The July 14 Delaware Oaks (gr. II) is shaping up to be a continental showdown at Delaware Park. The $500,000, 1 1/16-mile race has attracted a field of eight entrants from points across North America.
Though Cotton Blossom, who represents New York, is currently the third choice in the field at morning line odds of 4-1, Dogwood Stables president Cot Campbell said his filly might just be one to beat.
"I think she's pretty versatile--she breaks like a shot on the lead," Campbell said during a June 19 NTRA teleconference. "That's a good characteristic for this race. This filly always comes with her game face on, ready to run. She has a placid, easy way about her and has no problems with shipping. She's game for anything, is uncomplicated, and a joy to be around."
Under the guidance of the A-team connections of trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez, the Kentucky-bred daughter of Broken Vow won the Florida Oaks in her 2007 seasonal debut. She then finished second in the April 6 Fantasy Stakes, where she was beaten 6 3/4 lengths by High Heels.
"I thought we would have been about even with High Heels," said Campbell of Cotton Blossom's odds and chances for a rematch against her Gary Hartlage-trained rival. "(High Heels) beat us handily in Arkansas, so she has to get strong consideration, though."
"We're looking forward to (the Delaware Oaks)--Cotton Blossom is doing well--she had a nice work on Sunday," said Campbell. "It puts us in a position where we could go from there to Saratoga and either run in the (Darley) Test Stakes (gr. I), or depending on what happens with Rags to Riches, head to the Alabama (Stakes, gr. I).
Shipping in from Kentucky will be Cotton Blossom's biggest foe, High Heels. Owned by Anita Ebert, the filly did not take to the grass in her last effort when she ran seventh in the June 16 Regret Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs.
"That is what I am hoping," said Hartlage. "I have found nothing wrong with her. I have worked her twice since she has been on the grass, so I am hoping it was just the grass and that was it. She is a consistent filly, and that last race was the worst race of her life. I do not see anything on why she will not run her race in the Delaware Oaks."
The Kentucky-bred daughter of E Dubai ran third in the Kentucky Oaks to Rags to Riches and Octave before her victory in the Florida Oaks. She sports a lifetime record of three wins, two seconds, and four thirds from 12 starts, for earnings of $322,551.
Representing the west coast will be Watson and Weitman Performances' Tough Tiz's Sis, who will be making her first start at the Wilmington, Del. track. The daughter of Tiznow will enter the Delaware Oaks off a 3 1/2-length victory in the June 10 Hollywood Oaks (gr. II).
Previously, the Kentucky-bred trained by Bob Baffert ran seventh after a troubled trip in the May 4 Kentucky Oaks. Her other stakes win this year came in the March 18 WinStar Sunland Park Oaks.
Coming in from Woodbine, Canada, will be Bear Stables' Bear Now. Since stretching out to route races, the daughter of Tiznow has blossomed. The Kentucky-bred trained by Reade Baker has won her last two starts, the Selene (gr. III) and Star Shoot, both at Woodbine, by a combined margin of 17 3/4 lengths. Bear Now started to show her true talent with an equipment change five starts back in the Dec. 30 Sandpiper Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
"When we took the blinkers off, she started to run better," said Baker. "But, then she had a couple of unlucky trips. Prior to that, she was just going to the lead and stopping. I think when she got around two turns, she just really came into herself."
Rounding out the field are stakes winners Mooncatcher and Greenstreet, plus graded stakes-placed runners Dawn After Dawn and Winning Point.
Delaware Oaks (gr. II), $500,000, July 14, 3-year-old fillies, 1 1/16 miles, approx. post 3:54 p.m. EST
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Winning Point, 116, Ramon Dominguez
2. High Heels, 122, Joe Johnson
3. Cotton Blossom, 122, John Velazquez
4. Bear Now, 118, Emile Ramsammy
5. Dawn After Dawn, 116, Mario Pino
6. Moon Catcher, 120, Carlos Marquez, Jr
7. Greenstreet, 116, Jeremy Rose
8. Tough Tiz's Sis, 118, Garrett Gomez