Hightap, a winner of consecutive graded stakes for Steve Asmussen, will take on seven 3-year-old filly rivals in the $300,000 Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) July 25 at Belmont Park.
The only multiple graded stakes winner in the field, Hightap’s biggest threat may come from Livin Lovin, last year’s Tempted Stakes (gr. III) winner who bypassed a pair of stakes at Delaware Park last weekend in favor of the 10-furlong Coaching Club. The other graded stakes winner in the field is Don't Forget Gil, who scored in the Florida Oaks (gr. III) earlier this year.
Owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds and Gainesway Thoroughbreds, Hightap enters off wins in the one-mile Dogwood (gr. III) May 30 at Churchill Downs and 1 1/16-mile Iowa Oaks (gr. III) June 26 at Prairie Meadows. The daughter of Tapit—Don’tellmichelle, by Regal Classic, has won four of six lifetime starts and her only off-the-board finish came March 15 in the Honeybee (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park.
“Other than the race at Hot Springs, where she bruised her foot, her last four starts for us have been perfect,” said Asmussen's assistant Scott Blasi. "She broke her maiden and won an allowance at the Fair Grounds, then had that off race, but her last two races have been great. She’s training beautifully and she’s moving in the right direction.”
Bred in Kentucky by Springland Farm, Hightap has been working up to the race at Saratoga, where she has drilled twice since July 13. Shaun Bridgmohan has ridden the gray/roan filly in every one of her starts thus far, but he is injured so Edgar Prado will get the mount. They will break from post 7.
Puglisi Racing and Woodfield Racing’s Livin Lovin was entered in both the Delaware Oaks (gr. II) and Delaware Handicap (gr. II) last weekend, but scratched out of both. The Birdstone filly has made only one start this season for Steve Klesaris, that coming in the June 6 Acorn (gr. I) at Belmont when finishing fourth. The bay won two of four starts as a juvenile, including a 4 1/4-length romp in the one-mile Tempted at Aqueduct. Ramon Dominguez will have the call once again and they will break from the rail.
Alan Brodsky’s Don’t Forget Gil has already gone to the post five times this season, with the March 14 Florida Oaks her only score. After shipping up north for Mark Hennig she finished runner-up in the April 11 Comely (gr. II) at Aqueduct, but last out was beaten more than 31 lengths in the Black-Eyed Susan (gr. II) at Pimlico. The Kafwain filly broke her maiden at Belmont last October in her only start over the racetrack.
Finishing third in the Black-Eyed Susan was Edward Evans’ Casanova Move. The daughter of Langfuhr has shown the ability to hang around in her 11 lifetime starts, but has won just once while finishing second or third seven times, four of them in graded stakes company. Last out, she was third in the Acorn.
Also in the mix is Arnold Zetcher’s Wynning Ride, who was runner-up in the Hollywood Starter Stakes (gr. I) as a 2-year-old. In two starts this year the lightly-raced filly was second in an allowance race at Hollywood and fourth in the June 7 Woodbine Oaks. This will be her first start on natural dirt. Kent Desormeaux rides for Bob Baffert.
"She didn’t run like we expected in Woodbine,” said Baffert. "But it was such a long trip, and since she’s been back in New York she’s been training great. It’s a grade 1, $300,000, and I think she’s up to it.”