NEW ORLEANS, LA – Larry and Cindy Jones and Ray Francis’ homebred Street Band ran huge in the stretch to usurp Liora before drawing off convincingly to win Saturday’s Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks (G2).
Breaking from post 3 under Sophie Doyle at 10/1 odds, Street Band soon settled along the rail in a close stalking position behind the 1/5 favorite Serengeti Empress, who set the early pace through fractions of :24.12, :47.48, and 1:11.86. Nearing the far turn, Liora ranged up to run three-wide alongside Slewgoodtobetrue and the rail-skimming pacesetter, and those two quickly threw in the towel. Liora and jockey Channing Hill emerged onto the top of the stretch with what appeared to be a widening lead, but Doyle’s patient handling of Street Band proved to be the difference-maker.
Tipping out as she straightened for home, Street Band surged to catch the new leader, took command in mid-stretch, then continued on sharply to win the 1 1/16-mile event by 3 3/4 lengths in a final time of 1:44.54 over the fast main track.
“The race set up the same as last time, but I just managed to just get her to drop her head,” Doyle said. “In the last race, her head was up, I was getting hounded from behind, and I didn’t have as much room. Today, we just had a beautiful trip and everything set up right. Her head dropped down today and she traveled into the bit, where the last time, her head was up and she was fighting me and every step was like ‘relax, filly, relax’. Today, she took it like a professional and traveled great.”
The rest of the field was well-separated behind the winner. Liora held on for second by 2 lengths over Sweet Diane, with Eres Tu another 2 1/4 lengths back in fourth.
“I thought I had a perfect trip,” Hill said. “She broke out a step on the outside, but she put herself in the game. Once I put (Serengeti Empress) away, I was just hoping my filly wouldn’t pull up, and she didn’t – she ran all the way to the wire. I cannot believe that horse went by me.”
Making a return to dirt after breaking her maiden on the turf did not go well for Speedette, who never played a factor and finished fifth. Slewgoodtobetrue and Serengeti Empress faded steadily in the stretch run to complete the order of finish.
Shortly after crossing the finish line, Serengeti Empress was pulled up and soon vanned off. Following the race, though, trainer Tom Amoss reported that his star filly appeared to be okay:
Serengeti empress is fine and comfortable at the barn but she did bleed today following the running of The Fair Grounds Oaks
— TomAmossRacing (@TomAmossRacing) March 23, 2019
Crescentcitypretty was scratched, opting instead to run in a smaller stakes earlier on the card, where she finished third.
The Fair Grounds Oaks is part of the Road to the 2019 Kentucky Oaks prep race season. Street Band earned 100 points for the win, with Liora receiving 40 for second, Sweet Diane 20 for third, and Eres Tu 10 for fourth.
Street Band’s win was her second in her last three starts, having finished a well-beaten fourth in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2) here last month, and improved her overall record to 8-3-0-2. Trained by co-owner/breeder Larry Jones, he 3-year-old daughter of Istan increased her lifetime earnings mark to $310,325.
Street Band returned $23.80 to win, $8.40 to place, and $7 to show. Liora brought back $7.40 to place and $6.40 to show, while Sweet Diane paid $9 to show.