Gary Barber's Lexie Lou outran stablemate Wild Catomine to score an impressive victory in the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks Presented by Budweiser (VIDEO) at Woodbine June 15, as 1-2 favorite Paladin Bay finished off the board in the 1 1/8-mile test on Polytrack.
Wild Catomine, John Oxley's filly who won Woodbine's Fury Stakes last out in her second career start, strode out to the early lead, taking a two-length advantage over Lexie Lou down the backstretch under Gary Boulanger. After the half-mile was completed in an honest :47.98, Lexie Lou and jockey Patrick Husbands had mounted a challenge and were within a neck of the leader as the field rounded the second turn.
After six furlongs in 1:12.25, Lexie Lou had taken over as she and Wild Catomine comfortably led the rest of the field. Lexie Lou continued to draw off down the stretch and was an easy 4 1/2-length winner. The final time for 1 1/8 miles of 1:49.77 was a little more than a second off the track record of 1:48.97 as trainer Mark Casse saddled the first- and second-place finishers.
The 3-1 second choice, Lexie Lou paid $8.50, $4.50, and $3.40. Wild Catomine was worth $7.00 and $5.50. The $2 exacta paid $23.25. Llanarmon closed well late for third at $5.00. With little fast early pace to run at, favored Paladin Bay stalked the early leaders in fourth, moving up to third before leveling out to finish 2 3/4 lengths behind Llanarmon. The order was completed by Unspurned, Storm Now, Hot and Spicy, who went to her knees at the break, Call Her Karma, and Gdansk.
For Husbands, it was his third win in the Oaks on a day when he was presented with the Avelino Gomez Award for career contributions to Canadian thoroughbred racing. Husbands and Casse have now teamed to win three Oaks, following Kimchi in 2006 and champion Sealy Hill in 2007.
"Mr. Barber has a passion for horse racing and watches every race from North America to Europe," said assistant trainer Kathryn Sullivan. "He's always on the look out for up-and-coming horses and Lexie Lou has been on everyone's radar since her juvenile campaign. He put his interest out there and Mr. Ross agreed."
Casse took the blinkers off her for the Oaks, a move that can sometimes backfire in major races, but according to Husbands, it made all the difference.
"When Mark bought this horse, she had run with blinkers," the rider said. "So when I worked her, I said she doesn't need blinkers. So last time she never relaxed (racing with blinkers on). Today, no blinkers. We worked her twice since the last race without blinkers, no problem. In the post parade, she was relaxed.
"I've won a lot of races for Mark but he'll have to decide where she should go next (either the $1 million Queen's Plate July 6 or the second leg of the filly Triple Tiara, the $250,000 Bison City Stakes on July 13)."
"I had a great trip," Boulanger said of runner-up Wild Catomine. "She didn't break that sharp but going a mile and an eighth, I wasn't too concerned. She did everything I could ask her to do. Lexie Lou was always there on me. Going two turns for the first time, she did more than exceptionally well. I'm very proud of her."
"It was good, but it was a little too far at the end," said rider Gerry Olguin, about Paladin Bay. "We took a good run at her, like we always do, but Lexie Lou found another gear there, she just took off again. I thought I was going to be second. It looks like the last sixteenth of a mile was a little too far for her. She got tired at the end."
The Woodbine Oaks outcome avenged a third-place finish by Lexie Lou, a half-length behind Wild Catomine, as the 8-5 favorite in the May 10 Fury, the first time Husbands was aboard the 3-year-old daughter of Sligo Bay who had been ridden in her nine previous starts by Boulanger. Bred in Ontario by Paradox Farm, Lexie Lou was purchased by trainer John Ross for $5,577 at the 2012 Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society (Ontario Division) Canadian-bred yearling sale.
In her first nine starts for Ross and J. R. Racing Stable, Lexie Lou tallied three wins and four placings, including victories in the Muskoka Stakes and South Ocean Stakes. The Oaks was the second start for Lexie Lou since being acquired privately by Barber. The filly is now 11-4-2-2, with earnings of $609,438.