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Sacred Life draws away to win Oceanport Stakes

Sacred Life scored his first stakes victory in the United States on Sunday at Monmouth Park, overhauling Irish Strait in the stretch and drawing clear to win the $100,000 Oceanport Stakes by four lengths.

French-bred Sacred Life ($4.40), a 5-year-old son of Siyouni, moved to the United States last year to race for Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables, Wonder Stables, and Bethlehem Stables. The horse began his career in his native France, winning the Group 3 Prix Thomas Bryon in 2017 and placing in multiple group stakes events in 2018.

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He has now won twice from six U.S. outings for trainer Chad Brown, with his other victory coming in an allowance race last fall at Keeneland. Grade 2-placed at both Saratoga and Del Mar, the Oceanport marked his first start since finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational in January.

“I wasn’t worried about the” layoff, assistant trainer Luis Cabrera told Monmouth publicity. “He’s a very classy horse. He knows what to do, and he knows where the wire is. He beat a good field. This was a tough race. But this is a good horse, a very classy horse. He ran the same way in Florida in his last start.

He ran good, considering it was a Grade 1. Then Chad gave him a little break. He really closed nicely this race.”

New Jersey-bred Irish Strait, a graded stakes winner at Monmouth Park, had assumed command of the Oceanport through a half-mile in 48.92 seconds and six furlongs in 1:12.53. He took a two-length lead into the stretch and appeared headed for the win off a long layoff. However, Sacred Life, who had been fifth after six furlongs under Monmouth leading rider Paco Lopez, advanced inside on the far turn before angling out for running room straightening into the lane. He easily collared Irish Strait and stormed home to his final margin, stopping the clock in 1:42.13 for the 1 1/16 miles.

Hawkish rallied from fifth in deep stretch to nose out Irish Strait for second.

‘Classy horse’ Sacred Life bests tough field in Monmouth’s Oceanport

In a field that featured four graded stakes winners and a millionaire, Sacred Life – who is neither yet – proved he belongs in that company.

The Chad Brown-trainee stormed home with a rousing stretch run under Paco Lopez and easily drew off to a four-length victory in Sunday’s $100,000 Oceanport Stakes at Monmouth Park.

Idle since a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational on Jan. 25 at Gulfstream Park, Sacred Life showed no ill effects from the layoff, easily besting eight rivals in the 73rd edition of the mile-and-a-sixteenth grass race for 3-year-olds-and up.

“I wasn’t worried about that (the layoff),” said Luis Cabrera, who oversees Brown’s string at Monmouth Park. “He’s a very classy horse. He knows what to do and he knows where the wire is. He beat a good field. This was a tough race. But this is a good horse, a very classy horse.”

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Bred in France, the 5-year-old son of Siyouni-Knyazhna by Montjeu came to Brown from Europe a year ago. In five starts in the United States, he has twice raced against Grade 2 competition and once in a Grade 1.

The Oceanport field consisted of graded stakes winners Synchrony, Hawkish, Eons and Thread of Blue, with the latter having banked more than $1 million in his career.

Hawkish rallied for second, with early pace setter Irish Strait finishing a nose back in third. Time for the mile and a sixteenth over a turf course listed as “good” was 1:42.13.

Lopez, injured in a spill on Saturday’s card that saw the track’s leading rider transported to the hospital, sat patiently in mid-pack with Sacred Life before getting a clear run in the stretch, with track announcer Frank Mirahmadi saying it appeared the horse was “shot out of a cannon” with his eye-catching late move.

At the quarter pole Sacred Life, the 6-5 second choice, was fifth by 3½ lengths.

Lopez said it was just a matter of staying clear and letting the horse do what he does, especially since he was still hurting from his mishap.

“I’m a little sore. My elbow is a little bruised,” said Lopez, who won four races on the card. “I’m very lucky that I am able to come back quickly and then to ride a nice horse like this in a stakes race. He was ready today. I know he’s a classy horse. I just wanted to get some position in the first turn, let him settle and wait. I took him outside because the turf is a little harder there than it is inside.

