Any trainer will tell you that plotting the course of a developing young Thoroughbred is an important step for success. Trainer Niall O'Callaghan devised such a plan this spring for Chamrousse, and the lightly raced filly did her part by capturing the May 17 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (gr. II). That the plan got a few shortcuts in the days leading up to the $200,000 race led to O'Callaghan shedding crocodile tears. First, Take Charge Lady, the beaten favorite in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and morning line favorite for the Black-Eyed Susan, scratched when mucus was discovered after her final work at Churchill Downs. The three-time graded stakes winner in 2002 had soundly thumped Chamrousse twice this winter at Fair Grounds. The second shortcut came when into O'Callaghan's lap fell Hall of Fame rider Jerry Bailey, who became available when jockey Jorge Chavez, the scheduled rider for Chamrousse, decided to stay in New York. The early plan for 2002 with Chamrousse, owned by breeder Arthur Hancock III, along with major client James Stone, was to duck the top fillies in training, allowing for the filly to develop further and stretch out. That later day was May 17--and the race's distance, 1 1/8 miles, was all in the plan. O'Callaghan knew the daughter of Peaks and Valleys needed more ground. With a lack of two-turn allowance races at Fair Grounds this winter, in mid-February he threw Chamrousse into the Silverbulletday Stakes (gr. III) at 1 1/16 miles. She ran third that day behind Take Charge Lady, and then ran third to her again in the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II). O'Callaghan didn't think he could beat Take Charge Lady then, but the idea of hitting the board in a rich stakes might be advantageous. He was right, but "we thought she'd improve (in the Oaks), but she didn't." He then pointed for the Fantasy Stakes (gr. II) at Oaklawn Park. "She was a little unlucky in the Fantasy," O'Callaghan said of her third-place finish. "Then, we didn't think she had the experience for the Kentucky Oaks. We wanted to duck the high-end horses." In Baltimore, Chamrousse was the high-end horse as the only 3-year-old filly with graded stakes-placed experience, and went off the 3-5 favorite. Breaking smoothly from post two against just five rivals, Bailey placed her along the rail around the first turn. Right on her hip was Shop Till You Drop, a front-running local contender who was the longest shot on the board at 23-1. Bailey kept a confident hold on Chamrousse as the two fillies led the field through pillow-soft fractions of :23.57 and :47.57. They traded lead positions with Autumn Creek to their outside and Charitabledonation, the 5-2 second choice, snug inside. Tamayo was to their outside while Aly Quatorze trailed. "I thought the three and the four (Shop Till You Drop and Autumn Creek) would go out," Bailey said. "But I wasn't going to take away what would come easy." After six furlongs in 1:12.41 as they turned for home, Bailey appeared to be on Easy Street. "I knew Shop Till You Drop had been asked for awhile, and if anyone was going to beat me, it was coming from behind." But no one in the back was gaining ground. Chamrousse's class showed in midstretch as she began drawing away from Shop Till You Drop, finishing 2 1/4 lengths in front. She got the trip in 1:51.61. Shop Till You Drop held second, two lengths in front of Autumn Creek. Edward Evans' Charitabledonation, who lost position while inside on the backstretch and on the turn, rallied for fourth. "She's still green," said rider John Velazquez of the lightly raced daughter of Saint Ballado. "She was looking at everything." O'Callaghan has been on fire of late. On the heels of a successful Keeneland meeting, he won the $500,000 Lone Star Derby (gr. III) with Wiseman's Ferry May 11, and saddled Hail the Chief May 18 at Hawthorne for a win in the $500,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II). He owes his success to, "in no particular order, fast horses, owners that are easy to work for, and a great staff."
Expect Chamrousse to follow the plan, and compete in races over a route of ground: either the C.C.A. Oaks (gr. I) at Belmont Park, or the Delaware Oaks (gr. III), both run on July 20. Evans, Velazquez, and trainer Mark Hennig had much more success two races prior to the Black-Eyed Susan, winning the Pimlico Breeders' Cup Distaff Handicap (gr. III) with Summer Colony. Despite the scratches of stakes winners Fleet Renee, Atelier, Mandy's Gold, and two other quality fillies, the race offered one of the best fields of the weekend and the best finish of the day. Summer Colony, a winner of six straight last year and this winter, was hooked by last year's Queen's Plate winner Dancethruthedawn at the top of the stretch and the two battled nose-to-nose the length of the stretch. Summer Colony prevailed by a nose in a head-bobbing finish. Tracking leaders Netherland and Summer Colony while on the rail, Sam-Son Farm's Canadian champion Dancethruthedawn found room at the head of the lane. As Netherland faded on the rail, it was the determination of the two that had them pulling away. "It was a hard finish," said losing jockey Robby Albarado. "This was two quality fillies going at it. We got out and she had every chance. She dug in." The final time was 1:42.90 for the 1 1/16 miles. Evans' current stable is an embarrassment of distaff riches. Along with Summer Colony, his yellow and black silks have been carried of late by graded performers Raging Fever, With Ability, Gold Mover, and Wopping. They will add more fuel to his already high-octane broodmare band at Evans' Spring Hill Farm in Virginia.