Rigoletta Provides Oak Leaf Surprise Ending
Third and beaten by nearly seven lengths by Tell a Kelly in the Darley Debutante Stakes (gr. I) at Del Mar one month ago, Rigoletta relished the increase in distance from seven furlongs to 1 1/16 miles. The daughter of Concerto earned a berth in the $2 million Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs.
Rigoletta, who is not nominated to the Breeders' Cup and would require a 9% supplemental fee to be eligible, paid $67.40 for the win, the biggest price in the 42-year history of the Oak Leaf. David Flores guided the bay filly to the narrow victory for trainer Dan Hendricks and owner Thor-Bred Stable. The final time was 1:44.03 over the Cushion Track
Pacesetter Indian Gracey finished third, a length behind Tell a Kelly.
Rigoletta broke her maiden at Del Mar in her second start Aug. 8 and was jumped directly into grade I company in the Darley Debuatante, where she ran respectably at 30-1 odds.
"She was in the bridle the whole way," said Flores after his fourth win in the Oak Leaf. "She's got one of those long strides so I was surprised she was so aggressive early. (Alonso) Quinonez (Tell a Kelly’s rider) was going to sneak in there but I just kind of put my filly back in there and boy is she game. When Tell a Kelly bumped her, it got her into the race more ... she got aggressive and fought back. I thought I was going to get beat but that seemed to make her madder."
Quinonez said he felt he had little option but to try to squeeze between horses.
"She wasn't going by the one in front (Indian Gracey) and I didn't think I had enough horse to go around," Quinonez said. "I thought it would be easier just to push out Rigoletta a little bit and keep on going. She was working real good and everything set up perfectly for her; we really didn't have any excuses."
“I think the reason she was a big price is she’s more of a grinder but going two turns sometimes that grinding works very well," Hendricks noted. "She let the speed out ahead and closers can’t get to you all the time.
John Sadler, trainer of Tell a Kelly, said his filly was a "little compromised by the trip but we thought she ran a good race. We’re disappointed not to win but we’ll probably go on to the Breeders’ Cup.”
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