After finishing sixth in the May 2 Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), adjudged 2013 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) winner Ria Antonia could head to the May 17 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) for a new trainer—Tom Amoss.
Majority owner Ron Paolucci confirmed the news May 6, after the 3-year-old daughter of Rockport Harbor went to the track at Churchill Downs to gallop for Amoss after moving from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
Ria Antonia ran fourth in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (gr. II) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in her first start this year for trainer Jeremiah Englehart, who saddled her to her 2013 Breeders' Cup score. She then followed that up with a runner-up finish in the Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) after which she was switched to the barn of Baffert, for whom she ran sixth in the Oaks.
"There really aren't any races for her right now back in California with Bob, and the reason I sent her there was to run in the Santa Anita Oaks and then the Kentucky Oaks," Paolucci said. "I didn't want someone training her in California from somewhere else.
"Now, since I want to run her in the Preakness, and then in the Ohio Derby (gr. III) at my home track, it's no use to me sending her back to California with Bob. It's in the best interest of the filly not to ship her all around like that.
"I thought Tom Amoss was an obvious choice; he and I have a very good track record together and he's very conservative; he's not going to go unless he believes she has a chance."
Amoss confirmed a potential Preakness bid is on the table, but said decision to take on the boys is "a one step at a time process."
"Ron knows with the horses I currently train for him, I'm going to give an honest evaluation of this filly and whatever decision we make, I'm going to be on board with 100% or we're not going to do it," Amoss said. "This is a one step at a time process. Ria had a good day on the track today. She'll breeze sometime early next week, a simple maintanence-type breeze to make sure she's healthy and sound, and then Ron and I will have a conversation after that."
Should Ria Antonia go to the Preakness, she would bid to become the sixth filly win the race and join Rachel Alexandra (2009), Nellie Morse (1924), Rhine Maiden (1915), Whimsical (1906) and Flocarline (1903).
"My thinking is, I would rather run in the Preakness against California Chrome than wait for the Acorn (gr. I) and run against (Kentucky Oaks winner) Untapable," Paolucci said. "No knock against California Chrome, but Untapable is the best horse in the country right now, male or female.
"When you're talking about a 3-year-old filly, you only have so many opportunities to do what you're going to do. My filly will bounce back in two weeks; physically she's in perfect shape. I asked Bob before we moved her to Tom, 'Is there any reason from a physical aspect not to run in the Preakness?' And he said 'No, she's completely sound and healthy.'
"As long as she's healthy, ready, and able, and I'm not doing anything that's going to hurt her, I don't see why I shouldn't take a shot."
Paolucci blamed Ria Antonia's off-the-board finish in the Oaks under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith on tactics.
"She had a pretty rough trip; she was way wide," he said. "I don't think the style in which she ran that race is her best style. She's not a filly that you can grab and stop; she needs to run free. You can't ask her to rate, rate, rate, and then run. Not criticizing Mike's ride, I think he gave her what he thought was the best chance to win, but she broke sharp and should have been up a little closer to the leaders."
Paolucci said Ria Antonia will run without blinkers in her next start, wherever that may be.
Amoss said he has two places reserved on a flight bound for Baltimore for runners. Whether one of those runners will be Ria Antonia remains to be seen.
"I did have the advantage of watching her train at that 8:30 time slot (reserved for Oaks and Derby horses) before the Oaks, so I was able to watch her today and make a comparison," he said. "She's a very nice filly."
Bred in Kentucky by Lynn B. Schiff out of the Mr. Greeley mare Beer Baroness, Ria Antonia was a $9,000 purchase by Ricky Griffith from the 2012 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall yearling sale. She was purchased privately by Paolucci late last summer after starting her career for Griffith at Woodbine. Her current record stands at two wins and a second from eight starts, with earnings of $1,254,140.