First Time's the Charm
By Dick Downey
Connections quotes by Jennie Rees
Photo by Reed Palmer Photography
Jonathan Thomas made his training debut at Kentucky Downs a good one on Wednesday, taking the 1 5/16-mile, $300,000 Fifth Third Insurance Dueling Grounds Oaks with Osare.
The leader at each call of the race, Osare and Jose Ortiz, who won for the third time on the day, were in front by about a length throughout the sweeping far turn and extended their advantage in the stretch to prevail by 2 3/4 lengths over hard-running second finisher Princess Warrior, trained by Kenny McPeek.
Thomas, a former assistant to Todd Pletcher, added to a big year highlighted so far with Catholic Boy's wins of the Grade I Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes on turf and Grade 1 Travers Stakes on dirt. In 2018, Thomas has 23 wins from 85 starters, which amounts to an astonishing 27 percent win rate, with a 12 seconds, 12 thirds and purse earnings of $2,440,498.
Meanwhile, Osare added a nice performance to her already rich pedigree. She's a half-sister to Arrogate, the all-time leader in purses with $17,422,600. Arrogate ranked first by earnings in both 2016 and 2017 and won the Breeders' Cup Classic, Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes and Dubai World Cup in successive starts.
Bred in Kentucky by Clearsky Farms, Osare is out of the Distorted Humor mare Bubbler, the dam of Arrogate, and was sired by Medaglia d'Oro. Clearsky also bred Arrogate.
Winning owner John C. Malone and his Bridlewood Farm's regally-bred 3-year-old filly now has two wins from four starts and $229,080 in earnings after adding the $172,980 winner's share of the Dueling Grounds Oaks to her bankroll.
Bet down to 7-2 from an 8-1 morninng line, Osare, which means "to dare" in Italian, returned her $2 backers $9.80 to win, $5.80 to place and $4.00 to show.
Osare and favored Pamina dueled down the backstretch before Osare slipped ahead going down the dip in the big turn with initial fractions going in a moderate 25.36 for the first quarter-mile, a half in 51.20 and six furlongs in 1:16.45. Princess Warrior was eighth, but only 2 3/4 lengths off the pace, after the first half-mile and steadily advanced around the bend and down the lane under Brian Hernandez, Jr. Sippin Kitten finished third at 21-1 odds for trainer Mike Maker, beaten 3 1/4 lengths, after closing from an early 10th-place position. Malibu Saint, in at 55-1 for Maker, finished fourth, another 2 1/4 lengths back, after saving ground through the far turn.
Finishing behind those four were Rahway, Over Thinking, Pamina, Lemon Princess, Smart Shot, Cloak of Secrecy, Dothraki Sea and Heavenly Love.
The winning time was 2:15.06.
Jonathan Thomas, winning trainer: “The expectations are a little bit higher when your brother is Arrogate. But we let her kind of come into her own and develop. She was a filly with a big frame, we gave her time to strengthen up, and these longer races seem to be her forte. So we were waiting for kind of a spot like this, being able to keep her in her own age group going a route of ground. All we want was to not leave her too much to do with the ground being a little tacky and not want to close ground. Jose gave her a beautiful ride. It was a very positive forward ride. I thought he got her to relax really nicely down the backside and he saved a lot of ground. It was great, the kind of ride you expect from Jose.
"She was traveling comfortably and stamina is kind of her forte, and I thought that would kick in. She’s certainly a very ratable horse. She’s very smart. If she needed to be in behind, that’s fine. But I think her strength is stamina, so it’s important to let her get in a rhythm and take it to them a little bit, and if she’s good enough she’ll get it done.”
(On postponement of card from Sunday) “It might have been a little blessing in disguise. She came from Saratoga, so a couple of extra days certainly didn’t hurt. She had time to acclimate, eat some of this good Kentucky grass and just enjoy it.”
“She’s used to a little different terrain (at Bridlewood Farm). We’ve got a couple of different ways we like to train horses and one of them is on an uphill. So she would have spent a lot of time going up a hill and kind of knowing where her feet are. I thought she traveled lovely up it, kind of like she does at home. She’s a home horse. Bridlewood has been my biggest supporter and to have a stakes win for them is really important.
“We’ll let her regroup and recover from the race, talk to the team and see what’s next. We try to let our horses kind of determine where they’re going to go next by how they come out of it.
:It’s been a real dream year. We’ve been supported by some great people and some really nice horses. We can’t do it without the horses we have. I’m just a small spoke on a big wheel.”
Jose Ortiz, winning rider: “She felt very nice. About the half-mile pole I felt I had a lot of horse underneath me. Great training job by Jonathan, and I was really happy they came to me to ride this filly. The plan was to be in a forward position, but she broke really well and she put me there. So I didn’t take it away from her. This track, it’s the first time for her, so wherever she was comfortable. She was the right horse to do it. The trainer told me that ‘she doesn’t have a big turn of foot, so you have to be close and at the three-eighths pole be looking for it. Don’t be waiting for the quarter pole to have that kick.’ To be on the lead there, going as easy as I was, I thought it was perfect. I saw the 3 horse was right next to me, and I said, I’ve got to take it. Because if not I’m going to have the favorite favorite in front of me and I’m going to be behind him. I just wanted to take it. When we got to the six furlongs, I just took the lead and kept going from there.”
(On winning three races on the card): “I love it. They gave me the opportunity to ride nice horses.”
Brian Hernandez, second on Princess Warrior: “She ran well. We had a good trip, we were just second-best today. Just couldn’t run down the winner. We were right behind her turning for home, and we just couldn’t run by the last horse. She’s getting better and better each race. She’s on the grass; she’s definitely improving. That was a big effort today.”