“I was waiting for (Synchrony, the 11-10 favorite in the betting) but he never showed up, so I just wanted to get my horse clear. I held him as long as could, but he really wanted to go. He showed how much he wanted to run with the way he closed.”

Owned by Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables LLC, Wonder Stables and Bethlehem Stables LLC, Sacred Life returned $4.40 to win.

The victory was his sixth in 15 career starts. He also has six seconds.

County Final Goes from Sales to Tyro Winner’s Circle

Whether in the sales ring or on the racetrack, County Final is commanding attention. The 2-year-old Oxbow colt, who topped the Fasig-Tipton July Horses of Racing Age Sale when purchased for $475,000, picked up his first stakes win for his new connections Aug. 8 by winning the $71,500 Tyro Stakes at Monmouth Park.

Reluctant to load and slower into stride than in two prior starts, races in which he led early, County Final chased the pace for the first time in the Tyro. He settled in second, as the Wesley Ward-trained first-time starter Spicy Marg shot to the lead with an opening quarter-mile in :22.20.

Called into action on the turn by jockey Joe Bravo, he was initially turned back by Spicy Marg, but by midstretch, his seasoning advantage was apparent. He reeled in the leader shortly after a half-mile split in :45.65, and coasted home the final eighth of the five-furlong dash by 4 1/4 lengths. He completed the distance on a fast track in :58.16, paying $2.80 as the favorite.

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“He’s a pretty nice colt. Very mature,” said Bravo. “He really impressed me in the post parade. He’s a very intelligent horse. He relaxed nicely.

“He broke good but that horse inside of us (Spicy Marg) is fast. (She) out-footed us, but it was so impressive at the one-eighth pole. My horse switched leads and he took off.”

Spicy Marg, a filly matched against three males in the Tyro, held second, two lengths ahead of third-place Newyearsblockparty. Beau Bridge completed the order of finish.

The Tyro, originally scheduled for turf but moved to the main track, lost half of its field when Fauci, Baytown Bear, Golden Pal, and Twirling Fire were scratched. Golden Pal and Fauci were the race’s morning-line favorites.

County Final, now owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, William Sandbrook, and Anna Marie Shannon and trained by Steve Asmussen, previously raced for trainer John Ennis, who owned him in partnership with Hayden Noriega and 47 Roses.

Ennis consigned the colt to last month’s sale after a debut maiden victory at Churchill Downs followed by a runner-up finish behind Cazadero in the Bashford Manor Stakes (G3). At Fasig-Tipton he proved a popular commodity, ultimately purchased by West Point with Lane’s End Bloodstock acting as agent.

Saturday he became the first stakes winner from his dam, the Tapit mare Tapajo, who won the six-furlong Goldfinch Stakes and one-mile Panthers Stakes at Prairie Meadows in 2012 for Asmussen. He is one of three winners from his dam, who also as a yearling filly by Keen Ice and foaled a Will Take Charge colt this year.

Bred in Kentucky by Calumet Farm, where Oxbow currently stands for $10,000, the colt was originally bought for $9,500 by Ennis from Ballysax Bloodstock at the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Vanzzy makes Jersey Derby third stakes victory

Vanzzy scored the third stakes victory of his career with help from a ground-saving, well-timed ride from Monmouth Park leading rider Paco Lopez, taking the $100,000 Jersey Derby for 3-year-olds on the turf on Sunday.

Vanzzy ($7.20), who had been on the lead in his prior race, found some cover and saved ground along the inside early, never more thn two lengths off the lead. Graded stakes winner Island Commish took the field through an opening six furlongs in a moderate 1:13.16 on a turf course officially rated firm.

Vanzzy found room along the rail turning for home and shot through to take command in upper stretch. He continued to draw clear from there, hitting the wire 3 1/2 lengths in front.

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“[Trainer Michael Pino] left it up to me, but he said this horse can be on the lead if you need him to be,” Lopez said. “The turf course isn’t really fast – it’s a little soft. I was just so comfortable with him being on the rail and following horses. I just had to wait for the chance to move. He really responded when he got through and was able to run.”

