Awesome Baby, a back-to-back graded stakes winner this season at Santa Anita Park, stands out for trainer Bob Baffert in the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks March 23 in New Mexico.
The Sunland Park Oaks, one of several stakes on the Sunland Derby undercard Sunday, attracted a field of six sophomore fillies with Awesome Baby the lone stakes winner in the group. The 1 1/16-mile race is the eighth on the program with a scheduled post of 4:05 p.m. MDT.
Awesome Baby will break from post 5 as the 6-5 morning line pick with Mike Smith accepting the mount once more from Baffert, who also has the favored Midnight Hawk and third choice Chitu in the featured $800,000 Sunland Derby (gr. III) later on the card.
A maiden winner at 2 who completed her season with a fifth-place finish in the Chandelier Stakes (gr. I), Awesome Baby has won both of her starts in 2014 for owner Kaleem Shah. He paid $220,000 for the daughter of Awesome Again —Miss Attractive, by Running Stag, at the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale.
Awesome Baby began the year with a half-length tally in the 6 1/2-furlong Santa Ynez Stakes (gr. II) Jan. 4. She then successfully stretched out to take the 1 1/16-mile Santa Ysabel Stakes (gr. III) on a wet/fast track by nearly three lengths March 1. Both triumphs came in front-running fashion against small fields.
Michael Tabor's Lucky for You ships in from Florida for trainer Todd Pletcher off a five-length maiden score at Gulfstream Park Feb. 15 going 1 1/16 miles. It was the third start at Gulfstream for the $310,000 Malibu Moon filly. She has shown steady improvement while favored in each of her races.
Javier Castellano, leaving from the rail, retains the mount for Pletcher, who is also well-represented in the Sunland Derby with Commissioner and Global Strike.
Also arriving at Sunland off a maiden win is Empress of Midway, a daughter of Empire Maker trained by Doug O'Neill for owner Daniel Kramer. Empress of Midway was 2 1/4 lengths clear in her maiden tally at Santa Anita Feb. 28 at 6 1/2 furlongs. She'll be making her first try at two turns with John Velazquez aboard.
Virginia-bred D'ya Knowwhatimean also ships in from Santa Anita for trainer Peter Miller, who claimed her away from O'Neill for $50,000 Jan. 23. In her only start for her new connections, the Broken Vow filly ran second in an allowance/optional claiming race Feb. 28 at six furlongs. She, too, will be trying a route distance for the first time.
Let Her Dance, a maiden winner trained by Bennie Woolley Jr. for Double Eagle Ranch, and George's Peach, runner-up in the Scottsdale Handicap on grass at Turf Paradise in her most recent try March 15, complete the field.
The Sunland Park Oaks provides 85 points to the top four finishers (on a 50-20-10-5 basis) toward a possible start in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) at Churchill Downs should that May 2 race be oversubscribed.
$200,000 Sunland Park Oaks (Race 8, 4:05 p.m.), 3YO Fillies, 1 1/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Trainer, ML Odds
1. Lucky for You (KY), J Castellano, T A Pletcher, 5/2
2. Let Her Dance (KY), I J Rosendo, B L Woolley Jr., 12/1
3. D'ya Knowwhatimean (VA), V Espinoza, P Miller, 9/2
4. George's Peach (KY), R Eikleberry, K Eikleberry, 10/1
5. Awesome Baby (KY), M E Smith, B Baffert, 6/5
6. Empress of Midway (KY), J R Velazquez, D F O'Neill, 7/2
All assigned 121 pounds.