Zo Impressive won the June 23 Mother Goose Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park with resolute style, but faces a tough one-two punch from Disposablepleasure and In Lingerie as she attempts to continue her forward progression in the $300,000 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course July 21.
The Coaching Club American Oaks, a 1 1/8-mile event for 3-year-old fillies, serves as a rematch between Zo Impressive and Disposablepleasure, who duked it out down the stretch in the 1 1/16-mile Mother Goose. Zo Impressive pulled ahead to prevail by three-quarterss of a length while registering her first stakes score.
It was a race in which the favorite, Acorn Stakes (gr. I) winner Contested, and the second choice, Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) victress Believe You Can, both failed to fire; Contested finished last of five and Believe You Can was third, while Zo Impressive picked up the pieces off two runner-up efforts in the Acorn and Gulfstream Oaks Stakes (gr. I).
"She was training exceptionally well going into the Mother Goose," trainer Tom Albertani said of the Hard Spun filly. "She was doing well at the right time, and she came out of the race just as good. This is the best I've seen her."
Like the Coaching Club American Oaks, the 1 1/8-mile Gulfstream Park Oaks was contested around two turns.
"She ran around two turns at Gulfstream and didn't have any problems," said Albertrani. "I don't think the extra distance should be an issue as she was edging away from Disposablepleasure in the last 50 yards of the Mother Goose."
Rajiv Maragh will ride Zo Impressive, the 2-1 favorite on the morning line, from post 5.
Glencrest Farm's Disposablepleasure will try to turn the tables on Zo Impressive this time. The daughter of Giacomo already has a victory going 1 1/8 miles, having taken the Demoiselle (gr. II) around two turns last November at Aqueduct Racetrack.
"For a moment, I thought she was going to get there (in the Mother Goose)," said trainer Todd Pletcher. "She just couldn't get past Zo Impressive. It was another improved effort. Each race this year she has gotten a little better, and hopefully she'll continue to move forward and maybe knock one of these down one of these days. I think a mile and an eighth suits her well."
Disposablepleasure entered the Mother Goose off a second, beaten 1 1/4 lengths, to stablemate In Lingerie in the May 18 Black-Eyed Susan (gr. II) at Pimlico. Unlike Disposablepleasure, In Lingerie is unraced since that start.
"She kind of grabbed herself when she left the gate, and we just needed to make sure that healed up properly," Pletcher said of the filly's injured quarter, adding that forcing a run in the Mother Goose probably would have put her in a position to have had to skip this race or her hopeful next target, the Aug. 18 Alabama Stakes (gr. I).
"Coming off the big effort we figured the Mother Goose was the logical one (to bypass), and hopefully if things go well we can run her twice here," he said.
In Lingerie, an Empire Maker filly owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Gary Barber, also has a six-length win in the Bourbonette Oaks (gr. III) over Polytrack at Turfway Park in March to her credit.
Disposablepleasure, who will carry Rosie Napravnik for the first time in her career, drew post 2 at odds of 4-1 on the morning line. In Lingerie, 5-2, will depart from post 6 with Javier Castellano aboard.
Questing steps up in class off a 3 3/4-length optional claiming score at Belmont June 24. She received a Beyer speed figure of 105 for the effort, the best lifetime figure of all six Coaching Club American Oaks entrants. After carrying the Darley Stable colors in her previous starts, she'll run in Godolphin Racing blue.
Prior to the optional claiming win, Questing made a pair of starts on turf, finishing fifth on May 11 at Belmont and fourth on March 14 at Gulfstream. In her North American debut, she was fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) after arriving from England.
"She obviously ran huge on the dirt at the Breeders' Cup and for us the other day, so we're entering," said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who won the 2011 Coaching Club American Oaks with It's Tricky for Godolphin. "It's a big step up from an allowance to a grade I. It looks like a short, quality field. It'd be great if we could hit the board. We wouldn't have minded if it was a week later, but we decided to give it a try. She's a very nice filly."
Irad Ortiz, Jr. will ride Questing from the rail.
The field also includes Peras International's Yara, winner of the Davona Dale (gr. II) earlier in the year and third in Calder's Leave Me Alone in her most recent start June 9, and John Oxley's Funny Proposition, eighth in the Regret (gr. IIIT) going 1 1/8 miles on the turf at Churchill Downs June 16.
$300,000 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I, Race 10, 5:45 p.m.), 3YO Fillies, 1 1/8 Miles
PP, Horse, Jockey, Trainer
1. Questing (GB), I. Ortiz Jr., K P McLaughlin
2. Disposablepleasure (KY), R. Napravnik, T A Pletcher
3. Yara (FL), J. Rosario, J C Guerrero
4. Funny Proposition (KY), S. Brigmohan, M E Casse
5. Zo Impressive (KY), R. Maragh, T Albertrani
6. In Lingerie (KY), J. Castellano, T A Pletcher
All carry 121 pounds.