Sweet Catomine, ridden by Corey Nakatani, cruises to victory in the Oak Leaf Stakes, Saturday at Santa Anita.

Sweet Catomine, ridden by Corey Nakatani, cruises to victory in the Oak Leaf Stakes, Saturday at Santa Anita.


Sweet Catomine Canters to Oak Leaf Victory

Sweet Catomine emerged from the $200,000 Oak Leaf (gr. II) at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meet as a major contender for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) on Oct. 30 at Lone Star Park with a sweeping victory Saturday.

The 2-year-old daughter of Storm Cat, unhurried into the far turn in her first try at going a distance of ground, rallied four wide on the far turn for jockey Corey Nakatani. She went from sixth place to the front in the time it took her to reach the top of the stretch and won going away by four lengths in 1:42 4/5 for the 1 1/16-mile event.

"This is the first time I sat on her. She's awesome. What more can I say," said Nakatani. "She's ready to step to the next level and go to the Breeders' Cup. She'll probably be the favorite after this race."

The Oak Leaf was just the third start for Mr. and Mrs. Martin Wygod's homebred, who is trained by Julio Canani. The impressive bay filly broke her maiden by winning the Del Mar Debutante (gr. I) in her previous start at seven furlongs on Aug. 28.

"From the first time she ran until now, I think she's lost about 100 pounds ... baby fat," said Canani. "She used to be chunky, but now she's growing, developing mentally, and she's very athletic. She has a good turn of foot. There was some speed in the race, but this filly can be a little closer. But we wanted to do what we did today, so she could learn."

Splendid Blended, the 7-5 favorite in the field of nine, was second with Kent Desormeaux aboard for trainer Neil Drysdale. They were 2 1/2 lengths clear of Memorette and Tyler Baze.

Sweet Catomine avoided trouble heading into the clubhouse turn when Splendid Blended, rank early, swung extremely wide and took several runners with her. Sweet Catomine continued to chase the pace of No Bull Baby – :23, :46 4/5 and 1:36 2/5 – before moving up on the final turn. Once she reached the front coming into the stretch, it was no contest and she continued clear under a strong hand ride from Nakatani.

Desormeaux wasn't concerned by Splendid Blended's trouble.

"Some more education happened today and now she's ready to continue on in her forward progress," he said.

Drysdale agreed.

"She's just green. She wanted to go a little bit going into the first turn, but then she settled back down again. That was only her second start and it was the other filly's third. But she stayed in there with her. She gave up a couple of lengths on the turn."

Splendid Blended was favored off of a five-length win her one-mile debut against maidens at Del Mar Sept. 6. There was only one stakes winner in the field besides Sweet Catomine, Irish-bred Fearless Flyer, who won the Natalma (Can-III) on the Woodbine grass Sept. 12. She finished eighth Saturday in her first start on the dirt.

Sweet Catomine earned $120,000 for her second win to bring her bankroll to $279,800. She is out of the Kris S. mare Sweet Life.

"She's a monster horse," Nakatani raved. "Her daddy put a lot of breeding into her. And her mama. What more can I say for her family? When you get on good horses you're supposed to know where you're at and what you got."

The second choice, she paid $6, $2.80 and $2.40. Splendid Blended returned $2.80 and $2.40. Sweet Memorette's show was $3.20.

Culture Clash ran fourth, followed by Hello Lucky, Ninadivina, No bull Baby, Fearless Flyer and Seeking the Heat.

(Chart, Equibase)