Saturday's $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I), reduced in distance once again to 1 1/4 miles, drew a field of six 3-year-old fillies, highlighted by another showdown between Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner Ashado and Mother Goose (gr. I) winner Stellar Jayne.
Each filly has a victory over the other, with Ashado crushing Stellar Jayne over a muddy track in the Kentucky Oaks, and Stellar Jayne upsetting her rival in the Mother Goose. Both fillies look as if they should have no trouble getting the distance, and this promises to be an exciting battle between two classy fillies.
The CCA Oaks has been jumping back and forth in distance since its inception in 1917. When a second try at 1 1/2 miles failed, with some mediocre runnings in recent years, it was decided to switch back to 10 furlongs. As a result, the race, once the final leg in the NYRA Triple Crown for Fillies (later the Triple Tiara), has drawn two of the stars of the division, along with four others.
The most exciting of the others is Magical Illusion, who could be on the brink of stardom herself with a big performance Saturday. Also entered are Dynaville, an allowance winner at Churchill Downs in her last start and runner-up to Stellar Jayne in the Dogwood Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. III) in her prior start; America America, who must be an amazing filly to have endured a racing career that would have knocked out most of the iron horses of the past; and Honor Point, an Allen Jerkens-trained filly who has never run in a stakes, having only victories in an allowance race and maiden race to her credit in five starts.
Ashado, although beaten by Stellar Jayne in her last start, still is the main attraction of the Oaks. The daughter of Saint Ballado, owned by Starlight Stables, Paul Saylor, and Johns Martin, and trained by Todd Pletcher, has been a gem of constistency, with six victories, three seconds, and a third from 10 starts, while racing in top company. Of her 10 starts, six have come in grade I stakes and three in grade II. In addition to her victory in the Kentucky Oaks, she also scored in the Spinaway (gr. I), Schuylerville (gr. II), and Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II). She was also second to Halfbridled in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), and second, beaten a half-length by Madcap Escapade, in the Ashland Stakes (gr. I). Her regular rider, John Velazquez, will again be aboard.
Stellar Jayne, owned by Spendthrift Farm and partners, and trained by D. Wayne Lukas, rattled off three straight victories early in her career, including a win in the Pocahontas Stakes. Following seven straight defeats, six of them out-of-the-money performances, the daughter of Wild Rush is now back in a winning groove, capturing the Dogwood Breeders' Cup and Mother Goose, in which she upset Ashado at odds of 29-1. Robby Albarado, who was aboard in her last two victories, again will have the mount.
If there is a filly who can upset the top two it is William Clifton Jr.'s Magical Illusion, who has looked like a world beater in her two career victories for trainer Jim Bond. Following a disastrous trip and 12th-place finish in her career debut, the daughter of Pulpit
romped by 17 1/2 lengths in a 1 1/16-mile maiden race at Belmont. Thrown right into the Acorn Stakes (gr. I), she was stuck behind horses on the rail the whole trip, made a bold move to reach contention, but faded late to finish fifth, beaten 5 1/2 lengths by Island Sand in what was a solid effort. Put back in allowance company at Belmont, going a mile, she again scored an easy victory, winning by 10 lengths in a sharp 1:35.06. The red-hot Edgar Prado will be back aboard.
The most amazing filly in the field is America America. What makes her so amazing is that she's still on her feet. The daughter of Mister Baileys not only has already run 26 times in her career, she's run at 19 different racetracks in four different countries. During one four-week stretch, from June 28 to July 24, she ran five times -- four times in England, with a trip to Germany thrown in.
Along the way, she has managed to win the Sam Houston Texan Juvenile and Lone Star Oaks, while placing in six other stakes in the U.S. and Canada. Richard Migliore picks up the mount.