Sets Track Record
By Dick Downey
Photo by Reed Palmer Photography
Sent away from the gate as the even-money favorite by bettors, Daddy's Lil Darling proved them right in spades as she cruised to victory in the Dueling Grounds Oaks at Kentucky Downs on Sunday.
Under Julien Leparoux, Daddy's Lil Darling sat seventh of nine through the first turn and down the backstretch of the 1 5/16 mile turf course. She was asked on the turn and passed the pacesetter, Summer Luck, with ease in upper stretch before drawing off to win by 4 1/4 lengths.
Summer Luck ran on for second, followed by La Manta Gris, Holiday's Angel, Quebec, Thrice, Point System and Gentle Kitten. Lanitz was eased.
The effort set a new course record as Daddy's Lil Darling got the 1 5/16 mile race in 2:10.97. The record was previously 2:11.30 and held by Mystical Star since September 7, 2013.
The 2017 Kentucky Oaks runner-up was taken to England for the 1 1/2-mile, Group 1 Investec Oaks at Epsom for her next start, but she ran off before the race and was scratched. Upon her return to the U. S., she finished a good fourth in the Grade I Belmont Oaks on turf and most recently was fifth, beaten 12 lengths, in the Grade I Coaching Club America Oaks at Saratoga on July 23.
By Scat Daddy out of the Houston mare Miss Hot Salsa, Daddy's Lil Darling was bred in Kentucky by her owner, Nancy Polk's Normandy Farm. The 3-year-old filly is trained by Kenny McPeek.
Michael Kleier, assistant to trainer Kenny McPeek: It’s been wonderful. I’ve been really working to get this filly to relax instead of being so uptight and anxious. We’ve just been working with her to relax and taking her with the pony. Actually the pony is out of a Houston mare too (like Daddy's Lil Darling). He’s made seven dollars and she’s made $700,000, almost a million now. Just shows you what the breed can do. We've been working on getting her to relax, get her appetite good and make her happy." Kleier added that the atmosphere at Kentucky Downs suits the filly.
Julien Leparoux: “This was the first time I rode her on the grass. She traveled very good, all the way on the bridle. When I got her outside, she just cruised to the leaders, did it very easy and kept on going very nicely. She did it very impressive today. She did it on her own, I never really asked her for anything. She’s a nice filly. She finished fourth in the Belmont Oaks on the grass, so she’s a nice filly and today she did it very impressive.”
Owner Nancy Polk: “It’s a wonderful feeling. If I had any doubts about her ability going forth, this dispelled all of them. She won with authority today, and that was very exciting to see. That did not work out well at all (at Epsom). I have to say, it was one of the more disappointing days in my life, to have gone all that way and then to have her not even be able to start was really a blow. Something I would not likely do again.”
David Carroll, assistant trainer of Summer Luck (second): Course record. She ran a super race, and there’s a big one in her, hopefully sooner rather than later. She was ready to run today. Jose said he had a lot of horse, and Julien went by him easy. So all the credit goes to the winner. We’ll try again. You can’t beat them when a horse runs like that. All you can do is admire them."