C.E.C. Farms' homebred Milwaukee Appeal, craftily ridden by Stewart Elliott, emphatically captured the 54th edition of the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, presented by Budweiser, June 7 at Woodbine.
At the finish of the mile and one-eighth classic for Canadian-foaled 3-year-old fillies, Milwaukee Appeal had posted a decisive 3 3/4-length tally over Tasty Temptation, reaching the wire in 1:49.84 on Polytrack. The final time tied for the fourth fastest mark in the race's history.
Miss Blakely finished third, another 5 1/2 lengths further back, but a nose in front of Wynning Ride, the 2-1 post time favorite. It was the second consecutive year that a daughter of Milwaukee Brew had won the Oaks. Last year, it was Stronach Stables' Ginger Brew who proved a dominant winner as the odds-on favorite.
This year, Milwaukee Appeal was sent postward the 9-2 third choice, behind California import Wynning Ride, trained by Bob Baffert with jockey Joe Talamo and the 3-1 second choice Tasty Temptation, who was trying to win a third Oaks in four years for jockey Patrick Husbands and trainer Mark Casse.
In her last outing, Milwaukee Appeal had finished third in the May 17 La Lorgnette, behind U.S.-bred Hooh Why and Tasty Temptation.
The start of the race proved eventful, though, as Tasty Temptation, in post 12, blew the break while flat-footed and spotted the field several lengths before getting into gear. Up front, it was longshot Koonunga Hill who immediately was hustled to the lead, setting early fractions of :23.73, :48.01 and 1:13.12, while being stalked perfectly in second by Milwaukee Appeal.
Going around the far turn, Tasty Temptation had begun her charge from the back, circling the leaders with an explosive move and looking like a winner. But Milwaukee Appeal and Stewart Elliott had plenty in reserve and immediately challenged on the inside as the duo turned for home.
From there, Milwaukee Appeal pulled away for the decisive tally, the first Oaks win with their first starter for long-time owner and breeder Eugene George, trainer Scott Fairlie and Toronto-born Elliott, who sprang to prominence in 2004 as the rider of Smarty Jones.
"I got here, I looked at her paper and you could tell she was honest, she's always right there," said Elliott, who was aboard the winner for the first time. “Mr. Fairlie pretty much told me the same thing, she's easy to ride, she'll stay close and she'll do whatever you want. I thought we were going to be in front the way she came out of there. But she settled, rated and finished great when I needed her to.”
“For a lot of the horses, it was their first time going a mile and an eighth," added Fairlie. “So a lot of them took back and waited. I think Stewart rode a helluva race and just left the filly alone.”
Milwaukee Appeal came into the Oaks as the field's leading money winner, with $349,538 and had won four of her eight career outings, including stakes victories in the Star Shoot this year and Ontario Lassie last year.
The winning pot of $300,000 pushed her bankroll to almost $650,000. The Oaks is the first leg in the filly Triple Tiara, followed by the $250,000 Bison City Stakes, June 28 at Woodbine, then the Wonder Where Stakes, July 25 on the turf.
Milwaukee Appeal rewarded her backers with a $11.20, $5.30 and $4 payoff, combining with Tasty Temptation ($4.20, $3.30) for a $47 (4-13) exacta. A 4-13-14 (Miss Blakely, $5.10 to show) trifecta was worth $252.50, while a $1 superfecta (4-13-14-7 (Wynning Ride) fashioned a $294.50 payout.