GRANTVILLE, PA – Owner/trainer Mary Eppler’s 8-year-old battle-axe Oak Bluffs took on a field of nine youngsters with great aplomb on Saturday to win the $200,000 Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup Stakes at Penn National Race Course.
Breaking from post 3 under Paco Lopez as the 2-1 co-favorite, Oak Bluffs was forced in tight along the rail entering the far turn and had to ease up slightly after several outside horses came down on him. Meanwhile, Pool Winner posted early splits of :22.37 and :44.81 while running with a slight lead. Still in traffic while trying to rally through the turn, Oak Bluffs finally found an opening at the top of the stretch and burst through with gusto. Angling out in the final furlong, Oak Bluffs took command late and continued through to the wire, winning by 3/4 of a length in a final time of :56.10 for the 5-furlong turf sprint.
“My horse, he broke perfect,” Lopez said. “I had great position. I had a horse outside who went to me, but he’s very professional, my horse. He came through at the 3/8. I knew all the time the rail was open. I looked and the 10 (Ray’swarrior, the other co-favorite) stopped a little bit and I came through, and there was the 6 (Pool Winner), and he was flying, my horse.”
A photo finish for second was ultimately awarded to Dubini by a neck over Pool Winner, while Ray’swarrior faded to fourth. Jaguar Poz took fifth over Triple Burner, with Rapid Dan, Uncle Youdge, Midtowncharlybrown, and Grasshoppin completing the order of finish. Two horses scratched – Ugottahaveheart was a Main Track Only entry, while Pure Sensation‘s connections chose to save him for next weekend’s Grade 3 Jaipur Invitational Stakes at Belmont Park.
Oak Bluffs’ win was his second career stakes score, following the 2015 edition of the $60,000 My Frenchman at Monmouth Park. The gelded son of Defrere improved his record to 42-16-8-5 with career earnings of $546,606.
“He likes a firm turf,” Eppler said. “He’s getting better and better. I claimed him for $5,000. He’d already won stakes and everything, and he’d made like $300,000. I thought, ‘Gosh, if he’s a $7,500 horse, I’d make out. If he could win some of the Pennsylvania-bred races, I could make out for $16,000.'”
Oak Bluffs returned $6.80 to win, $4.40 to place, and $3.20 to show. Dubini brought back $8.80 to place and $5.20 to show, while Pool Winner paid $4.20 to show.