LOUISVILLE, KY – J. Kirk and Judy Robison’s Vertical Oak rallied vigorously down the stretch and was able to get up just in time to take Saturday’s $100,000 Open Mind Stakes at Churchill Downs.
Breaking from post 3 as the even-money favorite under Ricardo Santana, Jr., Vertical Oak sat back early on while Courtmewithcarats and Miss Kentucky took turns dueling through fractions of :21.74 and :45.70. Fanning out wide as she raced through the far turn, Vertical Oak hit the top of the stretch with a full head of steam and rallied the length of the stretch to catch new leader Astrollinthepark late. Edging past her foe in the final stages, the Steve Asmussen trainee crossed with a 1/2-length advantage in a final time of 1:10.16 for the 6-furlong main track sprint.
“I thought there would be a lot of speed in this race today,” said Santana, Jr. “So, Steve and I talked and said to break from the gate and see what happens. I had all the confidence in the world in my filly that she would be okay coming from off the pace.”
While unable to fend off the winner, Astrollinthepark was the best of the rest by 4 1/4 lengths. P Boo necked out third over Thirteen Songs, while Courtmewithcarats and Miss Kentucky faded to finish fifth and sixth, respectively. Our Majesty was never a threat and completed the order of finish.
Vertical Oak’s win was her first since taking the $100,000 Skipat Stakes at Pimlico in May and improved her overall record to 18-7-3-3. The 4-year-old daughter of Giant Oak increased her lifetime bankroll to $630,030.
“She really showed some maturity today,” Asmussen said. “We’ve tried to get along with her all along, but she’s always been a bit headstrong. It’s very nice to see her be able to rate behind horses as she did today.”
Vertical Oak returned $4.20 to win, $2.60 to place, and $2.20 to show. Astrollinthepark brought back $3.20 to place and $2.80 to show, while P Boo paid $5 to show.