ARCADIA, CA – The eighth time was the charm for Normandy Farm’s homebred Daddys Lil Darling, as the filly finally broke through for her first Grade 1 victory in Saturday’s $300,000 American Oaks at Santa Anita.
Off well from post 4 under Mike Smith, Daddys Lil Darling angled in after the start and saved ground while Coachwhip set opening fractions of :24.38, :48.68, 1:12.83, and 1:36.83 through the first mile. Revved up exiting the far turn, Daddys Lil Darling swung out and commenced a bid down the stretch, passing the temporary new leader and favored New Money Honey at the 1/8 pole, then dug in and held off a late-charging Madam Dancealot by a 1/2-length at the wire in a final time of 2:00.11 for the 1 1/4-mile turf race.
“I was feeling excitement and pure panic at the end there,” said Nancy Polk of Normandy Farm. “Madam Dancealot was closing and I thought, ‘Oh no!’ But she hung on and she did very well. We’ve been working for this Grade 1 win for a while, so it’s wonderful to have it under our belt.”
After running last through the opening mile, Madam Dancealot swung four-wide at the top of the stretch and closed well, and even though she missed the win, jockey Corey Nakatani was happy with the result.
“She ran a tremendous race,” Nakatani said. “She likes to run from off the pace and we didn’t want to change her style today. I was hoping we could catch the winner, but we couldn’t quite get there. Like I say, maybe we could’ve tried to sit a little closer, but we didn’t want to change anything because she’s been finishing so well in all of her races.”
Madam Dancealot finished 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Kathy’s Song, while New Money Honey faded late to finish fourth. Beau Recall took fifth over Pantsonfire, with Coachwhip, Bernina Star, and Desert Duchess completing the order of finish. Rymska was scratched.
Daddys Lil Darling, who had finished second in four of her seven prior Grade 1 starts, improved her record to 15-4-5-1. The Kenny McPeek-trained 3-year-old daughter of Scat Daddy became a millionaire after the winner’s share of $180,000 pushed her career earnings to $1,138,405.
“It was a bit frustrating (not getting a Grade 1) because she was always competitive but didn’t have things go her way,” McPeek said. “She was second in the Kentucky Oaks, second in the Ashland, but it was one of those things. What are you going to do but keep trying? We wanted to keep her in straight 3-year-old filly competition before the year was out. Fortunately, she stayed on form. She’s a special filly and you just have to keep trying with those kind. She tries hard on any kind of going, and that makes a trainer’s job pretty easy.”
Daddys Lil Darling returned $6 to win, $3.60 to place, and $3 to show. Madam Dancealot brought back $4.20 to place and $3.60 to show, while Kathy’s Song paid $6 to show.