Coming off an 11 1/2-length maiden score, Potesta outfought even-money pick Eden's Moon in a long stretch duel to win the $150,000 Hollywood Oaks (gr. II) by a nose June 23 at Betfair Hollywood Park (VIDEO).
The fast-developing daughter of Macho Uno gave trainer Mike Mitchell his first win in the Hollywood Oaks. Potesta, a $75,000 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky buy as a yearling in October 2010, was making her third lifetime start for owners Anthony Fanticola and Joseph Scardino.
Bred in Kentucky by Maynard Farm and B A Man Inc., Potesta is out of the Furiously mare Katzen.
With Joe Talamo aboard, Potesta ran the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:43.22 on the Cushion Track. Leading by a head at mid-stretch, Potesta battled back gamely in the final strides on the outside after she was bumped by her rival, giving up the lead briefly in deep stretch. Little separated the top two fillies throughout the running of the 67th Hollywood Oaks.
"Eden’s Moon is a real nice filly so I knew I was going to need a lot of horse to get by," Talamo said. "That’s why I waited longer than I wanted to. I figured it would pay off the last part, which it did. We just got up. She’s unbelievable.
"That was her third career start and she just beat a grade I winner. When they can get headed and come back like that, that’s a real nice horse. I really think the sky’s the limit with her."
Eden's Moon, winner of the grade I Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita Park in March for trainer Bob Baffert, was heavily bet in her first start since a rough trip in the May 4 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), in which she finished last. The field of eight 3-year-old fillies included two other grade I winners, Willa B Awesome and Killer Graces.
Asked for speed out of the gate by Rafael Bejarano, Eden's Moon took a narrow lead from Potesta while rattling off sensible quarter-mile fractions of :23.56, :47.11, and 1:11.50. Eden's Moon had little opportunity to get a breather, however, with Potesta up close on the outside as they made their way down the backstretch and Willa B Awesome pressing along the inside. Meanwhile, Killer Graces stalked the leaders on the outside.
Rounding the final turn, Willa B Awesome steadied in tight quarters and backed out of contention, and Killer Graces came under urging to keep up from jockey Mike Smith. As they made their way into the stretch, Eden's Moon and Potesta separated from the rest and staged a furious battle through the lane. Potesta prevailed under left-handed encouragement as the second choice at odds of 7-2.
Via Villaggio, winner of the seven-furlong Railbird Stakes (gr. III) in her most recent start, closed belatedly under Joel Rosario for third, 2 1/4 lengths lengths behind the first two. Killer Graces, her Jerry Hollendorfer-trained stablemate, settled for fourth.
Potesta began her career March 22 at Santa Anita, finishing second as the favorite in a maiden special weight at 6 1/2 furlongs after a slow start. Stretched out to 1 1/16 miles on the Cushion Track May 3, she returned with a smashing win as the 3-5 choice.
Given some time between starts leading up to the Oaks, Potesta had five published workouts at Hollywood Park. She drilled six furlongs handily in 1:12 4/5 in her most recent June 16.
"She’s a gigantic filly, but very easy to train," Mitchell said. "She’s not a gorilla, she’s not hard on herself, and she’s so professional in everything she does. A fun horse to train. I thought Joe (Talamo) gave her a million-dollar ride."
In the Oaks, Potesta carried 113 pounds, six fewer than Eden's Moon. The $90,000 winning purse boosted the dark bay or brown filly's career earnings to $132,400.
The winner paid $9.80, $4.20, and $3.40 while keying a $31.20 exacta with Eden's Moon, who returned $3.20 and $2.80. Via Villaggio paid $5.40 to show.
“She hasn’t trained over here," Baffert said of the runner-up. "She ran pretty well. She made that little surge, but that other filly is a nice filly because she came right back at her."