St. John's River has been knocking on the door of a major stakes win all year and now she's got one.
The 3-year-old daughter of Include out of Adventerous Di, by Private Account, captured the $300,700 grade II Delaware Oaks July 9 with a dazzling stretch run that put her a head in front at the wire of pacesetter Strike the Moon (VIDEO).
A homebred for Kentucky breeder/owner Dede McGehee and trained by Andrew Leggio Jr., St. John’s River faced four stakes winners in the field of seven. None of the competiors had been placed in graded stakes, however, she had. St. John’s River ran second by half a length to Daisy Devine in the March 26 Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) and was runner-up by a neck—rallying from last—to Plum Pretty in the May 6 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). Bettors acknowledged the company she had been keeping by making her the even-money favorite at post time.
Last-to-first was the strategy again in the 1 1/16-mile Delaware Oaks. Strike the Moon captured the lead quickly and led the field through reasonable franctions of :24.12, :48.71, and 1:13.09. Meanwhile, St. John’s River bided her time at the back of the pack, at some points about 10 lengths from the leader.
The front-running daughter of Malibu Moon cruised along the rail under Julian Pimentel until the top of the stretch when the field began to bunch up. St. John’s River and rider Jose Lezcano made their move as they exited the final turn, swinging five-wide into the middle of the track. She kicked into a higher gear and began erasing the void between her and Strike the Moon, who continued to fight gamely along the rail. Strike the Moon could not hold off St. John’s River’s impressive late charge and lost by a neck.
The final time was 1:44.39 on the fast dirt.
All for Thee, ridden by Jeremy Rose, was third by 1 3/4 lengths.
“They were going so slow the first part of it I was worried because I did not think they would back up that much,” said Leggio, Jr. “They did not back that much, but she just kept running on them. She was the seven horse and she went seven horses wide at the top of the stretch. I have had two bypasses, and I thought I was going to need a third.
"I thought she was going to win the race, but I was concerned about this short stretch because she does not start getting running until the last eighth of a mile. With a little luck she would have won her last two races. My next stop is the Alabama (gr. I) at Saratoga.”
The winner paid $4, $2.80, and $2.10. Strike the Moon paid $7.20 and $3.80, while All For Thee paid $2.40. The $2 exacta paid $24.60, and the $2 trifecta paid $59.20.
McGehee bought Adventurous Di for $17,000 out of the 2003 Keeneland November Breeding Stock sale in foal to Include. The filly that the mare was carrying grew up to be grade I winner Panty Raid, who was raced by Glencrest Farm. McGehee went back to Include in 2007 and got St. John’s River. The mare has a yearling by Medaglia d'Oro .