Believe You Can holds off Summer Applause to win the Fair Grounds Oaks.

Believe You Can holds off Summer Applause to win the Fair Grounds Oaks.

Hodges Photography/Lynn Roberts

Believe You Can Holds On in Fair Grounds Oaks

Brereton C. Jones homebred shows determination in defeating favored Summer Applause.

Pacesetter Believe You Can showed her determination when she held on in the final strides to nip odds-on choice Summer Applause by a head in the $480,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) March 31 (VIDEO).

Both fillies will likely see each other again in the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), their trainers saying afterward that Churchill Downs is likely to be the next destination.

With leading Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots rider Rosie Napravnik aboard, Believe You Can opened up a 3 1/2-length lead at mid-stretch. But after a taxing first half of the race in which she dueled from the rail with Colonial Empress through fast fractions of :22.88 and :46.47, Believe You Can was all in leaving the sixteenth-pole. She just barely got home in time over the driving 9-10 favorite Summer Applause while drifting out under strong encouragement.

“That was probably the most uncomfortable pace set-up scenario that I could have thought of and it was definitely a very hard first half of a race for the filly," Napravnik said. "It just shows how much talent and how much class she’s got. I wish I could have gotten her a better trip but she pulled through for us and she’s a race horse."

Believe You Can completed the the 1 1/16-mile journey in a solid 1:43.94. It was nine lengths back to third-place finisher Disposablepleasure in the field of five 3-year-old fillies.

“I had some horse left when I turned for home but I knew the other filly, Summer Applause, was coming at us so I didn’t look back, I just kept riding to the wire," Napravnik added. "The filly deserves all the credit because she overcame a lot.”

Larry Jones trains Believe You Can for owner/breeder Brereton C. Jones. The daughter of Proud Citizen out of the El Prado mare El Fasto won for the fifth time in eight starts. The winner's share of $300,000 boosted her career earnings to $495,284. Winner of the Silverbulletday Stakes over the track in January, Believe You Can was coming off a fourth-place showing in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (gr. III) Feb. 25, finishing 7 1/4 lengths behind the victorious Summer Applause. This was her first graded stakes win.

“We’re hoping she’s getting good at the right time," Larry Jones said. "We hadn’t been trying to press her for her life but we knew that this time we had to get her ready and we stepped it up on her a little bit."

The trainer said that the Kentucky Oaks would be next.

"We will not try to put anything between here and there," he said. "That’s why I’m so glad Fair Grounds moved all the races to this last weekend. It makes it fit, it makes it doable. We sure have no reason to think we’re not going to the Kentucky Oaks right now. We’ll go to Keeneland and give her a couple of easy weeks on the Polytrack and then she’ll go to Churchill when they start working."

Summer Applause, a slight filly trained by Bret Calhoun for Gillian Campbell and R Group Management, lost for the third time in six lifetime starts. Ridden once again by Robby Albarado, the daughter of Harlan's Holiday was coming off her first stakes victory in the Rachel Alexandra.

She was three wide on both turns while tracking the pacesetters from third or fourth and responded well when roused past the quarter pole to just miss at 9-10 odds.

“We just didn’t get to her (the winner)," Albarado said. "She was better today. But we’re still good and we can go on."

Calhoun said he was disappointed but thought Summer Applause also showed progress in defeat. He said the plan was to move on to Churchill.

“Robby said he didn’t want to move too soon," he said. "In a way, small fields like this hurt her chances. She ran good, we just got beat today.

"I was disappointed we didn’t win but I think she still ran a good race. I think you watch some of the races from around the country today…I didn’t lose any confidence in my filly today moving forward. We definitely wanted to win this one but obviously the next one’s even a little more important. ”

Sent off as the third choice, Believe You Can paid $9, $2.80 and $2.40. Summer Applause returned $2.40 and $2.10 and completed a $17.60 exacta. Disposablepleasure paid $2.10. Small Kitchen and Colonial Empress trailed. Inny Minnie was scratched.