Photo Credit: Ryan Thompson
G1 Kentucky Oaks Long-Range Goal for Undefeated Filly
First of 98 Stakes Worth $28.6 Million During 2019-20 Championship Meet
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Slam Dunk Racing, Legacy Ranch Inc. and Doug Branham’s Tonalist’s Shape kicked off Gulfstream Park’s 2019-2020 stakes schedule in impressive fashion, drawing off to an easy nine-length win in Saturday’s $75,000 Hut Hut.
The sixth running of the Hut Hut for 2-year-old fillies was the first of six $75,000 stakes on an 11-race Juvenile Showcase Day program that opened the Championship Meet schedule of 98 stakes, 39 graded, worth $28.6 million in purses during an 89-day stand that runs through March 29.
Facing stakes company for the first time in her third career start and second for trainer Saffie Joseph Jr., Tonalist’s Shape ($4.60) completed one mile in 1:36.62 over a fast main track as the 6-5 favorite. Multiple sprint stakes winner Ceci Valentina came on late for second, followed by Filly Jean King, Addilyn, Power Move, Greater Plan and Miss Cheeny.
Arindel’s Filly Jean King jumped out to a quick lead and was in front through a quarter-mile in 24.29 seconds with 7-5 choice Power Move, trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, and Tonalist’s Shape giving closest chase. The half went in a sharp 47.29 as Addilyn took up the inside position from Power Move with Tonalist’s Shape remaining in the clear two wide.
Jockey Samy Camacho sat chilly as Tonalist’s Shape took him up to the leader around the far turn and they assumed the lead once straightened for home, going six furlongs in 1:11.78 and powering through the stretch to open up on their rivals.
“It was visually more impressive than I thought. I knew she was doing well, but she was taking a step up in class,” Joseph, leading trainer at Gulfstream Park West’s recently concluded Fall Turf Festival meet, said. “I saw that Shug’s filly beat a Bill Mott filly that came back and romped. I was afraid of Shug’s filly.
“I was happy that she delivered what she showed in the morning,” he added. “I’m thankful that the owners that bought this filly – they paid a lot of money after her first race – gave her to us. We’re fortunately to have her.”
Tonalist’s Shape, a chestnut daughter of 2014 Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Tonalist, debuted with a 5 ½-furlong maiden special weight victory Sept. 28 at Gulfstream. After being purchased, she rallied for a 2 ¾-length triumph facing winners in an optional claimer going 6 ½ furlongs Oct. 20 at Gulfstream West.
The connections had initially considered trying graded company in the 1 1/16-mile Golden Rod (G2), also Saturday, but opted to stay home due to unfavorable weather forecast in Kentucky.
“I definitely thought that’s what she wants to do – the longer the better. When she works, there’s no bottom to her. I was excited to stretch her out, but I wanted to see to believe. She delivered today,” Joseph said.
“You start dreaming. We were thinking of going to the Golden Rod but we changed because the weather didn’t look good there,” he added. “I’m glad we stayed home today. It was a good education for her again and she did it the right way.”
Ultimately, Joseph would like to make the trip to Kentucky with Tonalist’s Shape for the Kentucky Oaks (G1) in May. The plan is to prep at Gulfstream and target races such as the Forward Gal (G3) Feb. 1, Davona Dale (G2) Feb. 29 and Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) March 28.
“She’ll go through the program here,” Joseph said. “The dream from now would be the [Kentucky] Oaks. We’ll have to work backwards. She going to have to step up again. The Kentucky Oaks is the long-term goal. When you have a filly like her, that’s a dream. You have to have dreams in racing.”