Unbeaten Weemissfrankie is headed for Churchill Downs next month after her scintillating late-running tally in the $250,000 Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita Oct. 2 (VIDEO).
With consecutive grade I wins after taking last month's Del Mar Debutante (gr. I), Weemissfrankie figures to be one of the favorites for the $2 million Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) Nov. 4.
Third at the sixteenth pole on the far outside, Weemissfrankie closed a couple of lengths in deep stretch under right-handed urging by jockey Rafael Bejarano to get up by a half-length over Candrea in the 1 1/16-mile Oak Leaf. In her first start on dirt, the winning New York-bred daughter of Sunriver was timed in 1:42.92 as the 9-5 favorite in the field of eight 2-year-old fillies.
Candrea edged Charm the Maker by a half-length for second.
Weemissfrankie, from Sunriver's first crop out of the Meadowlake mare Starinthemeadow, gave trainer Peter Eurton his first grade I win in the Del Mar Debutante. The chestnut filly was named for the late Hollywood actor Frank Alesia, who was part of the chestnut filly's ownership group with his wife Sharon. The other co-owners are Mike and Dawn Mellen's Bran Jam Stable and Joe Ciaglia's Ciaglia Stable.
Hidden Point Farm bred Weemissfrankie, a $175,000 Ocala buy in April.
“You don’t know how they’re going to run from synthetic to dirt until they do it," Eurton noted. "She loves synthetic at Hollywood (Cushion Track); she loves synthetic (Polytrack) at Del Mar; did she like this as much? I don’t know. She didn’t like the dirt hitting her in the face down the backside, Raffy told me. He just had to get her away from the outside and give her a chance to free-run.
“She’s still going to go dirt (in the Juvenile Fillies), but (Juvenile Fillies) Turf is something to think about," the trainer added. "It’s still a consideration, especially when you figure out who’s going and who’s not, but it’s probably going to be dirt.”
Self Preservation, along the inside, took the early lead over a tugging Candrea as Silent Saga and Charm the Maker stalked in third and fourth through sizzling fractions of :22.94, :46.69, and 1:10.94. Weemissfrankie, a little rank at the start after breaking alertly, raced about mid-pack slightly off the rail for Bejarano. She loomed up on the outside with My Gi Gi as Candrea took the lead at the quarter-pole and Charm the Maker closed in on her outside.
But Candrea, winner of the Phil D. Shepard Stakes at Fairplex two weeks ago, stubbornly clung to the lead through the lane for Martin Garcia over Charm the Giant, who was slow to switch leads for Garrett Gomez. Weemissfrankie, under right-handed urging, mustered a late charge, however, and was able to sweep past both of her rivals in the last few strides.
“She was kind of uncomfortable down in the stretch the first time, so I tried to keep her clear after the first turn and get her in good position," Bejarano said. "After I found my position I tried to cover a little bit and get her relaxed. When I got to the top of the stretch I put her clear, and like always, she showed me a big kick in the stretch.
"I gave her a little push in the end and she showed me an unbelievable kick.”
Weemissfrankie broke her maiden at first asking July 20 at Del Mar going five furlongs, rallying from seventh at mid-stretch to get up by a half-length. She jumped from the maiden ranks into the seven-furlong Del Mar Debutante, which she won by 1 1/4 lengths over Self Preservation as the slight favorite.
Now with earnings of $337,800, Weemissfrankie paid $5.60, $3, $2.40 while competing in the Oak Leaf under equal weights of 122 pounds. Candrea, from the Bob Baffert barn, returned $3.80 and $3.20 in a game try. The exacta was worth $19.20. Charm the Maker, coming off an impressive maiden win in her first start at Del Mar Aug. 31 for trainer Ron McAnally, paid $3.20 to show.
Mi Gi Gi, in her first start in Southern California after beginning her career at Louisiana Downs, finished fourth. She was followed by Self Preservation, Regal Betty, Wild Truffles, and Silent Saga.
British-bred filly Dreamcaster (Baffert) and Killer Graces (Jerry Hollendorfer) were trainer scratches.