As per usual, trainer Bob Baffert is loaded with talent this spring, with the likes of unbeaten Authentic, Nadal, and Charlatan all eyeing the now postponed Kentucky Derby.
While those colts are justifying their hype and proving themselves class stars at the moment, the horse that benefits the most from the move is Gamine. The leggy, oversized daughter of Into Mischief earned an 87 Beyer Speed Figure in her highly anticipated debut, and Baffert himself had said she wouldn’t have been ready for the regularly scheduled Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1), which is now September 4 at Churchill Downs.
Gamine was billed as a star well before she debuted. A $220,000 yearling, she cost a cool $1.8 million when Michael Lund Petersen bought her from consignor Bobby Dodd at the Fasig Tipton Midatlantic May sale of Two Year Olds in Training last year. It was a record price for the sale after an eighth of a mile work in :10 flat. Her athleticism and speed were the selling points; dam Peggy Jane, by Kafwain, was a stakes-placed runner for Steve Asmussen before moving to the barn of Chad Brown, but there are no other stakes horses in the immediate female family.
Due to her size, it is not surprising she took so long to get to the races. Gamine wasn’t the fastest Baffert worker ever, but it was her effortless action that drew wow reviews. She was hailed as a freak well before she debuted, and not surprisingly went to the post as the 1-9 choice in a field of four.
Under Drayden Van Dyke, she went to the lead immediately and never looked back, strolling home in a canter. She finished 6 ¼ lengths clear of stablemate Reem while geared down.
Running a Kentucky Oaks without a healthy Gamine would be disappointing, despite the strength of the current three-year-old filly crop. Louisiana standout Finite has won five in a row, and looks to add a sixth this weekend in the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) at the Fair Grounds. Divisional champion and Breeders’ Cup winner British Idiom was looking to the Ashland at Keeneland, but once that meet was canceled she is rerouting to the Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park.
The Santa Anita fillies are a brilliant group even without Gamine. The Richard Baltas-trained Venetian Harbor won the Las Virgenes Stakes (G2) by 9 ¼ lengths, and dual Grade 1 placed Donna Veloce won the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel by more than four lengths despite stumbling at the start. They are both eyeing the Santa Anita Oaks (G2) on April 4, which is where Gamine may surface as well.
Churchill Downs has said they will be adding more points prep races for the Derby and Oaks in late spring and summer. Look for Gamine to surface in those races and be a presence in the big dance in September.