Jojo Warrior, ridden aggressively from the rail by Martin Garcia, was a resounding gate-to-wire winner of the $200,000 Summertime Oaks (gr. II) in her first start over a route of ground June 21 at Santa Anita Park (VIDEO).
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert put blinkers back on the Zayat Stables' homebred daughter of Pioneerof the Nile , and the good-looking bay filly responded impressively to win by 5 1/4 lengths while running the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:43.09 over a fast track. Eight 3-year-old fillies contested the Summertime Oaks, formerly the Hollywood Oaks, which was run over dirt for the first time since 2006.
Jojo Warrior rebounded from a rough trip when a distant third as the 7-5 choice in the Miss Preakness Stakes May 16. She was sent off at odds of 3-1 this time as she recorded her first graded stakes win.
Maiden Live for Now, a half sister to 2001 Horse of the Year Point Given for Casner Racing, rallied at the rail for second, with Front Range, also trained by Baffert, finishing third. Delta Flower, on a three-race win streak for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, was the 2-1 pick but faded in the stretch to run fourth.
Breaking from the rail, Jojo Warrior went directly to the lead for Garcia and was pushed by Delta Flower through fractions of :23.25 and :46.61 before Jojo Warrior began to edge away on the far turn as she ran six furlongs in 1:10.78. Jojo Warrior led by 2 1/2 lengths mid-stretch and had no challengers as she made her way to the wire under steady urging.
"She's been running against good horses and she wants to run all day," Garcia said. "I knew that I had the rail but she broke well and I put her on the lead and she was comfortable with that. I took advantage of it. She's really sharp and when I asked her to go, she responded."
Delta Flower weakened in the drive as Live for Now progressed at the rail for Tyler Baze. She was a clear second by one length over Front Range, who flattened out after stalking on the outside for Joe Talamo. Front Range was a head in front of Delta Flower, with Fleet of Gold, Stop Smiling, La Mejor Fiesta, and Arethusa following.
"(Live for Now) was so full of run at the half-mile pole and I was just sitting in a box there," said Baze of the runner-up. "If I could have got her out anywhere around the half or the three-eighths, I think she wins. She's got a long, huge stride."
Jojo Warrior ended a three-race losing streak this year after graduating at first asking in her only start at 2 last September at Del Mar. In her prior graded stakes attempt, she was fourth in the Eight Belles (gr. III) May 2 at Churchill Downs. Jojo Warrior's win Saturday improved her career line to 2-1-1 in five races with earnings of $200,701.
"She had blinkers on and drew the rail. What's your strategy going to be when you draw the inside? You don't want her to get behind horses," said Jim Barnes, Baffert's assistant. "She didn't like that at Pimlico. She got away a little slow and got behind horses and really didn't like it too much.
"Last time with blinkers off we were just trying something a little different. I think going long was the key."
The winning filly, bred in Kentucky out of the multiple stakes-placed Carson City mare Carson Jen, is a half sister to 2010 Frizette (gr. I) winner A Z Warrior, grade III winner E Z Warrior, and multiple stakes winner J Z Warrior. She is the seventh winner from seven starters produced by her dam.
Under equal weights of 118 pounds, Jojo Warrior paid $8.40, $4.80, and $3.80 as the third choice. Live for Now, a $260,000 daughter of Tiznow trained by Eoin Harty, returned $13 and $8. The $2 exacta was worth $102.80. Front Range, a filly by Giant's Causeway out of Mike Rutherford's four-time grade I winner Lakeway (winner of the 1994 Hollywood Oaks), paid $4.20 to show.