The 1 1/16-mile Oaks drew a competitive field of nine 3-year-old fillies, but just one other graded winner, Final Fling. All contestants carry 122 pounds.
The California-bred Golden Doc A, now owned by Ron McCauley, hit the national radar with her powerful rally as the favorite in the one-mile Las Virgenes Feb. 9. Last for the first half-mile under Rafael Bejarano, Golden Doc A responded leaving the final turn while racing wide. She kicked past the pacesetter Lovely Isle in the late stages to post a one-length triumph.
That effort came on the heels of a fast-closing runner-up finish to 2007 juvenile filly champion Indian Blessing by a head at equal weights of 123 in the Santa Ynez (gr. II) at seven furlongs Jan. 13.
Abrams, who turned 54 this week, previously won a grade I race in 1997 with Famous Digger, a filly he claimed and won the Del Mar Oaks (gr. I) with. Abrams says Golden Doc A is special to him, his brother David, who bred her, and her former owner Madeline Auerbach, who stands her stallion. Golden Doc A is by Unusual Heat out of the Crested Wave mare Penpoint, both trained by Barry Abrams.
“Her victory in the Las Virgenes means a lot to small breeders like us,” the trainer said. “You'd have to be in that position to explain the emotion involved. This gave us a special feeling inside because we bred a claiming mare to a good stallion and got a grade I winner. There’s much more emotion involved under those circumstances."
McCauley, a car dealer from Lexington, Ky., acquired Golden Doc A privately before the Las Virgenes from Abrams, his brother and Auerbach. With another big effort here, she could be headed for the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) next, but Abrams isn't ready to commit to that yet.
Golden Doc A has now won three of 10 lifetime starts with earnings of $345,356. She has two wins on Santa Anita's synthetic surface and a third victory on Del Mar's Polytrack. Bejarano will be aboard once again in the Santa Anita Oaks and they will break from post seven.
Michael Bello's Lovely Isle will take another crack at the favorite after nearly getting the job done for trainer Bobby Frankel in the Las Virgenes. She led by 1 1/2 lengths before giving way to Golden Doc A while fighting back from the rail under David Flores. They'll break from the rail in the Oaks. Lovely Isle, a Florida-bred daughter of Double Honor , won the first two starts of her career last year in impressive style.
Frankel also conditions Ariege, a Doneraile Courtfilly who comes off a nose loss as the favorite in the La Habra (gr. IIIT) on grass Feb. 2. She'll be making her first start on a synthetic surface after beginning her career in Ireland on the lawn.
Final Fling, a Cal-bred daughter of Bertrando owned by Michael House, swept to a 1 1/2-length victory in the Santa Ysabel (gr. III) Jan. 13 at the Oaks' distance. Ral H. Ayers, pinch-hitting for the suspended Jeff Mullins, saddles Final Fling, who has a two-race winning streak.
Zayat Stables' Sunday Holiday, a Sunday Break filly, was third behind Indian Blessing in Belmont Park's Frizette (gr. I) last fall. She began her 2008 campaign for trainer Bill Mott with a fifth-place finish in the Suncoast at Tampa Bay Downs Feb. 16.
The Oaks also attracted Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Moss' Kazamira, third-place finisher in the Santa Ysabel in her first try against winners for trainer John Shirreffs.
Coming out of the Las Virgenes is William Currin's Divine Legacy, who ran fourth that day.
Others in the field are Seattle Smooth, second most recently in the California Oaks at Golden Gate Fields, and Briecat, unbeaten in two tries but getting a huge class test after going gate to wire in the Arizona Oaks Feb. 9.
$300,000 Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I, Race 9, 4:30 p.m.), 3-Year-Old Fillies, 1 1/16 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey
1. Lovely Isle (FL), David R. Flores
2. Briecat (FL), Richard Migliore
3. Divine Legacy (FL), Tyler Baze
4. Final Fling (CA), Joseph Talamo
5. Seattle Smooth (KY), Joel Rosario
6. Sunday Holiday (KY), Victor Espinoza
7. Golden Doc A (CA), Rafael Bejarano
8. Ariege (KY), Corey S. Nakatani
9. Kazamira (KY), Mike E. Smith
Each carries 122 pounds.