Cotton Blossom Makes Sharp Return in Florida Oaks

Making her first start since a third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), Dogwood Stable's Cotton Blossom was too much to handle in the $200,000 Florida Oaks at Tampa Bay Downs Saturday.

The daughter of Broken Vow  --For Dixie (Dixieland Band) edged away in the stretch after sweeping to the lead coming off the far turn with jockey John Velazquez to win by two lengths.

Boosting her earnings to $463,380,  Cotton Blossom, saddled by Todd Pletcher, paid $4, $3.40 and $3 as the even-money favorite in the field of eight. she ran the distance of 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.06.

Velazquez settled his mount behind early pacesetters Saint Barbara and Desire to Excel, who went :23 4/5 and :48. Cotton Blossom, on their outside, stalked the pace throughout the backstretch and made her move around the far turn, ranging up three wide after six furlongs were negotiated in 1:12 4/5. Suaveness, sent off at odds of 69-1 with Eddie Castro aboard, finishing second, returning $31 and $12.60 as part of a $140.20 exacta. Maria’s Kitty, one length behind the runner-up under Elvis Trujillo, was $10 to show.

“We had a good position," Velazquez said. "I couldn’t let her settle and get too far back and lose interest. When we came down the lane, she wandered a bit, but when she saw the other horses, she came on.” 

Pletcher said that the filly had been training well up to the race and was ready for a big effort in spite of being rested since November. 

“It felt good to have her come back," he said. "She had a good, solid career at two, and Mr. Campbell and I decided to freshen her up.”

As for Cotton Blossom’s future plans, Pletcher says, “We’re using this as a prep for either the Ashland (gr. I) or the Fantasy (gr. II).”

J.D. Squires bred Cotton Blossom in Kentucky

Autobahn Girl, the 9-5 second choice, finished fourth, followed by Desire to Excel, Trainee, Saint Barbara and Dinner Break.

(Chart, Equibase)

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