R Heat Lightning Brilliant in GP Oaks Victory
The 3-year-old Trippi filly put those doubts to rest with authority April 2 as she turned in a brilliant performance that will likely make her the horse to beat in the May 6 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). The E. Paul Robsham Stable homebred devoured six rivals in the 1 1/8-mile Gulfstream Oaks, powering home to an 8 1/4–length victory under John Velazquez for her second straight dominating win (VIDEO).
It was the fourth win of the afternoon for Velazquez and fifth for Pletcher. The duo also teamed up to win with Awesome Maria one race prior in the Rampart Stakes (gr. III) for older fillies and mares. For R Heat Lightning, it was her third graded-stakes triumph and fourth win overall in her eight-start career.
R Heat Lightning covered the nine furlongs in 1:49.27, less than one-fifth of second off of the time clocked by 4-year-old Awesome Maria in the Rampart. It was an electric performance that will surely send her to Churchill Downs as a major factor in the $1 million Kentucky Oaks.
R Heat Lightning was a bit unsettled before entering the Gulfstream Oaks starting gate, but once they began racing she settled nicely behind pacesetter Triune, who took the field of seven around in honest splits of :23.06, :46.32, and 1:10.97 under Paco Lopez. Kindersley and Salary Drive were close to the leader, as was R Heat Lightning, who raced just off of the pace while four-wide.
R Heat Lightning engulfed her three rivals approaching the quarter-pole and easily opened up a commanding 2 1/2-length advantage heading into the stretch. She drew off under a hand ride in the final furlong, coasting to the wire an impressive winner.
Island School was second with Alex Solis aboard, four lengths ahead of Salary Drive.
R Heat Lightning had won twice in five starts as a juvenile including the grade I Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga. She was also runner-up three times, ending her season with a solid second-place effort in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) at Churchill.
The bay filly was fourth in the Forward Gal Stakes (gr. II) to open up her sophomore campaign, but rebounded with a decisive 7 1/4-length triumph in the Feb. 26 Davona Dale Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream.
“She’s starting to relax more in her races," Pletcher said. "She’s not an easy filly to ride, but Johnny has gotten to know her and what to do. You’re always a little concerned when they have to go wide in the first turn like that, but she was in the clear, which is the important thing.
"I wasn’t surprised that she ran that kind of race today after the way she ran the last time, and she ran almost as fast as Awesome Maria. I didn’t think she got quite the respect she deserved after winning the Spinaway and finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup last year, but now I think she’ll be recognized at the head of the class."
The winner has banked $952,800 in her eight starts. She is out of the Gold Fever mare Yellow Heat.
Sent off at 3-5, R Heat Lightning paid $3.20, $2.20, and $2.10. The exacta (5-6) returned $25.40, and the trifecta (5-6-1) with 50-1 Salary Drive paid $126 for $1.
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