Eastern Invaders Go Grade I Hunting In American Oaks

December 24, 2022

(Salimah, The Winter Memories). (Joe-Labozzetta)

Santa Anita Stable Notes By Victor Ryan

ARCADIA, Calif.—Led by Chad Brown’s 7-2 morning-line favorite Salimah (IRE), a quintet of Eastern-based fillies have made their way to The Great Race Place to chase Grade I glory in the $300,000 American Oaks at 1 1/4 miles on turf on Monday.

The Oaks will mark the graded-stakes debut for Salimah, who has lured the services of top jockey Flavien Prat for the Oaks. She enters with three wins in four starts for her four-time Eclipse Award winning trainer, which includes most recently the Nov. 13 Winter Memories going 1 1/16 miles over yielding turf at Aqueduct. By the Scat Daddy stallion El Kabeir, the Irish-bred will try to provide Brown with a third American Oaks win in five years

Skims (GB), winner of the Oct. 15 Sand Point at Aqueduct last out, also comes west for trainer “Shug” McGaughey. As does Mise En Scene, a recent European import who will be making her first start for trainer Brendan Walsh. Mise En Scene came to the U.S. this fall to contest the Nov. 5 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf and checked in fifth for previous trainer James Ferguson.

Eastern-based trainer Graham Motion has a string of 12 horses bedded down at Santa Anita for the first time since its synthetic-track era ended in 2010. Among those are Sparkle Blue and Pizza Bianca, who are both set to contest the Oaks

Sparkle Blue enters with a pair of stakes wins on the resume including the GIII Valley View at Keeneland Oct. 28 in her most recent start. The daughter of Hard Spun is a half sister to Shared Account, who won the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf for Motion.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say she was a little bit of a surprise,” Motion said of Sparkle Blue. “Early on, she won her first start on dirt (in a race taken off the turf) at Colonial Downs and that was a surprise,” Motion said. “But obviously it’s a family we’ve had a lot of success with. So in that respect, it wasn’t surprising. She has improved each time we have stepped her up in competition.”

He added the Oaks was targeted for Sparkle Blue soon after her win in the Valley View.

“It’s the last chance for a Grade I against 3-year-olds, it’s a distance that should suit her and she’s still lightly raced, which I think is important,” Motion said.

Joel Rosario, who was aboard for the Valley View win, will again be in the irons.

Pizza Bianca winning the 2021 BC Juvenile Turf. (Eric Kalet)

Pizza Bianca gained international acclaim last year when winning the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf for trainer Christophe Clement. Just one for five this year, she shipped to Southern California late last month and took on older horses in the Grade I Matriarch at Del Mar Dec. 4. She finished third. As part of a pre-arranged agreement with Clement and celebrity chef owner Bobby Flay, Pizza Bianca was subsequently transferred to Motion’s care to prepare for the Oaks.

“I’ve trained for Bobby off and on, and he and Christophe approached me and asked since I was stabled (at Santa Anita) if I could help them out,” Motion said

He added he came away encouraged with Pizza Bianca’s Matriarch run. “It was a brave effort. I mean, to be honest she was probably a little unlucky,” Motion said.

The American Oaks goes as the 11th and final race on Monday. Post time is scheduled for 4:11 p.m.

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