Longshot Farda Amiga (center) wins the Kentucky Oaks.

Longshot Farda Amiga (center) wins the Kentucky Oaks.

Mike Corrado

Viva Brazil! Longshot Farda Amiga Stuns Oaks Field

By Beth Harris
Paulo Lobo can call himself an American success story.

The 33-year-old trainer came from his native Brazil 16 months ago to try to build a successful career, much like his father has back home.

Lobo is off to an impressive start after longshot Farda Amiga won the Kentucky Oaks by 1 1/4 lengths over favored Take Charge Lady on Friday.

``How big is this in Brazil? I've got 36 messages just in the last few minutes,'' Lobo said, holding up his cell phone.

America's premier race for 3-year-old fillies featured a field of nine as impressive as the 19 colts who will run in Saturday's Kentucky Derby. It was shown live in Brazil.

There won't be an Oaks-Derby double for trainers Bob Baffert, Bobby Frankel, Ken McPeek or Saeed bin Suroor.

McPeek's Take Charge Lady faded in the final strides; the Baffert-trained Habibti was third; Frankel's You was fourth. The complete order of finish for the rest of the field wasTake the Cake, Il de France, Ms Brookski, bin Suroor's Imperial Gesture, and Art Fair, who was 38 3/4 lengths behind the winner. Each filly carried 121 pounds.

``This is why I didn't run her in the Derby,'' said McPeek, who will saddle early 9-2 Derby favorite Harlan's Holiday. ``I was questioning whether or not she's a mile-and-an-eighth filly. I don't think she's as good here as she's been at other racetracks.''

Farda Amiga covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:50 2/5 under Hall of Famer Chris McCarron, who survived a foul claim by Victor Espinoza aboard Habibti.

``I was in a good spot on the turn when the winner came up to me and I was forced to check,'' Espinoza said. ``My filly never really recovered.''

The stewards ruled Farda Amiga didn't interfere with Habibti in the upper stretch.

``There wasn't any contact,'' McCarron said. ``The filly (Farda Amiga) did drift in slightly after we straightened out. The stewards determined that my drifting in was of no consequence.''

McCarron has a chance of pulling off the rare Oaks-Derby double. He'll ride Came Home, the 5-1 second choice in Saturday's Derby.

Sent off at 20-1 odds, Farda Amiga paid $42, $11.20 and $5.40.

Take Charge Lady returned $3.80 and $3, while Habibti was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third and paid $3.80 to show.

Farda Amiga was racing on dirt for just the second time in her career. She finished fourth in the Santa Anita Oaks on March 9, after running on the turf in her first four starts.

``She's an amazing filly,'' Lobo said. ``I thought, `Why not try the dirt'?''

Although she's a Kentucky-bred, Farda Amiga's name is Portuguese for ``friendly silks.'' It's a combination of the owners' racing outfits -- Old Friends, Inc., Winner Silk, Inc., and Jose De Camargo.

``I've been involved with a lot of ebullient celebrations, but these people came a long way to be here,'' McCarron said of the Brazilian contingent. ``They were showing their enthusiasm.''

Lobo formerly worked as an assistant to his father, Selmar Lobo, a top trainer in Brazil. The younger Lobo is based at Hollywood Park.

Farda Amiga was bumped lightly at the start by Habibti. She started her rally by going five-wide at the end of the backstretch and moved up to challenge leader Take Charge Lady at the quarter-mile pole.

Take Charge Lady, who won her three previous races this year, faced little pressure in leading most of the way.

Farda Amiga won $562,100, greatly boosting her meager earnings of $83,800.

The crowd of 101,923 was third-largest in Oaks' history and the fourth consecutive year in which attendance topped 100,000.

The winner, bred in Kentucky by Payson Stud, is owned by the Brazilian connections of Julio Camargo, Marcos Simon's Winner Silk, and Jose de Camargo.

Farda Amiga broke her maiden on grass at Del Mar last September and raced solely on turf in her first four outings, including a win in an optional claiming race. In her first try on dirt, Farda Amiga finished fourth, two lengths behind winner You and Habibti, in the Santa Anita Oaks previous to the Kentucky Oaks.

Churchill reported $10,931,558 was wagered on-track and an additional $17,627,488 was reported off-track for a combined total of $28,559,046 bet on the 10-race Oaks Day race card.  

Wagering on the Kentucky Oaks race totaled $2,154,178 on-track and $4,767,551 through off-track sources. The combined total was $6,921,729.

Wagering showed the greatest gains off-track as betting on the race grew to 27.90 percent over the 2001 totals and 24.13 percent for the day.

(Chart, Equibase)