Vanzzy finished the 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.30.

Bye Bye Melvin, who had tracked the pace in second throughout, gamely held off a late run from favored Irish Mias to be second by three-quarters of a length.

Vanzzy, a Verrazano colt who is trained by Pino for owner Daniel Ryan, added the Jersey Derby to two stakes victories on synthetic tracks, as he took the Display Stakes last December at Woodbine and the Rushaway Stakes in March at Turfway Park. He finished third in the Grade 3 Kent Stakes on July 4 on the Delaware Park turf, and was also stakes-placed on dirt as a juvenile.

“This was his best race yet,” Pino said. “You can see he is getting better with each race, especially when we can get him to settle like we did. I have to think about what is next for him, but maybe the [Grade 3] Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs [on Aug. 29]. We’ll play it by ear. He has become a real solid horse.”

Jersey joe dominates at monmouth, honored with foundationdetox.Com jockey of the week award

After leading the Nation in stakes wins, Joe Bravo was voted the Jockeys’ Guild Foundation Detox Jockey of the Week for July 13th – July 19th. The award is voted on by a panel of experts for riding accomplishments by members of the Jockeys’ Guild, the organization which represents more than 950 riders in North America.

As he’s done since the early 1990’s at historic Monmouth Park, New Jersey born Joe Bravo continues to be a force to be reckoned with as he captured three stakes including the $315,000 United Nations Stakes (G1), the $262,500 Molly Pitcher Stakes (G3), and the $76,500 Jersey Girl Handicap.

In the United Nations Stakes, aboard Aquaphobia, Jersey Joe had the seven-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway in a stalking position. While saving ground in the mile and three eights marathon, the veteran rider entertained the perfect trip before splitting horses to win clear for conditioner Michael Maker.

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Returning in the day’s finale, the Molly Pitcher Stakes, Bravo climbed aboard Horologist in the one mile and sixteenth contest on the dirt. Tracking and commencing a bid on the far turn, the New Jersey bred daughter of Gemologist rallied through the stretch under constant urging to draw clear for trainer William Mott.

To complete the weekend, Bravo accepted the mount aboard the Michael Maker trained Bramble Bay in Sunday’s Jersey Girl Handicap, a mile on the turf for Jersey bred fillies and mares. Jersey Joe saved ground aboard the daughter of Bullet Train before angling off the rail to split horses with a sixteenth of a mile remaining and up in time for the victory.

In addition, Bravo finished third in the marquee race of the meet, the TVG.com Haskell Stakes (G1) while producing a mild rally aboard the Tod Pletcher’s Belmont Stakes runner up Dr. Post. Bravo also finished second in the Matchmaker Stakes (G3) and third in the Wolf Hill Stakes.

As the leading rider by total stakes wins (3), Bravo maintained a 36% win percentage while in the money on 73% of his mounts. With four wins, one second and three thirds, his earnings totaled $554,500.

Bravo has won 20 of 212 starts this year and 5,408 of 29,999 career mounts. In 2020, his mounts have earned $1,770,192 and his lifetime earnings exceed $184 million.

Jockey of the Week is sponsored by Foundation Detox, removing the toxins that affect our equine athletes. For more information visit JockeyTalk360.com/FoundationDetox.

JockeyTalk360.com spotlights the riders across North America and around the world who may be the bravest, toughest, and most accomplished of all athletes. The Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week is selected by a vote of representatives of TVGAmerica’s Best RacingThe Daily Racing FormEquibaseHorse Racing NationThe Jockeys’ GuildThe Paulick ReportThe Thoroughbred Daily NewsNational Thoroughbred Racing AssociationNational Turf Writers and BroadcastersThoroughbred Racing AssociationsTurf Publicists of America and Racing Stats & Info on Twitter.

Bravo pilots Aquaphobia to United Nations Stakes triumph

Veteran jockey Joe Bravo and veteran horse Aquaphobia teamed up Saturday at Monmouth Park to take the Grade 1, $300,000 United Nations Stakes.

