By Karen M. Johnson
Oprah Winney exits an effort that disappointed her connections in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (gr. I), but the competition will be softer in the $75,000 Garland of Roses Handicap at Aqueduct on Dec. 1.
Oprah Winney, eighth in the $1 million Filly and Mare Sprint, is the likely favorite among eight fillies and mares entered in the six-furlong inner track race. She carries 124 pounds as the high weight, and concedes seven to 10 pounds to her rivals.
Rick Dutrow Jr., Oprah Winney’s trainer, said he expected a better performance from the filly, who went off at odds of 6-1 in the Filly and Mare Sprint on a sloppy and sealed track at Monmouth Park Oct. 26.
“Yes, it could have been the (sloppy) track,” Dutrow said Nov. 29. “But she had won in the slop, and at Monmouth (on a fast track) before.”
Surprisingly, Dutrow said he wasn’t entirely pleased with the manner in which Oprah Winney won her start prior to the Breeders’ Cup. The 4-year-old New York-bred daughter of Royal Academy captured the restricted Schenectady Handicap by 3 1/4 lengths at Belmont Park on Sept. 9.
“I was sort of disappointed because she was under (hand) pressure and (Garrett Gomez) was asking her for run,” Dutrow said. “I was under the impression she would do it in-hand.”
Dutrow does expect a good effort from the filly in the Garland of Roses. Since the Breeders’ Cup, Oprah Winney has had three solid works on Aqueduct’s main track, including a bullet five-furlong move in 59.40, the fastest of 22 works at the distance on Nov. 17.
“She seems to fit here; she will try for us, no doubt about that,” said Dutrow, who trains Oprah Winney for Michael Dubb, Sanford Goldfarb, and Cast of Characters Stable.
Oprah Winney, who has two wins on the inner track, drew post two and will be ridden by Alan Garcia.
The Garland of Roses field, while not the caliber Oprah Winney met in her last start, is still very strong. Among Oprah Winney’s rivals are two horses in very good form — More Angels and Coli Bear.
More Angels, a former claimer, seeks her fifth win of the year. The Bruce Levine trainee is coming off a pair of victories, including a win in an overnight stakes at Aqueduct on Nov. 11.
Coli Bear, too, seeks her fifth win of 2007. Like More Angels, Coli Bear has won her last two starts. Trained by Steve Klesaris, Coli Bear is coming off dual allowance victories at Philly Park and Laurel Park.
Oprah Winney, More Angels, and Coli Bear all possess early speed, as does Lakes Tune. If a speed duel develops, Cash’s Girl or Control System could benefit.
Cash’s Girl returns to the races after nearly five months off. She placed fifth in her last start, the Prioress Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont in July.
Control System was a very good-looking winner of the Cicada Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct In March.
Karakorum Starlet finished second to More Angels in her last race. She appears to be the type of horse who can keep her early speed in check and stalk, which is a valuable asset in this speed-laden field.
$75,000 Garland of Roses Handicap (race 8, approximate post 3:44 p.m.), six furlongs for fillies and mares 3-years-old and upward, dirt
PP, Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Coli Bear, 117, Ramon Dominguez
2. Oprah Winney, 124, Alan Garcia
3. Cash's Girl, 114, Rajiv Maragh
4. More Angels, 116, John Velazquez
5. Frisk Her, 114, Charles C. Lopez
6. Control System, 116, Eibar Coa
7. Lakes Tune, 115, Felix Ortiz
8. Karakorum Starlet, 116, Joe Bravo