Plum Pretty cruises in the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn.

Plum Pretty cruises in the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn.

Coady Photography/Oaklawn Park

Patient Plum Pretty Strolls in Apple Blossom

Kentucky Oaks winner comfortably the best at Oaklawn in first start of year.

Plum Pretty hadn't been out in more than five months but her class showed through as she strolled to a comfortable win in the $490,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) April 13 at Oaklawn Park (VIDEO).

Ridden patiently by Rafael Bejarano, last year's Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner swept past pacesetter Twelve Twenty Two rounding the final bend and opened up an insurmountable advantage over Absinthe Minded in the lane. Plum Pretty, owned by John Fort's Peachtree Stable, cruised home by 2 1/4 lengths under a hand ride in the final eighth as the 1-2 favorite in a short field of five older fillies and mares.

Trainer Bob Baffert won with his first-ever Apple Blossom entrant and has now won with five of six starters at the current Oaklawn meet. The Southern California conditioner sent Fort's Mamma Kimbo to Oaklawn for a dominating win in the Fantasy Stakes (gr. II) for 3-year-old fillies April 11. 

Absinthe Minded held off second choice Tiz Miz Sue for the runner-up spot. The final time for the 1 1/16-mile event was 1:42.64.

Plum Pretty had not raced since tiring to finish fifth after setting the pace in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (gr. I) Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs. But if the Apple Blossom is any indication, expect the 4-year-old daughter of Medaglia d'Oro  to be a powerhouse at this year's championship event to be held back home at Santa Anita Park.

"We had some anxious moments at the start but once (Bejarano) got her into gear she just dragged him around there," Baffert said by phone. "She’s always been sort of a big filly but her frame is filling out and it was great to get her back and get a win in there."

Baffert said he wasn't sure which race would be next for Plum Pretty.

"She comes home Sunday and as soon as she tips me off that she’s ready to run again, we’ll find a spot for her,” he said.

The race missed the presence of defending Apple Blossom winner and Horse of the Year Havre de Grace. Her connections objected to the weight assignment of 123 pounds, a six-pound spread in Plum Pretty's favor, and chose not to enter.

Sunland Park invader Twelve Twenty Two outfought Holy Heavens for the lead out of the gate. She was staked to an early 1 1/2-length edge after Plum Pretty broke a bit slowly for Bejarano but quickly moved up into second. Twelve Twenty Two ran the opening quarter-mile in a moderate :23.89 and had Plum Pretty breathing down her neck after a half-mile in courtly :47.54. Plum Pretty came away with the advantage after dueling with Twelve Twenty Two on the far turn and opened up a one-length gap over the rallying Absinthe Minded while completing six furlongs in 1:11.73.

Plum Pretty steadily increased her lead through the stretch and finished up without urging.

"I missed the first jump a little bit," Bejarano said. "She kind of came away from there on the wrong foot, but I think about it and it was the best thing that happened. If she had fired out of there, she might have gone up there head and head with that other filly. She was great relaxing and after a half-mile I felt in total control. She was ready to go when I asked her.”

After ranging up on the turn Absinthe Minded, ridden by Terry Thompson, was no match for the winner but gamely repelled the late-running Tiz Miz Sue, who trailed the field up the backstretch for Joe Rocco Jr. Holy Heavens and Twelve Twenty Two trailed.

Plum Pretty earned $300,000 for the victory, boosting her career total to $1,656,700. She has won five of 11 lifetime starts with two seconds and two thirds. In addition to the Kentucky Oaks, she won the Sunland Park Oaks and the Cotillion Stakes (gr. II) at Parx Racing last year.

Out of the A.P. Indy mare Liszy, Plum Pretty was bred in Pennsylvania by Silent Indy Stables and DDS Stables. She was a $130,000 sale purchase out of the 2010 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co.’s March sale of 2-year-olds in training from Kip Elser’s Kirkwood Stables, agent.

She paid $3, $2.80, and $2.10 while topping a $13.40 exacta with Absinthe Minded, who had tallied a pair of stakes wins earlier in the Oaklawn meet for trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Absinthe Minded, fourth in the Azeri Stakes (gr. III) in her last start, returned $3.80 and $2.20. Tiz Mis Sue, a three-length winner of the March 17 Azeri, paid $2.10 to show.