Aquaphobia, a 7-year-old Mike Maker trainee, made the United Nations his first graded triumph. It came in the son of Giant’s Causeway’s 36th career start.

Bravo, 48, meanwhile won the United Nations for the fifth time, with all those wins coming since 2012.

Aquaphobia broke from post No. 5 in the 1 3/8-mile turf stakes at 10-1 odds. Fellow 10-1 shot Paret went out to the lead, setting unhurried fractions of :24.50, :48.90, 1:14.41 and 1:38.48.

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Coming around the third turn, Bravo had Aquaphobia positioned comfortably along the rail behind the pace setter. Aquaphobia moved up just to the inside of Corelli entering the stretch, one length off Paret.

Once in the stretch, Bravo had the most horse left in the three-way battle. Aquaphobia pulled clear of Corelli, then passed Paret to score by a length.

Aquaphobia covered the 11 furlongs in 2:12.63 and returned $23.40. Paret was second, Corelli third and Arklow – the 6-5 favorite – fourth.

Paradise Farms Corp., David Staudacher, Hooties Racing LLC and Skychai Racing LLC campaign Aquaphobia. Maker claimed the United Nations hero for $62,500 out of a Gulfstream Park race Jan. 26.

“Joe Bravo rode him beautifully,” Maker said of Saturday’s victory. “We had a lot of confidence in the horse coming in and he didn’t let us down. He’s run a mile and quarter in the past in he was successful, but he hasn’t had the opportunity to go that long or longer again. We felt this horse was better than we were getting out of him. I think the distance was the reason.

“He’d been training dynamite, so I was optimistic. Coming out of his last race, the Grade 2 Wise Dan (on June 20 at Churchill Downs), I thought that was a good race. He was beaten less than two lengths. So it looked like he was getting back to where we think he can be. He’s a classy, sound horse who makes it easy.”

Nay Lady Nay Gives Brown Another Matchmaker Win

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

There was a graded turf stakes at Monmouth Park July 18, and two fillies trained by Chad Brown dueled through the final sixteenth to finish 1-2.

The specifics this time was that First Row Partners and Hidden Brook Farm’s Nay Lady Nay edged stablemate Beautiful Lover to prevail by a half-length in the $152,500 WinStar Matchmaker Stakes (G3T) to kick off a slate of five graded stakes on the Haskell Day card.

“I was very pleased with both fillies’ efforts,” Brown said from Saratoga Race Couse. “Both got good trips and kicked nicely.”

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The Matchmaker underscored why Brown has been the Eclipse Award-winning trainer for the past four years, and the female turf champ has resided in his barn the past three. Suffice it to say, with Rushing Fall, Newspaperofrecord, Uni, and Sistercharlie in their stalls this year, four champs in a row is hardly out of the question.

Yet when it comes to turf females, Brown’s barn has depth from top to bottom. Nay Lady Nay and Beautiful Lover completed the Matchmaker exacta as the two betting choices in the field of seven.

He also sent out William Lawrence and Bradley Thoroughbreds’ Tapit Today to finish fourth.

Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Tango Uniform Racing’s Feel Glorious was third for trainer Christophe Clement in a race where the owners of the top three finishers can collect on a total value of $50,000 in stallion seasons to WinStar’s Exaggerator, Take Charge Indy, and Yoshida.

The Matchmaker set up nicely for the top two finishers as Tapit Today pressed the pace-setting Valedictorian through a :47.68 opening half-mile, with Nay Lady Nay and Beautiful Lover third and fourth, respectively, on the final turn of the 1 1/8-mile stakes. As the two speedsters weakened in the stretch, Brown’s two runners went by, with 2-1 favorite Nay Lady Nay ($6.40) prevailing to give the 41-year-old trainer his third win in four years in the stakes and fourth in six years.

“She’s a nice filly, and she showed some nice speed,” jockey Paco Lopez said. “Chad has done a great job with her.”

The victory was the fourth in seven starts for the 4-year-old daughter of No Nay Never out of the English Channel mare Lady Ederle who has earned $356,180. Bred in Ireland by Stephen Sullivan, she was bought by Hidden Brook for $210,000 from the Eddie Woods consignment at the 2018 Ocala Breeders’ Sales March Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training.

