Mike Smith was aboard the Frank Brothers-trained 3-year-old daughter of Awesome Again --Blue Sky Princess (Conquistador Cielo) for the first time.
“The trainer said she was a 10-1 shot, but she had a chance,” said Smith. “He told me I had some horse to work with, and Frank doesn’t usually call me to ride unless he thinks we have a shot.”
The winner reared before being put into the starting gate and proved difficult to load. But Tessa Blue was all business once locked away and the gates opened. Breaking from the far outside post in the field of 10, she was forwardly placed in third while several paths wide as grade I winner Appealing Zophie set a moderate early pace. On the turn for home, Tessa Blue took command as Appealing Zophie and Forest Huntress threw in the towel. Well clear in upper stretch there was never a danger as Tessa Blue came home 7 1/4 lengths ahead in 1:44 2/5 for the 1 1/16-mile distance.
“The outside post wasn’t an issue,” said Smith. “Down the stretch, I’m not used to racing at night and I kept seeing a shadow and thought someone was coming at me. She was very solid through the whole race.”
Tessa Blue ran a tough second in her last start, the Prairie Meadows Oaks, on Sept. 15. Her only prior victory against winners came in a five-length allowance score over one mile at Ellis Park in her previous outing Aug. 15. In her only previous try in graded stakes company, Tessa Blue finished eighth in the La Troienne (gr. III) at Churchill Downs in May.
The dark bay filly, bred in Maryland by Frank P. Wright, has won three of nine races in her career. The Indiana Oaks, worth $243,900 to the winning connections, pushed her earnings to $298,508.
Favored Boca Grande (17-10), the Ogden M. Phipps filly dropping in class after four consecutive grade I starts, was the distant runner-up. Julien Leparoux was aboard for trainer Shug McGaughey. Boca Grande finished 1 3/4 lengths clear of the second choice, Darley Stable's Marietta.
Boca Grande and Julien Leparoux overcame an awkward start to get second.
“She caught up well and made up ground on the whole field,” said Leparoux. “She raced strong and would have raced better if she’d had a better start. The winner finished strong and the track doesn’t have much speed so it was difficult to catch up.”
With Rafael Bejarano aboard, Marietta gained the show spot by 2 3/4 lengths over Marquise. Marietta was seeking her third Midwest grade III Oaks win in a row for trainer Eoin Harty.
Fractions for the Indiana Oaks were :23 3/5, :47 2/5 and 1:11 3/5.
Sent off at odds of 6-1, Tessa Blue paid $14.60, $6.80 and $4.60. Boca Grande returned $3.20 and $2.40, rounding out a $46 exacta. Marietta was $3.20 to show.
Marquise was followed by Humble Janet, Amature's Prize, Appealing Zophie, Forest Huntress, Polynesian Kitty and Le Chateau. Bavarian Belle and Ticket to Seattle scratched.