Tell a Great Story almost didn't survive her birth on April 5, 2010, and that alone makes her 3-1-1 record from five starts an outstanding one.
On July 13, the former "dummy foal" who was nursed to health by handlers at Sagamore Farm could take her saga to the next level, moving from stakes winner to graded victress with a win in the $300,000 Delaware Oaks (gr. II) at Delaware Park.
Tell a Great Story, a homebred daughter of Bluegrass Cat who was born tiny and unable to breathe, defeated James Glover's Ile St. Molly by a nose in the Go For Wand Stakes at Delaware June 15. The pair left the rest of the field nearly 12 lengths behind going a mile and 70 yards that day, and both have exceeded expectations to join a field of nine sophomore fillies for the 1 1/16-mile Delaware Oaks.
"She is doing well and we think she is going to make a good showing," trainer Ignacio Correas said of Tell a Great Story, who also won a May 12 allowance race going the Delaware Oaks distance. "We are going to do exactly what we did before the Go For Wand. We are going to ship in the day before the race. On the morning of the race, we are going to gallop and go to gate. She has been very good in the gate lately, and she has been very good shipping lately. She has had some problems with both in the past, but she has been handling both well. In her last two or three races, she has been very good, so we are going to just do what we have done with her recently with success."
Correas knows if Tell a Great Story can run back to her Go For Wand performance, she'll be tough. Last time out she closed determinedly and ran down the leader to get up in the final nod. Jockey Forest Boyce gets the mount from the outside as part of a 118-pound impost aboard the 5-2 morning line favorite. All others carry 116 pounds.
"Hopefully, she runs the same way and if she runs the same race, we know we are going to have a good chance," Correas said. "Her two workouts coming into this race have been good, and she is training very well. She has been getting better with every race, and I think that is because she is becoming more mature and focused. This is going to be a big step up for her though. When you run for this kind of money with these stakes, it is never easy, so we are also looking at this as a chance to see where we are with this filly. We are very happy with where we are now and we will see where we are after the race. Hopefully, we will be a whole lot happier."
When trainer Kenny Smith shipped to Delaware this year, he knew he was bringing a talented filly in Ile St. Molly—but he wasn't expecting the Arkansas-bred to race herself into the Delaware Oaks. In her first effort going a mile, the daughter of Ile St. Louis notched a three-quarter-length score in the Our Mims Stakes May 18; she then followed with her second-place finish behind Tell A Great Story in the Go For Wand. Previously, she had two career victories in state-bred company. Earlier in the year she posted a 3 3/4-length victory in the six-furlong Rainbow Miss at Oaklawn Park, and last year she broke her maiden in her career debut, a six-furlong restricted stakes race at Louisiana Downs.
"She is easy and a pleasure to train," Smith said of homebred Ile St. Molly. "A lot of them will surprise you, and that is why you've got to give them all a chance to run in these kind of races to see if they can handle it. Some of them handle it and some of them do not. I have had a bunch of horses in my career handle it, but I have had a whole lot more who have not. That is a part of the game. But I think this filly is special. I think she is going to run really well, and I don't think the mile-and-a-sixteenth will bother her one bit. In the Go For Wand, both of those fillies finished awfully strong with a pretty fast final quarter. My filly was a little aggressive down the backside, but we got outrun, and when you get outrun, you just go to the next race."
Ile St. Molly will be ridden from post 8 by Alex Cintron, and is the 3-1 second choice on the morning line.
"We have been trying to teach her to lay off the pace a little bit, but however it sets up, I think we can do either this time," Smith said. "I think we can win on the lead or I think we can just set off the pace if we have to do it. I look for a good race out of her."
Millennium Farms' Alli Leigh, a daughter of Student Council who was third in the Go For Wand, and T.C. Stable and Johns Martin's Big Brown filly Maracuya, fourth in the May 17 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (gr. II), are also of interest. Morgan's Ford Farm's Broomsage also ran in the Go For Wand; the Virginia-bred Include filly finished fourth for trainer Michael Matz.
Dancing Afleet has won two in a row for trainer Tim Richey and Beverly Frazier, while Makayla's Angel has done the same for trainer Graham Motion and Debby Oxley. Dennis J. Federico's homebred allowance winner Maddy's Dance and Oussama Aboughazale's maiden winner Diva Spirit complete the field.
Since the Delaware Oaks was brought back to the stakes schedule at Delaware Park in 1997, the race has produced five eventual winners of the Alabama Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course, two 3-year-old filly champions, and one eventual Horse of the Year—Havre de Grace, who won in 2010 and went on to be crowned the 2011 Horse of the Year.
$300,000 Delaware Oaks (gr. II, Race 8, approximate post 4:45 p.m. EDT), 3YO fillies, 1 1/16 miles (dirt)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds
1. Alli Leigh (KY), J. Rose, 116, S M Asmussen, 12-1
2. Maracuya (KY), E.S. Prado, 116, R E Nicks, 4-1
3. Diva Spirit (KY), A. Castellano, Jr., 116, O Aboughazale, 6-1
4. Broomsage (VA), S. Bridgmohan, 116, M R Matz, 15-1
5. Makayla's Angel (KY), M. Rispoli, 116, H G Motion, 8-1