Eighth in the May 30 Old Forester Mint Julep Stakes (G3T) in her only other 2020 start, though she was only beaten by two lengths, Nay Lady Nay closed her 3-year-old campaign with a win in the Mrs. Revere Stakes (G2T).

A full sister to group 2 winner Arizona, Nay Lady Nay is the second grade/group stakes winner from Lady Ederle’s three foals to race.

Her dam also has an unraced 2-year-old filly named Lady Peoria by Estidhkaar.

Paul Pompa Jr. and Gary Tolchin’s 3-1 second choice, Beautiful Lover, a 4-year-old daughter of Arch ridden by Joe Bravo who was fourth in the Gamely Stakes (G1T) in her previous start, finished three-quarters of a length ahead of Feel Glorious, a Bated Breath 4-year-old.

Jockey Paco Lopez Looking Forward To Strong Competition At Monmouth Meet

The competition may change from one summer to the next but the goal never does for Paco Lopez. Once he arrives at Monmouth Park he does so with a single-minded objective: To be the leading rider.

With his right thumb fully healed following surgery on April 14, Lopez has his sights set on a seventh riding title when Monmouth Park’s 75th season of racing gets underway on Friday, July 3.

“I want to try to win it again. I come to Monmouth Park thinking that every year,” said Lopez.

The native of Veracruz, Mexico, notched his sixth Monmouth Park jockey title a year ago, leaving him behind only Joe Bravo (13 titles) in number of titles won at the Jersey Shore oval.

But last year’s finish atop the rider standings at Monmouth Park may have been his most impressive one yet. He didn’t ride at the track until June 15 – six weeks after the meet started. Nik Juarez had built what looked to be a comfortable lead in the standings by then. Lopez caught and passed Juarez on the final weekend of the meet, finishing with 109 victories to Juarez’s 107 in the closest jockey’s race in track history.
The strong finish by Lopez included a victory aboard 14-1 shot Hunter O’Riley in the Grade 1 United Nations.

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“You have to be lucky and stay healthy. But at least this time I will be there from the beginning of the meet, so maybe that will give me an extra advantage,” Lopez said. “I know I will try hard for it. Every year things change so you don’t know what will happen. There are new faces, new clients and new challenges. You have to see what happens.”

Lopez will face some rigorous competition over the 37-day meet, with proven journeyman Victor Carrasaco, the 2013 Eclipse Award-winning apprentice, moving his tack from Maryland. Bravo is back as well, as are Juarez and reliable veterans Jose C. Ferrer and Chris DeCarlo, with Antonio Gallardo and Trevor McCarthy adding to the jockey room’s star power. Gallardo, who had 65 mounts at Monmouth last year, has committed to full-time riding after recently capturing the jockey’s title at Tampa Downs.

“The competition is very good this year,” said Lopez. “But I like competition. The competition pushes me.”

Lopez, who has more than 2,800 career wins, is coming off a career year, having set personal bests for victories (283) and earnings ($10.9 million-plus) in 2019.

He still sports a supporting brace on his right hand to help with his surgically-repaired thumb, which he fractured when he was unseated during a race on April 11 at Gulfstream Park. Lopez returned to riding on May 21, finishing third in the standings at the Gulfstream “Championship Meet” with 96 winners.

“I’m fine. I feel good. I’m ready to go,” he said. “I love being here every summer. I keep coming back because I love Monmouth and I love being in New Jersey in the summer. As long as I stay healthy I think it will be a good meet.”

Highland Glory Nips Cheermeister in Sanibel Island

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Steadfast Stable’s Highland Glory needed every inch of the Gulfstream Park stretch on Saturday, rallying late to nip Cheermeister and win the $100,000 Sanibel Island Stakes Presented by US Foods.

Breaking from post 11 under Paco Lopez at 7/2 odds, Highland Glory settled comfortably into mid-pack as she passed the empty grandstands for the first time. Up front, the speedy Cheermeister held a lengthy advantage while posting opening fractions of :23.46, :47.35, and 1:10.70.

