Michael Talla's Crisp, ridden by Joel Rosario, added blinkers for the 1 1/16-mile Oaks and atoned for a dull fourth-place finish in the Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I) in her last start for trainer John Sadler.
Crisp sat just off the pacesetter All Due Respect and challenged in the stretch to get up by a neck in a time of 1:43.50 on the Pro-Ride racing surface. The deep closer Blind Luck, looking for her third consecutive grade I win, tried to rally in the stretch but came up two necks short in the seven-horse field as the 1-2 choice.
Rain had held off for the first half of the program but began to fall prior to the Oaks.
Crisp, the only other stakes winner in the field, was much closer to the pace than she was in the Las Virgenes as All Due Respect and Garrett Gomez set an easy pace with quarter-mile fractions of :24.83, :49.78, and 1:13.92. Crisp angled out and advanced closer leaving the final turn as Blind Luck lagged at the back. As the two front-runners vied through the stretch, Blind Luck looked for room to charge on the outside, but still had a long way to come.
Blind Luck was finally forced to rally along the inside for Rafael Bejarano and kept charging, but she lacked an opening until it was too late while finishing willingly. Crisp, meanwhile, inched ahead of All Due Respect in deep stretch after brushing her rival briefly and held on for a game victory.
“The blinkers made a big difference," Rosario said. "She was more focused today and she was into the bridle. She finished great. She tried to lay on that filly inside of her (All Due Respect), but she always does that."
Bejarano chalked up Blind Luck's defeat to bad racing luck.
"Those two fillies in front of me (Crisp and All Due Respect) tightened up and my hole closed," Bejarano said. "We just ran out of time; she was really running.”
Crisp won the Santa Ysabel Stakes (gr. III) Jan. 10 before disappointing in the Las Virgenes Feb. 13, when she finished 3 1/4 lengths behind Blind Luck. The lightly raced daughter of El Corredor out of the Sir Cat mare Cat's Fair won for the third time in five starts and increased her earnings to $252,120.
“We were hoping to lay a little closer today because it looked like there was a lot of speed in here so the tactics were drawn up and worked today for her," Sadler said. "She’s fourth beaten three the other day in the last stakes; she ran very well. There was no pace that day and she put in a good run and couldn’t get there, so we thought we would have her lay up closer today.
"I hope we’ll go to the Kentucky Oaks with her. I mean that’s the plan. She has got good stamina and can run a big distance.”
The dark bay Crisp, a $160,000 Keeneland yearling buy in September 2008, was bred in Kentucky by James Jones and Randy Swanson.
Runner-up All Due Respect, third in last fall's Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs, also turned in a big effort in her first try on a synthetic track. It was her first start for trainer Kathy Walsh.
Carrying equal weight of 122 pounds, Crisp went off as the third choice and paid $13.60, $8, and $2.80. All Due Respect, who broke her maiden for trainer Ronny Warner by 7 1/2 lengths in her most recent start on a muddy track at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots Jan. 24, returned $8.20 and $3.20. The exacta paid $95.60. Blind Luck paid $2.10 show, creating a $70,948 minus pool.