ARCADIA, Calif. (April 5, 2014)–In a scintillating gate to wire performance, the Simon Callaghan-trained Fashion Plate, with Gary Stevens up, took Saturday’s Grade I, $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks by 1 ¼ lengths over favored Ria Antonia and thus stamped herself as the West Coast’s best hope to win the prestigious Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs May 2.
Breaking from the rail in a field of seven 3-year-old fillies, Fashion Plate established a 1 ½ length advantage going into the Club House turn and, as he has done so many times over the years in big-money situations, Stevens called all the shots thereafter.
“I’ve won a few races like this in my day,” said Stevens. “She was reminding me of Winning Colors (winner of the 1988 Santa Anita Derby and Kentucky Derby) going down the backside. I thought if I can keep doing this…it’s going to be pretty special. Mike’s (Smith, aboard Ria Antonia) filly is a good filly. I’ve worked her a couple of times so I knew what I was dealing with. I think we were underestimated in here though, off her numbers last out. We knew that she was going to improve a lot today.”
A Kentucky-bred daughter of Old Fashioned, Fashion Plate, owned by Arnold Zetcher, LLC, and Michael Tabor, won for the third consecutive time, with her last win coming in the Grade I, one mile Las Virgenes Stakes on Feb. 1.
“She was the speed horse, obviously, and when she was able to go the right fractions (23.75, 47.38, 1:11.12 and 1:36.42)…Gary found time to take a little breather on her and just bring her back and then let her go again,” said Callaghan. “I think for now, the Kentucky Oaks would make sense. She’s getting better as we stretch out in distance. She’s a really smart filly and she relaxes well.”
The second choice in the wagering at 2-1, Fashion Plate paid $6.20, $3.40 and $2.80. With the winner’s share of $240,000, her earnings now stand at $459,250. She now has three wins and a third from five starts.
Ria Antonia, winner by disqualification two starts back of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and most recently a well beaten fourth by leading Kentucky Oaks candidate Untapable in the Rachel Alexandra in New Orleans Feb. 22, made her first start for Bob Baffert today and appeared to have dead-aim on the winner mid-way around the far turn.
“My horse ran a tremendous race today,” said Smith. “I really thought we had (Fashion Plate) measured in the (far) turn and we would get there…I really think we would have had to be 110 percent today to beat that horse…Our horse probably needed two races before this race today. She should be better next time.”
Off as the 6-5 favorite, Ria Antonia finished 3 ¾ lengths in front of Bajan and paid $2.80 and $2.40.
The second Callaghan trainee in the field, Bajan was ridden by Joe Talamo and was off at 28-1 and paid $6.20 to show.
Next to last after a half mile, Bajan rallied well late to finish third, 1 ¾ lengths in front of Honey Ride and Tyler Baze.
“She ran great and she handled the kick-back well,” said Talamo. “It’s hard to come from off the pace but I’m certainly hoping to do it later on! (with Schoolorhardrocks in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby).”