Watching the Aug. 18 Alabama (gr. I) on the jumbo monitor on the first floor of the clubhouse at Saratoga, Michael Hernon pumped his fist in the air as Bentley L. Smith’s homebred Lady Joanne crossed the wire first in the 1 1/4-mile race for 3-year-old fillies.
Hernon, director of sales for Gainesway Farm, exclaimed, “A champion sprinter getting a grade I winner . . . at a mile-and-a-quarter!” He was referring to Lady Joanne’s sire, Orientate, who stands at Gainesway. The Eclipse Award-winning sprinter of 2002 is off to a fast start, getting a major grade I winner in his first crop -- and at Saratoga, no less.
In the winner’s circle, after the race was made official following a steward’s inquiry, Gainesway president Antony Beck put the win by his longtime client in perspective.
“What is especially wonderful for me is that Orientate was born and raised on the farm,” Beck said. “Lady Joanne was born and raised on the farm, and Lady Joanne’s mother, Oatsee, was born and raised on the farm.”
Smith was on hand at Saratoga for the win with trainer Carl Nafzger and assistant Ian Wilkes, accompanied by Michael O’Farrell of Ocala Stud. O’Farrell broke the Alabama winner and her dam.
"Obviously, Lady Joanne is a lot nicer as far as race mares go. Oatsee was a decent horse, but not a grade I winner. It’s hard to win grade Is," O’Farrell said.
In Beck's estimation, “Lady Joanne has shown she’s one of the best 3-year-old fillies in America, in a very, very strong year for 3-year-old fillies, to say the least. Orientate has shown he can get really great horses.”
Unfortunately, Beck reported, “Oatsee was sold, but she has an Afleet Alex foal (delivered March 14) this year, so that’s great.”
Dual classic winner Afleet Alex just completed his second season at stud at Gainesway.
Oatsee, in foal to Langfuhr, sold for $135,000 at the Keeneland January mixed sale in 2006. Consigned by Gainesway, agent, she was purchased by Belvedere Farm, agent.
Wilkes reflected on the winner and her dam, who was also trained by Nafzger: “(Lady Joanne) is more talented than Oatsee; it’s as simple as that. Oatsee was a beautiful, big, good-looking filly. You would have picked her out anywhere. This filly has more race horse talent. Oatsee had a little talent, but didn’t have what this filly’s got. Against this kind of group, she would have struggled to be stakes-placed.”
Oatsee (Unbridled—With Every Wish, by Lear Fan), was a two-time winner in 21 starts for Nafgzer. She ran third in the $100,000 Supertrack Racing Series Stakes at Gulfstream Park in 2001.
Lady Joanne, now a three-time stakes winner with wins in the one-mile Dogwood Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs and the restricted Banshee Breeze Stakes at nine furlongs earlier in the meet at the Spa, is the third foal out of Oatsee.
Oatsee’s second foal, a filly by Royal Academy, is Indiana Breeders’ Cup Oaks and Silverbulletday Stakes (both gr. III) winner Baghdaria.