Occult draws away to win the Busanda under Dylan Davis (Chelsea Durand)
NYRA Press Office
OZONE PARK, N.Y.— Following a triumphant stakes debut in Saturday’s $100,000 Busanda at Aqueduct Racetrack, a qualifier for the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, Alpha Delta Stables’ Occult will likely set her sights on the Grade 3, $250,000 Gazelle on April 8 at the Big A.
Trained by Chad Brown, Occult earned a career-best 78 Beyer Speed Figure for the nine-furlong Busanda where she also collected 20 points towards the Kentucky Oaks, catapulting her to second place on the leaderboard. The daughter of perennial leading North American sire Into Mischief trails only the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Wonder Wheel, who has amassed 40 points.
Occult received a tactical ride by Dylan Davis from second behind pacesetter Sweetest Princess entering the backstretch and was in command at the stretch call, drawing away to a 3 3/4-length victory over Gambling Girl and Affirmative Lady, a respective third and second in the Grade 2 Demoiselle here on December 3. She entered off a sharp 4 1/4-length maiden victory at second asking going a one-turn mile in December over the Big A main track.
“She was up against a couple runners that were in the Demoiselle. I was surprised that she went off the favorite,” said Jon Clay of Alpha Delta Stables. “She ran well and I think Dylan Davis did a great job of settling her just off the pace and she really ran her race. Her Beyer improved from her last race to this one, so it looks like she’s moving in the right direction. Being able to get the Oaks distance and to win by nearly four lengths, that definitely shows distance is not going to be an issue for her in the future.”
Clay expressed a desire to target the Gazelle, a race he won in 2016 with the Brown-trained Lewis Bay, who finished third in the Kentucky Oaks. The Gazelle is the final local Oaks qualifier, awarding a total of 100-40-30-20-10 points to the top-five finishers. Another viable option for Occult could be the Busher Invitational on March 4 [50-20-15-10-5], which is contested at a one-turn mile.
“I think we want to keep her in New York. She likes Aqueduct and down the road, the Gazelle would be the logical last prep,” Clay said. “I think Chad mentioned yesterday that he didn’t want to turn her back to a mile, but we still have a lot of time to figure that out. We’ll see how she trains over the next month and then make a plan from there. Our goal would be to run in the Gazelle if she stays healthy and she moves forward. I had luck running in the Gazelle with Lewis Bay. That was her last prep before going into the Oaks, so it’s a logical step to stay in New York.”
Clay said he plans on remaining cautiously optimistic.
“There’s still a lot of races to be run and a lot of good horses out there. Some of them may not have even started yet,” Clay said. “Wonder Wheel is a great horse and she’ll get going. There’s a lot of good horses out there, so we just need to worry about our own horse.”
Bred in Kentucky by Peter E. Blum Thoroughbreds, Occult is out of the graded stakes-winning Empire Maker mare Magical Feeling, making her a half-sibling to multiple stakes winner Exulting and stakes-winner Magical. Occult was bought for $625,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.