ARCADIA, Calif. (Dec. 31, 2016)—With a resolute stretch run, trainer Keith Desormeaux’s Decked Out, ridden by his brother Kent, was up to nail Sassy Little Lila by a nose in North America’s final Grade 1 event of 2016, the $300,000 American Oaks at Santa Anita. Shortened earlier in the day from a mile and a quarter to 1 1/8 miles on turf due to concerns with the hillside crossing at the top of the stretch, Decked Out got the distance over a rain-dampened course that was listed as good in 1:47.86.
Idle since running a respectable 12th in the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive Stakes on Oct. 1, Decked Out was taken in-hand out of the gate and had two fillies beaten as the Oaks field of 12 crossed under the wire for the first time.
“She won the Providencia (Grade 3, 1 1/8 miles on turf April 9) on soft ground, so I definitely wasn’t worried,” said Keith Desormeaux. “We don’t get this weather too often here in Southern California…She looked tired (in the stretch). She looked like she was starting to labor so I was surprised that she continued on. She showed her heart today.”
Although she was the 7-2 favorite as the field of sophomore fillies loaded into the gate, Decked Out shot up to 9-2 at post time, as eventual seventh place finisher Stays in Vegas got crushed in the late wagering and was hammered down to 5-2. Decked Out rewarded her backers with payouts of $11.00, $6.00 and $4.20.
“It’s been that kind of year for the Desormeaux family,” said Kent. “It was doubtful from the quarter pole. I wasn’t getting there fast enough, and I thought I won, but with recent photo finishes, I was scared to have an opinion…The turf course has a lot of give to it. I wouldn’t call it yielding, but it’s definitely soft.”
Owned by Big Chief Racing, LLC, Head of Plains Partners, LLC and Gene A. Voss, Decked Out, a 3-year-old Kentucky-bred filly by Street Boss, improved her record to 16-3-2-3 and with the winner’s share of $180,000, increased her earnings to $480,859.
Sassy Little Lila, a lightly raced daughter of Artie Schiller who brought a sharp recent form in New York to Santa Anita for the first time under Luis Saez, led throughout and just missed in a gallant effort. Off at 4-1, she paid $5.80 and $4.00.
“I thought we were going to be right there,” said Saez, who had ridden Sassy Little Lila for trainer Brad Cox in all five of her previous starts. “If we didn’t win, (I thought) it was going to be a dead heat. When I came back and saw the result…I thought we had it. The course was fine…I felt like she was very comfortable.”
Irish-bred Lady Valeur, who was attentive to the pace with Rafael Bejarano, finished third, a half-length behind Sassy Little Lila. Off at 17-1, Lady Valeur paid $7.20 to show.
Fractions on the race were 22.68, 47.03, 1:10.70 and 1:35.08.
KENT DESORMEAUX, DECKED OUT, WINNER: “It’s been that kind of year for the Desormeaux family. It was doubtful from the quarter pole. I wasn’t getting there fast enough and I thought I had won, but with the recent photo finishes, I was scared to have an opinion. The end result was close, because she’s knocked on the door all year. She’s been on the south end, and today she got on the north side.
“(The turf course) has a lot of give to it. I wouldn’t call it yielding, but it’s definitely soft.”
LUIS SAEZ, SASSY LITTLE LILA, SECOND: “I thought we were going to be right there – if we didn’t win it was going to be a dead heat. When I came back and saw the result, we got beat. I thought we had it. The course was fine. I was in front and didn’t notice anything wrong. I felt like she was very comfortable.”
KEITH DESORMEAUX, DECKED OUT, WINNER: “She won the Providencia on Santa Anita Derby Day on soft ground so I definitely wasn’t worried. We don’t get this weather too often here in southern California. We’re Louisiana-breds so I’m glad I’m the trainer today.
“She looked tired (in the stretch.) She looked like she was starting to labor so I was surprised that she continued on. She showed her heart today.
“I think that twenty-two and change took its toll on (Sassy Little Lila, pacesetter). The reoccurring theme in my mind is that she has so much heart. I had no idea who won the photo at first.
“You can’t ever get enough of these Grade ones. I have to compliment the team. Grade ones are always what we’re after and her broodmare value just skyrocketed so it’s very gratifying. To be able to buy these kinds of horses and get these goals accomplished, it’s so fun and it’s been a helluva year.
“She was training awesome coming into today. I think a key decision was not run her at Del Mar. We skipped a race in hopes of getting her fresh and that may have been the winning decision.”
Source: Santa Anita Park