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Aaron previews the 2024 Silverbulletday Stakes from Fair Grounds, then gives his top picks from this Kentucky Oaks (G1) prep race.
Top trainers Steve Asmussen & Brad Cox square off, but could an Oklahoma-bred outsider defeat them both? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
Off a runner-up performance behind her stablemate Alpine Princess in the Untapable stakes four weeks ago, the Gary and Mary West homebred West Omaha has been installed as Mike Diliberto’s 2-1 morning line favorite against seven rivals in Saturday’s Silverbulletday Stakes presented by Fasig-Tipton.
In addition to the $150,000 purse, the Silverbulletday will offer 3-year-old fillies 20-10-6-4-2 points on the Road to the Longines Kentucky Oaks.
With a post time of 4:30 p.m., the Silverbulletday is scheduled as the 10th of 13 races on Saturday’s “Road to the Derby Day” card. The program also features the Lecomte (G3), a points race on the road to the 150th Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve, and four other stakes. First post is noon.
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Despite its ungraded status, three of the last ten Silverbulletday winners have later gone on to win the Kentucky Oaks – Serengeti Empress (2019), Monomoy Girl (2018) and Untapable (2014).
In addition to winning with Monomoy Girl, trainer Brad Cox saddled last year’s Silverbulletday victress, The Alys Look. With Untapable winner Alpine Princess awaiting the Rachel Alexandra (G2) presented by Fasig-Tipton on February 17, race runner-up West Omaha will carry the baton for his stable on Saturday.
The daughter of West Coast ran into all sorts of trouble in her career debut on September 21 at Churchill. Losing several lengths when crowded at the start, she raced in the clear near the back of the pack. Five-wide off the far turn, the Brad Cox-trainee rallied off heels and finished strongly to be ¾ of a length back in third (placed 2nd following DQ of the winner).
Over the same seven-furlong trip in her next start, West Omaha enjoyed a much cleaner start. She made the lead, but despite being pressured every step of the way, she drew off in the end to win by four convincing lengths.
Off a step or two slow in the Untapable, West Omaha rushed up into a clear, stalking position behind her front-running stablemate, but found herself in an uncomfortable spot between rivals nearing the far turn. Hung five-wide off the far turn, she finished with plenty of energy, but by that time Alpine Princess had given the field the slip.
Luis Saez will be aboard West Omaha for the first time, and the duo will leave from post six.
Off her third-place finish in the Untapable for trainer Ken McPeek, the Brownwood Farms homebred Sistina Chapel is the 7-2 morning line second choice in the Silverbulletday. McPeek won the 2011 edition of the Silverbulletday with Kathmanblu.
“She’s going to need to find another gear to get past West Omaha,” McPeek said. “I think she deserves another shot, and it looks like a good spot for her.”
Showing a penchant for positioning herself near the back of the pack, Sistina Chapel ran second in a pair of turf routes to begin her career. The sophomore daughter of Liam’s Map broke her maiden in her first career dirt try on Nov. 11 at Churchill when tracking no further than two lengths back from the leader.
In her subsequent race, she found herself near the back early on after an awkward gate exit and finished second behind Alpine Princess. The two renewed acquaintances in the Untapable, and after losing forward positioning ahead of the first turn, the McPeek charge found herself last of six and could get no closer than the five-length margin of defeat, finishing third.
“I think she can rate without any trouble,” McPeek said.
Reuniting with Corey Lanerie, Sistina Chapel will break from post 8.
Already a five-time winner of the Silverbulletday, trainer Steve Asmussen will send out Whisper Hill Farms’ upstart Perfect Shot on Saturday. Asmussen last won the Silverbulletday in 2021 with La Crete after previously taking the race with Finite (2020), Untapable (2014), War Echo (2009) and Summerly (2005).
After finishing fourth then second in a pair of elongated sprints at Churchill, the daughter of Gun Runner broke through with her maiden score in her two-turn debut on Nov. 25 under the Twin Spires. Well positioned early in the field of ten, she took over on the far turn, built a comfortable lead, and held firm by 3 ¼ lengths over the next-out-winner Shiloh’s Mistress.
After running a 76 Brisnet Speed figure on debut, Perfect Shot has stepped forward with each start, receiving an 83 and then an 88 from Brisnet in her maiden score.
“I think they all have to earn it, but she came in as a very good prospect,” Asmussen said. “The Gun Runners have shown to get better with time and that’s what we expect from her as well.”
Asmussen’s go-to rider Joel Rosario jumps aboard Perfect Shot for the first time on Saturday, and the duo will leave from the rail.
The only undefeated filly scheduled to enter the starting gate for the Silverbulletday is Jeffry and Julie Puryear’s Oklahoma-bred Miss Code West. Purchased for just $12,000 as a 2-year-old in training, the Kevin Scholl-trained daughter of Code West has won four consecutive races at Remington Park to begin her career.
After breaking her maiden at first asking over five furlongs on October 5, she would return just 15 days later to score her first of two consecutive stakes victories against restricted state-bred company. Stepped up into the open Trapeze Stakes for her most recent assignment, she absolutely dominated in the mud, taking the field gate to wire by 6 ¾ lengths under a hand ride.
Regular rider Floyd Wethey Jr., who has won nearly 1,400 races and is coming off a career-year in earnings, will be back in the saddle and the invaders will leave from post 3.
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