There was plenty of snickering when The Thoroughbred Corp. paid a Barretts record $1.9 million for the 2-year-old filly Atlantic Ocean in March.
But after the strapping daughter of Stormy Atlantic won Saturday's $250,000 John Deere Sunshine Millions Oaks Saturday at Santa Anita for her third straight stakes win, the critics have been silenced.
Atlantic Ocean got going late for jockey David Flores, but she had enough to run down a weaving Ivanavinalot in the stretch of the seven-furlong event by a half-length in a final time of 1:23.03.
"We knew what we were doing when we paid $1.9 million for her," joked Richard Mulhall, racing manager for The Thoroughbred Corp. "We may have underpaid for her."
Atlantic Ocean captured a pair of graded stakes for Flores and trainer Bob Baffert prior to Saturday's win – the Miesque (gr. IIIT) on the Hollywood Park grass Nov. 29 and the Santa Ysabel (gr. III) at Santa Anita Jan. 5.
"We tried a lot of different things with her (early) looking for what was best for her," Baffert said. "When she was young she was so big and awkward – like a big puppy and hadn't fully grown into herself – so it was harder to find what kind of races were best for her. But she's really come around and turned into a special filly. She's such a big-striding filly and longer distances are probably best for her, but this was a good spot so we tried it."
Humorous Lady set the pace into the stretch in quick splits of :22.03 for the opening quarter-mile and :44.28 for the half, but stubbornly gave way after a six-furlong time of 1:09.78. Ivanavinalot was in front briefly while erratic under Manuel Cruz.
"She had a long layoff and probably needed a race," Cruz said. "And she was a little nervous running at a new place. But she ran good against one of the best fillies in the country."
After a slow start to her career, Atlantic Ocean now has five victories in 10 career outings. Saturday's winning share of $150,000 puts her career earnings at more than $450,000.
Sent off at 5-2 in the field of 12, the winner paid $7.80, $3.40 and $3. Ivanavinalot returned $3 and $2.80. Humorous Lady held on for third for a $5.80 payoff.