Wicked Halo Returns a Winner in Inaugural $250K Matron

March 31, 2023

Wicked Halo takes the Matron in her first start since the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (Coady Photography)

Oaklawn Park Press Release

HOT SPRINGS, Ark.— Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC’s Wicked Halo, making her first start since a narrow third in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1), was back in the winner’s circle after an impressive victory in Friday’s inaugural $250,000 Matron Stakes.

Favorite Wicked Halo, with Tyler Gaffalione in the irons, was third early as Pretty Birdie battled with I’m the Boss of Me through early fractions of :21 and :44 1/5 for the first half mile. The winner dropped back to fourth and last around the turn for home, but was all fight through the stretch as she wore down second-choice Matareya, who assumed the lead entering the stretch. Wicked Halo drew off late to win by three-quarters of a length in 1:09 1/5 over a track rated muddy.

“Talented group of mares and the exciting part is for her to come back running that fast,” winning trainer Steve Asmussen said. “She finished off the year in spectacular fashion. I think she had four stakes wins and then was third in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. She got a little break off that. For her to come back and beat a filly the quality of Matayera in such a competitive fashion is very exciting.”

Wicked Halo, a multiple Grade 2 winning 4-year-old daughter of Gun Runner, improved her record to 7-0-4 from 12 starts and is now a millionaire with $1,032,700 in purse earnings. She returned $4 and $2.20 as the even money favorite. There was no show or exotic wagering after the scratches of Dealing Justice, Samurai Charm and Teddy’s Barino.

Live racing resumes Saturday for a 13-race card highlighted by the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) and three other stakes races. The richest day in Oaklawn’s history begins with a 12:15 p.m. first post. The Arkansas Derby is race 12 at approximately 6:24 p.m.

Stakes Quotes:

Winning trainer Steve Asmussen (Wicked Halo): “Talented group of mares and the exciting part is for her to come back running that fast. She finished off the year in spectacular fashion. I think she had four stakes wins and then was third in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. She got a little break off that. For her to come back and beat a filly the quality of Matayera in such competitive fashion is very exciting.”

“It’s very exciting for her to start her 4-year-old season running as fast as she did. I don’t think we should be surprised with that with the Gun Runners, knowing how he was. He was a fabulous 2-year-old, a great 3-year-old and an unbeatable 4-year-old. And I think the Gun Runners are showing as they age they also continue to get faster.”

(This was a great race for Oaklawn to come up with) “Absolutely. The timing of it is ideal for the Churchill Downs’ (Grade 1) Derby City Distaff at seven-eighths” on Kentucky Derby day.

Winning jockey Tyler Gaffalione (Wicked Halo): “She had a very impressive season last year. Got a nice freshening. Everybody said she had been working great. She came out and ran a great race. Very impressive.”

Jockey Flavien Prat, second on Matareya: “She ran a good race. She broke well and I was in the pocket. Made a big move down on the inside. I thought I was home free and just got outrun.”

Jockey David Cabrera, fourth of Pretty Birdie: “Missed the break a little bit and she’s a horse than you can’t rate. Having the other one (I’m the Boss of Me) right next to her the whole way didn’t help.”

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