Odds-on choice Summerly opened up a daylight lead heading into the first turn and romped to victory in the $300,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) Saturday, spoiling the return to action this year of Runway Model.
With Jerry Bailey aboard, the 1-2 Summerly won her third straight this winter at Fair Grounds. She set a slow tempo but skipped home impressively in a time of 1:43 3/5 for the 1 1/16-mile event for 3-year-old fillies.
With Carlea, the longest shot in the field (28-1) tracking her, Summerly got away with an opening quarter mile of :24 2/5, the first half in :49 and six furlongs in 1:13 1/5. When Carlea and Runway Model on the far outside closed in at the five-sixteenths pole, Bailey let Summerly out a notch and the chestnut daughter of Summer Squall quickly pulled away to lead by three lengths at the top of the lane. She finished under a firm hand ride, 4 3/4 lengths in front of Carlea.
"She's coming off sprint races and I was going to let her go," explained Bailey, who was riding the 3-year-old filly for the first time in the Oaks. "I was pleased with the way she broke and I didn't think I would get away with 49 (seconds for the half-mile), but I was happy for every minute of it. I was more concerned on how much I had to use her, saving some for the next race and the race after that – enough to win, but not enough to use her."
Multiple grade II winner Runway Model, the 2-1 second choice ridden by Rafael Bejarano, was edged by a half-length for second, with Soul Search fourth in a field of six. Eyes On Eddy and Enduring Will trailed.
Summerly, who was coming off a 3 1/4-length win in the Silverbulletday (gr. III) at Fair Grounds Feb. 12, was even more impressive Saturday for trainer Steve Asmussen.
"It looked very similar to her last two races and it's a lot for her to build on confidence-wise," said Asmussen, who won his second Fair Grounds Oaks in the past three years. "When she was away cleanly, :24 and change, (we had) no excuses at any point. She was right where we wanted her to be."
She paid $3, $2.20 and $2.10 for her fourth win in six tries. Summerly, a $410,000 Keeneland buy in September 2003, earned $180,000 for owner Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC. She has banked $341,035.
Carlea, ridden by Eibar Coa, returned $7.60 and $2.10, completing a $35.20 exacta.
"I'm very proud of her," said Josie Carroll, trainer of the runner-up. "She kept digging and trying all the way. She never gave up."
Runway Model, making her first start since winning the Golden Rod (gr. II) at Churchill Downs Nov. 27, was $2.10 to show.
Her trainer, Bernie Flint was disappointed in the lack of pace.
"Let's face it, going a mile and a sixteenth with a :49 fraction for a half-mile is pedestrian time. (Summerly) had a very easy lead on the front end and the rest of these guys are fighting to rate their horses. It's not that she could have been beaten, we had a legitimate shot at her here, but the filly had too much left in her tank."