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Affirmative Lady won the 2023 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) at Gulfstream Park to earn 100 points toward the 2023 Kentucky Oaks (G1). The Graham Motion trainee stepped up stylishly from her maiden win last time out; is she now a top threat for the First Friday of May? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
AMO Racing USA’s Affirmative Lady, put in a steady drive midway around the far turn, powered through the stretch to pass Davona Dale (G2) winner Dorth Vader and pull clear to a two-length victory in Saturday’s $250,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) presented by FanDuel TV.
The 53rd running of the 1 1/16-mile Oaks for 3-year-old fillies was the eighth of 10 stakes, five graded, worth $2.35 million in purses on a spectacular 14-race program anchored by the $1 million Curlin Florida Derby (G1) presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms at Xalapa for 3-year-olds.
Ridden by Luis Saez for trainer Graham Motion, Affirmative Lady ($19) had placed twice previously in stakes including second by a neck in the Demoiselle (G2) last December at Aqueduct. She was coming out of a maiden special weight triumph going the Oaks distance Feb. 26 at Gulfstream, earning her a return trip to stakes competition.
“When she broke her maiden here five weeks ago, I thought it was really impressive and the timing was good,” Motion said. “I think she really wants to go further. I think she’ll really appreciate a mile and an eighth, to be honest.”
The Oaks was worth a total of 200 qualifying points to the top five finishers for the 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Oaks (G1) May 5 at Churchill Downs. Affirmative Lady earned 100 points to seal her spot in the starting gate.
2023 Kentucky Oaks
“There’s a big race going a mile and an eighth in May, so we’ll think about that,” Motion said. “Look, if she comes out of it OK, we have to [run]. That’s what she wants to do.”
Saez, aboard for the first time, settled Affirmative Lady in fourth saving ground on the rail as 30-1 long shot Flakes was in front through a quarter-mile in 23.73 seconds pressed by Jan. 1 Cash Run winner Infinite Diamond with Dorth Vader looming in the clear three wide. The order didn’t change after a half in 47.63 when Saez tipped Affirmative Lady off the rail to split horses and get into the race.
“The plan with her was to try to break good, get close and save ground. When we were ready, she kept going,” Saez said. “I had a lot of horse. Graham did an amazing job with her. She did great. She ran huge.”
Dorth Vader forged a short lead at the top of the stretch with Flakes digging in on the inside, but set Affirmative Lady down for a drive once straightened for home and reeled in the front runners in the final eighth of a mile with plenty left to turn back a late run from Sacred Wish, who got up for second. The winning time was 1:44.69 over a fast main track.
“I’m thrilled, extremely happy,” Saez said. “Graham always does a great job with his horses, and that gave me a lot of confidence she would have the stamina at the end. She demonstrated she has a great future and a very good chance to win the Kentucky Oaks. She’s versatile and knows how to settle nicely, which says a lot about her potential going longer.”
Sacred Wish, making just her third career start and first for trainer George Weaver, edged Flakes by a head for second to earn 40 Kentucky Oaks points. Flakes picked up 30 points, beating Dorth Vader by a neck for third.
“I liked the way everything fell in the race. I had to go a little wide and sacrifice a little bit with the outside post and she didn’t break that sharp out of the gate. She stumbled a little bit but she recovered and I liked the way she was doing it all the way down the backside,” Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, aboard Sacred Wish, said. “Her first time going two turns, she handled it well. She finished good. I’m very satisfied.”
Dorth Vader, breaking from outermost Post 8, now has 70 points after picking up 50 for her 4 ¾-length upset at odds of 46-1 in the one-mile Davona Dale.
“She broke out a bit and was very wide on the first turn,” trainer Michael Yates said. “We’ll see how she comes out of this and see how she trains and go from there.”
Miracle, the 2-1 favorite, Infinite Diamond, 2022 FSS My Dear Girl winner Atomically and Just Katherine completed the order of finish.
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