After inching forward through the far turn, Highland Glory turned for home with a clear path and her eyes set on the pacesetter. Rallying toward the front alongside She’s My Type, Highland Glory drifted in slightly but still met Cheermeister’s throat latch in the shadow of the wire.

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Surging ahead in the final jump, the Barclay Tagg trainee crossed a neck clear in a final time of 1:34.42 for the mile-long event over the firm turf course.

Cheermeister held off She’s My Type by a 1/2-length to secure second. Stunny Sky was 3/4 of a length back in fourth, while Walk In Marrakesh necked out How Ironic for fifth.

Lucky Polly, Heir of Light, Seducer, Fujairah, and Onyx completed the order of finish. Lady Panda was scratched, as was Duchess of Sussex, who failed to draw in from the Also Eligibles list.

Highland Glory’s win was her second straight, having broken her maiden here on January 19 while making her first appearance on turf. The 3-year-old daughter of Sky Mesa improved her record to 4-2-1-0 with $106,580 earned.

Highland Glory returned $9.80 to win, $5.60 to place, and $4.20 to show. Cheermeister brought back $6.80 to place and $4.80 to show, while She’s My Type paid $5.20 to show.

Swiss Skydiver breaks fast, cruises to Gulfstream Park Oaks win

Trainer Ken McPeek put jockey Paco Lopez on Swiss Skydiver for Saturday’s Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks because he wanted the filly to be put into the race earlier than she was in the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra last month at Fair Grounds.

Lopez got Swiss Skydiver to the front into the first turn, was able to get away with a soft, uncontested early pace, and then drew away from a stalking Lucrezia to win the Gulfstream Park Oaks by 3 1/4 lengths. Lucrezia held second by a nose over Lake Avenue.

It was a half-length back to Bajan Girl, who was followed, in order, by Spice Is Nice, Dream Marie, Tonalist’s Shape, Spartanka, Mrs. S, Inveterate, Sunset Promise, and Addilyn.

The win was the second from five starts for Swiss Skydiver, a daughter of Daredevil owned by Peter Callahan.

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McPeek expressed confidence in Swiss Skydiver this week because he knew she’d appreciate two turns. She had only one previous two-turn start, that a third behind Finite and British Idiom in the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds.

“She just kept coming around, we finally got a series of two-turn races under her belt, which she’s needed really bad,” McPeek said by phone from Kentucky where he watched the race on television from what he called his “Grade 2 couch.”

“She showed a lot of talent from the beginning,” McPeek added.

The break was key to Swiss Skydiver who got to the front under Lopez with an opening quarter in 24.33 seconds. She maintained a one-length advantage over Lucrezia through a half-mile in 49.12. Lucrezia, under Julien Leparoux, made a run at Swiss Skydiver around the far turn, but Swiss Skydiver had plenty left with which to finish and drew away in the final eighth of a mile.

“She needed to jump a little quicker,” McPeek said. “My assistant [Greg Geier] and I talked about popping her out of the gate. She tended to lag behind a little bit in some of the sprint races. Paco, he’s what I call a lean-forward type of jock. When they load the gate, he doesn’t hesitate. He did a great job today, breaking her out of there and put her in a position where he could steal it.”

Swiss Skydiver covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.54 and returned $20.20 to win.

Tonalist’s Shape, trained by Saffie Joseph Jr., suffered her first defeat after winning her first five career starts. She was wide entering the first turn but was pretty much out of run by the quarter pole and ended up seventh, beaten 11 3/4 lengths.

Spice Is Nice, second to Tonalist’s Shape in the Grade 2 Davona Dale, was in tight quarters entering the first turn, tried to make a run around the turn, but flattened out in upper stretch, beaten 10 lengths.

Swiss Skydiver earned 100 qualifying points toward the Sept. 4 Kentucky Oaks.

McPeek said since his filly has run at Tampa, Fair Grounds, and Gulfstream Park already this winter, she will likely benefit from a little break before gearing up for the summer.

“I think September will be ideal,” McPeek said.

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