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Aaron previews the 2022 Mistletoe Stakes from Oaklawn Park, then gives his top picks & long shots. A return to Arkansas could help the Brad Cox trainee Coach turn her form around, but did Aaron pick his favorite filly to win, or is he looking elsewhere? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
The Equibase profile of Ignacio Correas IV, specifically the top horses he’s trained, is littered with South American imports, notably millionaire Argentine-bred Blue Prize, who concluded her career with three consecutive victories, including the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) in 2019 at Santa Anita.
Blue Prize was a Group 1 winner in Argentina before continuing her career in the United States, where, in one of earlier races, she finished seventh in the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older females at 1 1/16 miles in 2018 at Oaklawn.
Two years earlier, Correas finished third in Oaklawn’s $350,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses at 1 1/16 miles with Idolo Porteno, who was making his North American debut after winning two Group 1 races in Argentina.
The Kentucky-based Correas returns to Oaklawn, this time with another South American import, in search of his first career victory in Hot Springs. Correas will send out Chilean-bred Le Da Vida, unbeaten in two United States starts, in the $150,000 Mistletoe Stakes for females, 3 and up, at 1 mile.
First post Saturday is 12:30 p.m. (Central), with probable post time for the Mistletoe, the ninth of 10 races, 4:14 p.m. The card also features the $150,000 Ring the Bell Stakes.
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Le Da Vida (7 for 15 overall) is the program favorite based off two sharp allowance victories this fall in Kentucky and strong efforts in Group 1 and Group 2 company earlier in her career in South America.
“That filly was very good in Chile,” said Correas, a native of Argentina. “The last race in Chile, I think, she finished second running a mile against the colts. She’s always been very good. She ran in a lot of races against the colts and hit the board. She was a good filly in Chile, no doubt.”
Le Da Vida is 2 for 2 since moving to Correas following a runner-up finish in the $80,000 Fernando Moller Bordeu (G2) last April at Hipodromo Chile.
Le De Vida, a 5-year-old daughter of Gemologist, a Grade 1 winner in the United States, captured a 1-mile allowance race Sept. 15 at Churchill Downs by three lengths and a 1 1/16-mile allowance race Oct. 29 at Keeneland by 2 ½ lengths.
“She adapted herself very well,” Correas said. “A big part of that is the owner (Masaiva Corp.) let me take me take the time that they need, the adaptation process, to run them when they’re doing well. They let you take your time.”
Correas said he also considered running Le Da Vida in an allowance race Nov. 27 at Churchill Downs – closing day of its fall meeting – but opted for the Mistletoe because it meant more time between races.
“I usually spend my winter in Kentucky now, so I ship a lot,” Correas said. “I talked to (Oaklawn racing secretary) Pat Pope like a month ago and asked him about this race. He recruited me, actually. He called me about this race. I said that was probably my plan, to come to this race. I’ve aimed for this race for like, at least, four or five weeks.”
Correas, 0 for 17 in his Oaklawn career, said another robust performance Saturday could make Le Da Vida a candidate for races like the Azeri or Oaklawn’s signature two-turn event for older females, the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1), in 2023.
“We need to see how she’ll adapt herself here,” Correas said. “If she runs a good race, I don’t see why not. That’s one of the reasons that we brought her here, to see if she liked it.”
The Mistletoe also features Oaklawn stakes winners Coach for trainer Brad Cox and Will’s Secret for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
Will’s Secret Wallops Martha Washington Wannabes
Coach exits a disappointing fourth as the favorite in the $300,000 Chilukki Stakes (G3) at 1 mile Nov. 19 at Churchill Downs. Will’s Secret finished third behind Le Da Vida Oct. 29 at Keeneland.
Chilukki runner-up Ice Orchid returns to Oaklawn after breaking her maiden and running second behind future Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath in the $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles last February. Ice Orchid (physical setback) was withdrawn from Kentucky Oaks consideration following the Honeybee. She returned with three strong efforts this fall in Kentucky, including a 1 1/8-mile allowance victory Oct. 23 at Keeneland for trainer John Ortiz and John Ed Anthony of Hot Springs, the winningest owner in Oaklawn history.
Ortiz said the Mistletoe is Ice Orchid’s first audition for the Apple Blossom.
“The key goal when you have a 3-year-old is to make it to those classic races,” Ortiz said. “This is one that has shown potential that she can be a classic horse. When she ran at Churchill, we had an option of an allowance or this Grade 3. Kind of convinced them to go ahead and run in the stakes race and it paid off. We’ve got to find out if she’s going to continue to be a graded-stakes filly. The one-turn mile kind of got her, I think, but I think she’ll improve going two turns here.”
Oaklawn’s first major 2023 prep for the Apple Blossom is the $150,000 Pippin Stakes at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 7. The Apple Blossom is April 15.
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