Fox Hill Farms' highly regarded Cassatt muscled her way to victory Aug. 9 in the $105,000 Monmouth Oaks (gr. III) at Monmouth Park, earning her first graded stakes score and extending her winning streak to three for owner Rick Porter and trainer Larry Jones (VIDEO).
Unbothered by the antics of rival Aqua Regia as that one shut off Saintly Joan going into the far turn, the 3-year-old Tapit filly held her own and then drew away by 3 3/4 lengths for a wire-to-wire score at 17-10 odds.
Cassatt inherited the early lead under jockey Kerwin Clark and took seven other sophomore fillies a quarter in :23.86 before slowing down a half in :48.23.
"I was surprised where we were in the position of the race, but he just let her break and see where she wanted to settle and I guess nobody wanted to go, so he went," Porter said. "I thought he slowed it down the second quarter and he was just sitting on her."
Cassatt carried the field into the turn through three-quarters in 1:12.78 when Eddie Castro sent Aqua Regia with a run in the two path, causing Orlando Bocachica to check hard to his inside aboard Saintly Joan. But Cassatt maintained her position at the head of the lane and drew away much the best under an impost of 116 pounds, finishing the 1 1/16-mile test in 1:44.34.
"I wasn't really too concerned; I hadn't asked her to do anything at that point," Clark said. "She noticed the horse to her inside before I even did. The only thing I was worried about was her getting a little bit tired at the end, which she did, but she's a nice filly and hopefully she has a bright future."
Following a stewards' inquiry and an objection by Bocachica against Castro, Aqua Regia was placed third for interference while Saintly Joan was elevated to second. Ria Antonia, the 2013 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) winner, finished fourth as the 4-5 favorite.
Cassatt, a $300,000 purchase from the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale when consigned by breeder Mt. Brilliant Farm, has made a steady progression under Jones' care.
"I thought we would be on the lead, she was in her first race," Jones said. "That's kind of why we put her in sprinting, just to get her to run behind horses, but she's out there galloping when other horses are running and we don't want to take her out of her game.
"She was very relaxed, ears up going down the backside. That horse came up our inside turning for home and Kerwin just put her in the best part of the track. Just get her where she's happy and that's what Kerwin did. It was great. I'm just so glad to get her back to the races. I told everyone last year that she might be the best 2-year-old I ever trained. When she debuted she ran big, but got in trouble and we had to stop on her right after that."
That debut was on Sept. 30 last year at Churchill Downs. After showing good early foot in that race, Cassatt was impeded in the lane where she appeared to hit the fence and finished third, only to be placed second via disqualification.
Fast forward 3 1/2 months and Cassatt broke her maiden very easily sprinting six furlongs at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, winning by better than four lengths.
"She came back from that and just wasn't 100%," Jones said. "We know how good she is so we wanted to give her time to make sure she was perfect before brining her back."
Her third start was at Delaware Park in an off-the-turf five-furlong entry level allowance race, where she drew off to an impressive four-length score on July 16.
"I know its tough when you have a horse that you know will do good going long and I run her short," Jones said. "But we needed a race in her to get ready for this one, so we ran her and she ran great."
Bred in Kentucky out of the Giant's Causeway mare Justenufftime, Cassatt extended her record to three wins and a second from four starts for earnings of $115,400. She returned $5.40, $4.40, and $4 at odds of 8-5, while Saintly Joan paid $22 and $12.60 with Aqua Regia bringing $9.80. After Ria Antonia came Lady Paradime, Aibhilin, Offlee Golden, and Spring Included. Size and Joint Return scratched.
"I'm always happy when we get a graded stakes victory, but Larry Jones is very, very high on this filly and has been since the beginning," Porter remarked. "She is a little bit of a head case—in the paddock she sweated out completely—but she'll get better with some time as she matures."
Jones said the Sept. 20 Cotillion (gr. I) at Parx Racing could be an option for Cassatt's next start, and he didn't completely rule out a start in the Oct. 31-Nov. 1 Breeders' Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park.
"We might be a little too late getting her to the Breeders' Cup, but you never know," he said. "The Cotillion at Parx is a possibility and see if she can put herself into the Breeders' Cup picture, but we'll see how she comes out and let her tell us."