A trio of graded stakes winners headline a field of 10 3-year-old fillies in $400,000 Charles Town Oaks Sept. 17 at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races.
The seven-furlong Charles Town Oaks will be the featured event on the track’s third annual Race for the Ribbon card, which includes six stakes worth a total of $750,000.
Bobby Flay’s grade I winner Her Smile will try and get back on track following her fourth place finish in last month’s Test (gr. I) at Saratoga. After a second place finish in the Comely (gr. III) at Aqueduct, the Virginia-bred was transferred to trainer Todd Pletcher’s barn and made her first start for him in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) four weeks later. An 11th place finish led Pletcher to turn her back in distance for the Acorn (gr. I) on Belmont Stakes day, where she finished third.
Following that effort, the daughter of Include scored the biggest win of her career with a come-from-behind score in the six-furlong Prioress (gr. I) at Belmont. The race in the Test marked Her Smile’s fourth straight try in grade I company.
Kendrick Carmouche, who won the 2010 Charles Town Oaks on Derwin’s Star, will ride Her Smile for the first time.
Her Smile will have plenty of competition, with the prime challenger figuring to be fellow Virginia-bred Hot Summer, winner of the Victory Ride (gr. III) on Travers day.
The Victory Ride was Hot Summer’s second graded win of the year, with the first coming in the Comely, where she defeated Her Smile by 2 1/4 lengths. Sandwiched between the Malibu Moon filly’s graded stakes triumphs was a third place finish in the Black Eyed Susan (gr. II), behind eventual grade I winners Royal Delta and Buster’s Ready. The 1 1/8-mile Black Eyed Susan represented Hot Summer’s lone career try over a mile.
While the three week break after the Victory Ride represents a quick turnaround, trainer David Fawkes thinks she’s ready to deliver another good performance.
“It always will scare you coming back that soon,” he said. “But, I think she’s ready.”
Fawkes himself is no stranger to the winners’ circle at Charles Town, having trained eventual Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) and Eclipse Award winner Big Drama to a victory in the 2009 Red Legend and who earlier this year took the $1 million Charles Town Classic with Duke of Mischief.
“(Charles Town) has been great other than Little Drama not running well. They always take good care of us and the horses run good.”
Cornelio Velasquez will ride Hot Summer, who breaks from post 5.
The third graded stakes winner in the Charles Town Oaks field is Fred and Buff Bradley’s homebred Groupie Doll, who comes into the race fresh off her win over older fillies and mares in Ellis Park’s Gardenia (gr. III) on Aug. 13.
Groupie Doll made her career debut on June 4 in a maiden special weight on the turf at Churchill Downs and never factored, finishing 11th. After the turf debut, Bradley switched her to the dirt and the filly has reeled off three straight decisive wins.
The Gardenia marked the first stakes try for Groupie Doll and the daughter of Bowman's Band responded with an impressive victory over her elders.
“She’s blossoming into a nice horse,” said Bradley. “With only four starts we aren’t even sure of some things with her yet. When we sent her a mile last time we weren’t even sure if she was going to fire at the top of the lane, but she made a nice move on the inside. There are still some things to find out about this filly; we hope she continues to blossom even more.”
Groupie Doll’s regular rider, Greta Kuntzweiler, has the call.
The local hopes rest with Princess Cecilia, the champion West Virginia-bred 2-year-old filly in 2010. Princess Cecilia went a perfect 4-for-4 as a juvenile, including wins in the West Virginia Triple Crown Nutrition Breeders’ Classic and Eleanor Casey Memorial. After a lengthy layoff, she made her return to the races in August’s Sylvia Bishop Memorial at Charles Town and was dealt the first loss of her career following a second-place finish.
Trained by Richard Vega, Princess Cecilia drew post 7 with new rider Roberto Alvarado Jr.
$400,000 Charles Town Oaks (Race 10, 10:30pm EST), 3YO Fillies, 7 Furlongs (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer 1. Withgreatpleasure, Stewart Elliott, 116, David Nunn
2. Coax Liberty, Travis L. Dunkelberger, 120 , James L. Lawrence II
3. Her Smile, Kendrick Carmouche, 123, Todd A. Pletcher
4. Groupie Doll, Greta Kuntzweiler, 123, William Bradley
5. Hot Summer, Cornelio Velasquez, 123, David Fawkes
6. Grand Kisses, Oscar Flores, 120, Todd M. Beattie
7. Princess Cecilia, Robero Alvarado Jr., 116, Richard Vega
8. Tourmaline, Dean Butler, 120, Bernell B. Rhone
9. Strike the Moon, Julian Pimentel, 116, Michael J. Trombetta
10. My Sunshine Gal, Clifford D. Dooley, 116, Derek S. Ryan
11. Moonlit Malibu, Gerald Almodovar, 116, Michael J. Trombetta