Martin and Pam Wygod's homebred Sweet Catomine had to survive an objection, but she got the job done in Sunday's $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) with an impressive finish.
The favorite for the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) May 6, Sweet Catomine may instead test males in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) in her next start April 9.
Trainer Julio Canani, who called Sweet Catomine "the best filly who ever lived" after the race, said a decision would be made soon.
"The Santa Anita Derby is what we have next," Martin Wygod said. "That's what we had in mind for quite a while. As far as the Kentucky Derby, we would not take that risk with her unless we thought in our opinion she's the horse to beat."
Sent off at 1-5, Sweet Catomine, with Corey Nakatani aboard, swept four wide around the far turn of the 1 1/8-mile Oaks, grabbed the lead and held off a bid in mid-stretch from Memorette. She pulled away at the end to win by three lengths. The final time was a tepid 1:44 2/5. She Sings finished third with Charming Colleen fourth.
"She's definitely proven to me that she's the best filly I ever rode, and I've ridden a lot of nice fillies," said Nakatani, who rode Oaks winners Serena's Song and Sharp Cat, both champions. "She was pulling me around there." Nakatani regained the mount Sunday after missing Sweet Catomine's 2005 debut victory in the Santa Ysabel (gr. III) at Santa Anita Jan. 16.
Sweet Catomine, a 3-year-old daughter of Storm Cat
-Sweet Life (Kris S.) who was the 2004 juvenile filly champion, went over the $1 million mark in earnings.
Coming out of the turn, Cream Donut Keith, ridden by Tyler Baze, was drawn into tight quarters when Sweet Catomine made her move on the outside while passing Cream Donut Keith and Charming Colleen, who was leading while racing off the rail. Stewards reviewed the incident after Baze claimed foul, but did not take the victory away from Sweet Catomine.
Guaranteed Victory set the slow early pace, :23 2/5 and :48 2/5 with Charming Colleen and Memorette stalking. Charming Colleen edged to the front briefly coming on the turn after six furlongs in 1:14, but could not match strides with Sweet Catomine, who was keen to challenge from the time she left the starting gate.
Sweet Catomine, who broke from the rail, was taken off the pace and raced in sixth down the backstretch while angled to the outside. On the home turn, Nakatani could hold her back no longer and Sweet Catomine moved to the leaders without being asked.
It wasn't as easy as it looked in the stretch run, though, as Nakatani had to urge Sweet Catomine through the final furlong after Memorette and Kent Desormeaux ranged up to challenge.
Sweet Catomine won her fifth straight race and remains unbeaten in three starts at Santa Anita. The victory was her third in a grade I. Her only loss came in her maiden debut effort. She has now banked $1,044,600.
The payoff was $2.40, $2.10 and $2.10 on Sweet Catomine, who teamed with Memorette ($3, $2.10) for a $6.40 exacta. That made it back-to-back runner-up finishes in grade I races for the California-bred Memorette, who ran second to Sharp Lisa in the one-mile Las Virgenes (gr. I) at Santa Anita Feb. 12. She Sings, an outsider ridden by Jon Court, paid $2.10 to show.
Each carried 121 pounds. Feel the Heat, Cream Donut Keith and pacesetter Guaranteed Victory completed the order of finish.
Sweet Catomine accounted for $209,104 of the $316,544 wagered in the win pool, and $394,530 of the $442,317 in the show pool.