I say honestly that I thought she’d go from a maiden race to a grade I in five races? No. But she always showed a whole lot of talent and that’s why we continue to take time with her. I guess you do that with all horses, but particularly with her.”
Nashoba's Key and the Bobby Frankel-conditioned Citronnade figure to take most of the action in the 1 1/4-mile Yellow Ribbon, which will be the greatest distance Nashoba's Key has attempted.
A victory in the Yellow Ribbon would almost certainly lead a Breeders' Cup date for Nashoba's Key, says Gaines. Both the Emirates Airline Distaff (gr. I) and Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) are under consideration.
The Yellow Ribbon marks a return to the turf for Nashoba's Key, who began her career by stringing together three victories on grass. Her maiden and first-level allowance wins came on the Santa Anita lawn last winter. Nashoba's Key jumped from a win over state-breds in the Fran's Valentine on the Hollywood Park turf in April into graded company. The versatile filly showed a fondness for synthetic track, rattling off convincing triumphs in the Milady (gr. II) and Vanity (gr. I) on the Cushion Track at Hollywood this summer.
In her last start Aug. 5, she rolled to a 1 1/2-length win in the Clement L. Hirsch Handicap (gr. II) on Del Mar's Polytrack. To date, Nashoba’s Key has earned $623,460.
"We gave her a breather (after the Hirsch)," says the Alabama native Gaines.
With Rags to Riches hurt and out of the picture for the BC Distaff on dirt, Gaines has the option to consider that race as well as the Filly & Mare Turf. “But at this stage,” she said, “we’re leaning towards the Filly & Mare Turf if all goes well.”
Stronach Stables' Citronnade probably didn't care for the soft going in Arlington Park's Beverly D (gr. IT) Aug. 11. The 4-year-old Lemon Drop Kid filly hit the gate at the start and spotted the field more than eight lengths. Five wide on the final turn of the 1 3/16-mile grass test, she struggled home fourth, beaten by seven lengths by Royal Highness.
Citronnade had captured five races in a row before the loss, including the Gamely (gr. IT) on the Hollywood lawn May 28. She has won eight of 12 in her career with earnings of $694,205.
In her U.S. stakes debut for trainer John Sadler, the New Zealand-bred Black Mamba closed stoutly to finish second, beaten by three-quarters of a length by Precious Kitten in the Palomar Handicap (gr. IIT) on the Del Mar turf course Sept. 1.
The French-bred Mauralakana makes her West Coast debut for Patrick Biancone.
“She’s doing well,” Biancone said of the bay filly, who was second by a neck at 15-1 in the Glen Falls Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Saratoga Sept. 3. “She’ll be an outsider, but she’s a nice horse and she can run.”
Mauralakana has a 6-2-3 record from 19 starts with earnings of $502,592.
$400,000 Yellow Ribbon Stakes (gr. IT, Race 3, 1:30 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 1/4 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey
1. Mauralakana (FR), Victor Espinoza
2. Nashoba's Key (CA), Joseph Talamo
3. Memorette (CA), Mike E. Smith
4. Imagine (CA), Corey S. Nakatani
5. Black Mamba (NZ), Tyler Baze
6. Citronnade (KY), David R. Flores
Each assigned 123 pounds.