After rallying impressively to capture the Del Mar Debutante (gr. I) one month ago, unbeaten Weemissfrankie will try two turns for the first time in the $250,000 Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita Oct. 2.
The 1 1/16-mile Oak Leaf, which shares top billing with the Clement L. Hirsch Turf Championship (gr. IIT) on the Santa Anita program, attracted 10 2-year-old fillies. The eighth race on the card with a 4:38 p.m. PDT probable start time, the Oak Leaf winner is guaranteed a berth in the $2 million Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) at Churchill Downs Nov. 4.
Off her impressive 1 1/4-length victory as the slight favorite in the seven-furlong Debutante, Weemissfrankie will be well supported as she attempts to extend her winning streak to three. Trained by Peter Eurton, the New York-bred chestnut filly is by Sunriver out of the Meadowlake mare Starinthemeadow and sold for $175,000 as a 2-year-old at Ocala in April.
“I love the way she’s moving over the dirt right now,” Eurton said in reference to Weemissfrankie's recent training on Santa Anita’s main track.
She's named for the late Hollywood actor Frank Alesia, who was part of the ownership group with his wife Sharon, along with Bran Jam Stable, Ciaglia Stable, Rob Dyrdek, and Nick Cosato.
In the Debutante, Weemissfrankie was forced extremely wide leaving the turn while seventh, but mowed down her rivals in the lane to win handily in 1:23.20 on Polytrack. In addition to routing for the first time, the Oak Leaf will be the filly's first race on natural dirt. Rafael Bejarano, who was aboard for the Debutante as well as Weemissfrankie's maiden debut win July 20 at Del Mar, retains the mount.
Others returning from the Debutante are runner-up Self Preservation, Wild Truffles (fourth), Killer Graces (fifth), Silent Saga (sixth), and Dreamcaster (seventh), one of two entered by trainer Bob Baffert.
Baffert, who has won the Oak Leaf seven times (second to D. Wayne Lukas with nine), is also represented by Candrea, a stakes winner Sept. 16 at Fairplex Park.
Trained by Ben Cecil for owner J. Paul Reddam, maiden winner Self Preservation was making her U.S. bow in the Debutante after beginning her career in Ireland. The Kentucky-bred daughter of Lion Heart rallied from dead last in the field of 10 after being bumped at the start and steadied, but was closing in on the winner at the end at odds of 24-1.
Cecil admitted that he was surprised by the good showing since he had not been pleased with Self Preservation’s training at Del Mar following her arrival from Ireland in early August.
“She’s a different filly since she got up here (at Santa Anita),” Cecil said. Patrick Valenzuela returns to ride.
Westrock Stables' Dreamcaster, a $250,000 yearling purchase and impressive in her maiden debut win at Del Mar a month earlier, disappointed in the Debutante at 3-1 odds. The British-bred daughter of Bernardini pressed the pace to mid-stretch and led briefly before giving way late to be beaten by 5 1/4 lengths.
Baffert also entered unbeaten Candrea, a daughter of Trippi purchased for $340,000 by Karl Watson, Mike Pegram, and Paul Weitman. After breaking her maiden by 3 ½ lengths at Hollywood Park on July 7, Candrea took Fairplex Park’s Phil D. Shepherd Stakes by four lengths. Martin Garcia will be aboard.
Killer Graces, a two-time stakes winner at Hollywood Park during the spring/summer meet, failed to kick in late after waiting for room in the Debutante. The daughter of Congaree is trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, who won the 2009 Oak Leaf with a then little-known filly named Blind Luck.
Richard Lynn's unbeaten My Gi Gi, in her initial Southern California appearance for trainer Brian Koriner, is an intriguing newcomer after beginning her career with Al Cates at Louisiana Downs.
After breaking her maiden by a neck at 7 1/2 furlongs in August, My Gi Gi stepped into stakes company and was beaten by just a head in the one-mile Happy Ticket Stakes Sept. 10. Both of those races were on turf so the E Dubai filly will be making her dirt debut with Chantal Sutherland aboard.
Charm the Maker, trained by Ron McAnally for his wife Deborah, was an eye-catching maiden winner at Del Mar in her debut Aug. 31, charging from fifth position while three wide to win the six-furlong test by 4 1/2 lengths. The Kentucky-bred filly is by by Empire Maker out of the graded stakes winner Charm the Giant. She drew the far outside post and will have Garrett Gomez in the irons.
Regal Betty, from the John Sadler barn for owner Michael Talla, is also coming off a maiden win, taking a one-mile heat by a head in her second start at Del Mar Sept. 4.
$250,000 Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. I, Race 8, 4:38 p.m.), 2-Year-Old Fillies, 1 1/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey Trainer
1. Silent Saga (KY), V Espinoza, M K Cho
2. Self Preservation (KY), P A Valenzuela, B D Cecil
3. Killer Graces (KY), J Talamo, J Hollendorfer
4. Candrea (FL), M Garcia, B Baffert
5. My Gi Gi (KY), C Sutherland, B J Koriner
6. Wild Truffles (KY), A Quinonez, L Powell
7. Regal Betty (FL), J Rosario, J W Sadler
8. Weemissfrankie (NY), R Bejarano, P Eurton
9. Dreamcaster (GB), M A Pedroza, B Baffert
10. Charm the Maker (KY), G K Gomez, R L McAnally
All carry 122 pounds.