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Dr. Miranda previews the 2023 Indiana Oaks (G3) from Horseshoe Indianapolis, then gives her top picks & long shots. The Ashland Stakes (G1) champion Defining Purpose looks to rebound after finishing 7th in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), but is she ripe for an upset here? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
Kenny McPeek loved what he saw after breeder Colette Marie VanMatre sent Defining Purpose — the 8-5 favorite for Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Indiana Oaks at Horseshoe Indianapolis — the trainer’s way to get the filly started as a 2-year-old.
McPeek’s enthusiasm increased with each passing day. So when VanMatre asked about getting some partners to join her in racing the filly, McPeek priced her at a total valuation of $100,000. It was only later that McPeek — himself among those buying into the filly through his Magdalena Farm partnership — saw that Defining Purpose had been bought back as a “short” yearling for $14,000 after not reaching her predetermined minimum selling price at Keeneland’s 2021 January bloodstock auction.
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Still, that didn’t faze McPeek. After all, the Lexington product elevated his career by winning big races with horses purchased at bargain-basement prices. That list now includes Defining Purpose, whose owners were already out on their investment before the now 3-year-old filly won Keeneland’s $600,000 Central Bank Ashland Stakes, a Grade 1 race and one of the most important preps for the Kentucky Oaks.
“We got her in the spring of ’22, put her in the routine and she fit right in,” McPeek said. “She immediately jumped into everything very professional and enthusiastic, a filly that showed quite a bit of natural talent. (VanMatre) said, ‘Can you find me some partners?’ We talked about how to value her, and I said, ‘I think she’s easily worth $100,000. At that point I did not know that she had been through an auction for 14 grand. I was flabbergasted to know she was a $14,000 RNA (reserved not attained), or I probably would have put people in cheaper.”
If anything, he said, “I thought I overpriced her. But I priced her on what I saw talent-wise, and she had quite a bit of talent – and obviously, that’s panned out. Looking at it today, I probably underpriced her.”
A winner of $556,188, Defining Purpose recently was sold privately to Northern Farm, part of the Shadai Group that dominates Japan’s breeding industry. The Indiana Oaks is her first start for her new owners. McPeek estimates the early investors made “20 times their money.”
After finishing sixth in Oaklawn Park’s Honeybee (G3) in the slop, Defining Purpose and Hernandez won the Ashland at 20-1 odds.
“This is another one of those examples where you just never know where a good horse is going to come from,” McPeek said after the Ashland, whose field included the highly regarded runner-up Punchbowl, third-place Julia Shining and the 2-year-old filly champion Wonder Wheel.
Things didn’t go Defining Purpose’s way when seventh in the Kentucky Oaks, which attracted its strongest field in years. But McPeek expects Defining Purpose to rebound in the 1 1/16-mile Indiana Oaks, where her main competition in the field of eight 3-year-old fillies likely is Pimlico’s Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan winner Taxed, the 2-1 second choice.
Taxed was stuck on the also-eligible list and unable to compete in the Kentucky Oaks when no horses were scratched. She had proved her mettle in finishing second twice at Oaklawn Park behind Kentucky Oaks favorite Wet Paint, including in the Grade 3 Fantasy.
Defining Purpose and Taxed faced each other three times over the winter in Arkansas, with Defining Purpose finishing in front of Taxed in two out of three meetings, including a victory in Oaklawn’s $150,000 Year’s End Stakes on Dec. 31.
“We spaced her race pretty for the Ashland,” McPeek said recently. “I thought that was a great run by her. Any time you knock down a Grade 1 with a 3-year-old filly — 2-year-old filly, any filly — it increases her value pretty dramatically. In the Kentucky Oaks, she didn’t fire as we had hoped. But it was a tough race, certainly the best fillies in the nation.
“Since then, she’s transferred ownership. She’s now owned by Northern Farm, which is the Yoshida family, Katsumi Yoshida of Japan. We were approached about selling her and felt that the price was right. It worked for everybody. I’m excited for the new ownership, and the filly is doing super. This should be a good spot for her.”
2023 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes Replay | Taxed Upsets Pimlico Friday Feature; Hoosier Philly 2nd, Faiza 3rd
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