Three talented fillies separated by less than three lengths in last month's grade I Mother Goose will be back at it again in Saturday's 89th running of the grade I, $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks at 1 1/4 miles at Belmont Park. Smuggler, who gave Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey his first Mother Goose win, will be tested once more by Spun Sugar and Summerly.
Although Smuggler was victorious in the Mother Goose, a strong case can be made that Spun Sugar was the best 3-year-old filly that day.
Breaking from post three of six going a one-turn 1 1/8 miles in the Mother Goose, Stronach Stable's Spun Sugar veered in at the gap where the chute meets the course proper, causing Smuggler to steady slightly in behind. The trouble Smuggler encountered was really insignificant since she managed to work out a perfect stalking trip from that point on.
After her early mishap, Spun Sugar was then hooked in a pace battle through a half-mile in :46 2/5 and three-quarters in 1:10 3/5. Spun Sugar had every excuse to throw in the towel at the eighth-pole, but instead she battled gamely to the wire, seemingly emboldened by the late challenge of Smuggler, who opened up a half-length lead on Spun Sugar only to have that trimmed to a neck at the finish."It's hard to interpret those kinds of things," said the always-diplomatic Todd Pletcher, Spun Sugar's trainer, when asked if he thought Spun Sugar was best in the Mother Goose. "I wish she could have been ridden a little differently. When she tried to make the chute, her position was compromised and then she was at the mercy of everyone else."
Regardless of how anyone deciphers the early trouble and pace of the Mother Goose, Spun Sugar still must be credited for her determination.
"She really dug in and gave us a big effort," Pletcher said of the Mother Goose.
As for the CCA Oaks, which is a furlong farther than the Mother Goose, Pletcher does not envision the added distance as a problem for the Awesome Again filly.
"I always felt like she would handle distance races," Pletcher said. "She's a little lightly-raced, which may help explain what she did in the Mother Goose. I still think she has room for improvement."
John Velazquez was aboard Spun Sugar for the filly's first four starts, but was out of town for the Mother Goose when Javier Castellano rode her. Velazquez will be back aboard for the CCA Oaks.
For McGaughey, the Mother Goose was a sweet win as it was his first victory in that race after seemingly countless tries. Making it even sweeter was that he won it with Smuggler, a Phipps Stable homebred who is out of the Phipps' magnificent mare Inside Information, who was also trained by McGaughey."I was really looking forward to running her in the Mother Goose and it was great to win it for the first time."
Smuggler was able to sit in behind the Mother Goose pace and accelerated when asked for run at the top of the stretch. It appeared she would be able to draw off to an easy win, but Spun Sugar was stubborn.
"She kind of pulled herself up once she made the lead in the Mother Goose," McGaughey said. "It's important to time her run, but this is something that hopefully she'll get over with more racing experience."
Favored in the Mother Goose was Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner Summerly. Breaking from the outside post, the Summer Squall filly was kept well off the rail by Jerry Bailey down the backstretch--at least 10 paths--before being angled into the three path going around the far turn.
As part of the early pace, Summerly fought hard to the wire as well, but could not quite go with Smuggler and Spun Sugar in the last sixteenth of a mile. The Ron Winchell-owned filly ended up third.
The field for the CCA Oaks, in post position order and jockeys (all carry 121 pounds):
1.--Atlas Valley, Javier Castellano
2 (a)--Spun Sugar, John Velazquez
3.--Smuggler, Edgar Prado
4.--For All We Know, Shaun Bridgmohan
5.--Capitulation, Eibar Coa
6.--Summerly, Jerry Bailey
7.--Seeking the Ante, Richard Migliore
8 (a)--Bayou Breeze, Rafael Bejarano
9.--Pleasant Chimes, Pablo Fragoso
(a) Indicates coupled entry