Two of the biggest names at the 2019 Oaklawn meeting delivered big performances as heavy favorites almost 3,000 miles apart Saturday afternoon.
Champion Game Winner captured the $150,000 Los Alamitos Derby (G3) for 3 year olds at Los Alamitos for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, while Eclipse Awards finalist Elate defended her title in the $750,000 Delaware Handicap (G2) for fillies and mares at Delaware Park for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.
Game Winner snapped a three-race losing streak in the 1 1/8-mile Los Alamitos Derby, which was a prep for the $1.25 million Travers Stakes (G1) on Aug. 24 at Saratoga.
Game Winner was perfect in four starts last year, clinching an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion 2-year-old male in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) on Nov. 2 at Churchill Downs.
Game Winner began his 3-year-old campaign with a second-place finish, beaten a nose, in the second division of the $750,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) on March 16 at Oaklawn.
The winner, Omaha Beach, captured the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) on April 13 at Oaklawn in his next start and was the morning line favorite for the Kentucky Derby, but missed the race because of minor throat surgery.
The Los Alamitos Derby marked Game Winner’s first start since finishing fifth in the Kentucky Derby.
In the Los Alamitos Derby, Game Winner was five lengths clear at the finish and paid $2.10.
Ridden by Joel Rosario, Game Winner ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.30 over a fast track at the Southern California venue to increase his career earnings to $2,027,500.
The Candy Ride colt (5 for 8 overall) is owned by Gary and Mary West, whose Rockamundo won the 1993 Arkansas Derby at odds of 108-1.
Parsimony, eighth in the second division of the Rebel, finished second in the Los Alamitos Derby.
Elate, a 4 ½-length winner of the Delaware Handicap, has even stronger connections to Hot Springs.
Elate is by Medaglia d’Oro, who broke his maiden at the 2002 Oaklawn meeting for four-time Oaklawn training champion David Vance and returned to win the $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) the following year for Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel.
Elate’s dam, Cheery, a daughter of Distorted Humor, won Oaklawn’s $60,000 American Beauty Stakes in her final career start in 2013.
Mott was Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 1986.
Bred and owned by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, Elate has raced three times at Oaklawn, finishing third in the $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies in 2017, second in the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) on March 16 and third in the $750,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) on April 14.
Following the Honeybee, Elate recorded blowout victories in the $600,000 Alabama Stakes (G1) at Saratoga (5 ½ lengths) and the $400,000 Beldame Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park (8 ¼ lengths) to become a finalist for an Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old filly.
Elate only ran twice in 2018 because of a leg injury. She won the Delaware Handicap in her 2018 debut.
Ridden Saturday by Jose Ortiz, Elate ($2.60) ran 1 ¼ miles over a fast track in 2:02.51.
Apple Blossom runner-up Escape Clause was second, with Blue Prize, seventh in the 2018 Azeri, a head farther back in third.
Elate has a 7-5-2 record from 16 lifetime starts and earnings of $2,098,775. Elate had already earned automatic berth in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) with a victory in the $250,000 Fleur de Lis Stakes (G2) June 15 at Churchill Downs.
The Distaff is Nov. 2 at Santa Anita.
Cheery was also bred and campaigned by Claiborne Farm and Dilschneider.
Give Me a Break
Klein Racing’s unbeaten homebred Break Even hasn’t slowed down since winning her stakes debut, the $150,000 Purple Martin on March 30 at Oaklawn.
Sunday afternoon at Saratoga, the speedy Break Even, in her turf debut, was a front-running one-length winner of the $100,000 Coronation Cup for 3-year-old fillies.
Break Even (6 for 6) recorded her fourth consecutive stakes victory for Brad Cox, annually among Oaklawn’s leading trainers.
Ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, favored Break Even ($4.20) ran 5 ½ furlongs over a firm turf course in 1:01.59, a little more than a second off the course record.
The victory raised her career earnings to $424,900.
Break Even debuted New Year’s Day at Fair Grounds, winning an off-the-turf event by five front-running lengths.
After winning the Purple Martin in her third career start, Break Even captured the $250,000 Eight Belles Stakes (G2) on May 3 at Churchill Downs and the $150,000 Jersey Girl Stakes on June 9 at Belmont Park.
Klein Racing also campaigned Break Even’s sire, Country Day, who won the $60,000 Hot Springs Stakes in 2010 at Oaklawn.
March 23 Oaklawn allowance winner Pioneer Spirit ($6.60) captured the $100,000 Michael G. Schaefer Memorial Stakes for the second consecutive year Saturday at Indiana Grand.
Third in the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) on April 13 and $250,000 Oaklawn Mile on May 3, Pioneer Spirit is owned by prominent Arkansas automobile dealer Steve Landers and trained by Brad Cox.
Landers is a member of the Arkansas Racing Commission.
The Cox-trained Mylady Curlin ($2.60), a March 17 Oaklawn allowance winner, captured the $100,000 Mari Hulman George Memorial Stakes Saturday at Indiana Grand.
It was her fourth consecutive victory.
Oaklawn-raced Sundaysatthebeach and Chocolate Kisses finished second and third, respectively, in the $200,000 Indiana Oaks (G3) for 3-year-old fillies Saturday at Indiana Grand.
Chocolate Kisses won the $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) on March 9 at Oaklawn.
Vexatious, third in the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies in 2017 at Oaklawn, finished second in the $150,000 Modesty Handicap (G3) Saturday at Arlington Park.
Oaklawn-raced Math Wizard finished third in the $500,000 Indiana Derby (G3) for 3-year-olds Saturday at Indiana Grand.
Oaklawn-raced Wyatt’s Town finished third in the $125,000 Vigil Stakes (G3) on Sunday at Woodbine.