Irish Raider Weld Captures American Oaks with Dimitrova

Globetrotting Irish trainer Dermot Weld shipped Dimitrova all the way to Southern California Saturday to capture the rich $750,000 American Oaks on the Hollywood Park grass.

Weld pulled off a similar maneuver last fall with Dress To Thrill in the Matriarch at Hollywood Park in December, so bettors were on to him, sending the Joseph Higgins' owned 3-year-old filly off as the second choice in a field of 14.

But considering her relatively easy two-length win over pacesetting Sand Springs, the 9-2 payoff on Dimitrova, who was ridden by David Flores, was sweet indeed. Atlantic Ocean was third, a neck behind Sand Springs. Favorite Santa Catarina was fourth.

The final time for the second running of the 1 1/4-mile American Oaks was 1:59 4/5 on a firm turf.

A Kentucky-bred daughter of Swain, Dimitrova was making her first career outing beyond the mile distance and just the sixth start of her career. However, she was coming off a third-place finish, beaten by three-quarters of a length, in the prestigious Irish 1,000 Guineas (Ire-I) at The Curragh on May 25.

Dimitrova got away well in spite of her 10 post and raced in fourth out of trouble on the outside of Atlantic Ocean and behind Sand Springs and Santa Catarina. Oddly, those four horses had the race to themselves all the way to the wire as none of the other highly-regarded sophomore fillies was able to make an impression.

"She's a very solid, very sound, mentally tough filly," Weld said. "I just thought she was the right filly for the race, and I picked the right rider in Flores. He rides on the front very well, and I wanted the filly ridden on the front or close to the front.

"Everything worked out," he added. "There was a tactic to never be worse than fourth and I left it to Flores to decide whether he made the running on her or just sat in the first four. I thought he gave her a perfect ride. It's nice to win these big races whenever I come here."

Weld contemplated replacing Flores with his contract rider, Irish jockey Patrick Smullen, earlier in the week. Smullen became available when a horse he was scheduled to ride in Europe was injured. Weld named Smullen at entry time, but because Flores had been given the call earlier, the stewards ruled both jockeys would have to be paid if Smullen rode.

Considering the outcome, owner Higgins saved himself $45,000 (the winning jockey's share).

Flores made his move on the outside in the stretch and Dimitrova was easily the best as Sand Springs fought to hold off Atlantic Ocean, who found racing room on the rail late.

"She's a tremendous filly," Flores said. "Dermot told me I could do whatever I wanted to do. She's capable of doing anything. It's a privilege for me to ride a horse like this. I just tried to put her in a good spot."

Bred by Muirfield Ventures, Dimitrova is out of the Caerleon mare The Caretaker. She earned $450,000 and improved her career record to three wins, a second and a third in six tries. Her career bankroll is now $550,113.

The winner paid $11.20, $6.40 and $4.60. Sand Springs returned $8.40 and $6.20. Atlantic Ocean's show was $6.40. The $2 exacta was worth $92.80.

(Chart, Equibase)