Please Flatter Me remains on target for the $250,000 Busher Invitational on Gotham Day March 9, as trainer Mark Reid said the undefeated Munnings filly remains scheduled for one final workout at Pimlico before shipping to Aqueduct Racetrack.
After starting her career 3-for-3, including a 5 ¾-length win in the seven-furlong Gin Talking last out on December 29 at Laurel, Please Flatter Me will look to make an impression in her 3-year-old debut when she competes in the Busher, offering 50-20-10-5 qualifying points to the top-four finishers towards the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 3 at Churchill Downs.
She breezed a bullet five furlongs in 58.60 seconds in her previous work at Pimlico on February 16.
“She's training phenomenally and had a great work last week,” Reid said. “She'll probably have one more breeze and a blowout, but we're planning on coming.”
Owned by Madaket Stables and the Heider Family, Please Flatter Me has successfully stretched out in distance in every race, winning her debut in a five-furlong maiden special weight by 8 ½ lengths on October 13 at Penn National.
Stepping up in class, she won the six-furlong Blue Mountain Juvenile Fillies by four lengths on November 21 at Penn before earning a personal-best 78 Beyer in the Gin Talking. Reid said the one-turn Busher mile could suit her style.
“You never know about two turns, but I'm very confident that a mile around one turn, she'll be murder because she has plenty of natural speed and will dial it down a notch anytime you ask her,” Reid said.
Bred in Pennsylvania by Mary Katherine Haire, Please Flatter Me has grown into her sizable frame, according to her connections. She also has been comfortable shipping.
“She's putting on the muscle now,” Reid said. “She's 16.1 [hands] and well over a thousand pounds. There's enough of her there. She's going to be able to stand the gap.
“Her first two races, I shipped her from Pimlico two hours to Penn, and she never picked her head up,” he added. “She has that attitude of, 'OK, is this what we're doing? All right.' It's never a problem.”
Reid, who saddled his first winner in 1976, according to Equibase, has won more than 1,700 races in his career but did not train from 2001-13, working as a bloodstock agent in the interim before returning to training with two starters in 2014.
Reid has five graded stakes win to his record, with the last coming in the 1992 Grade 3 Vineland. Please Flatter Me has the potential to end the 27-year drought.
“I'm sure if it was back in the day, I'd be a bundle of nerves, but I'm just enjoying it,” Reid said. “She's easy to train, which makes my job easier. The main thing is the [winning or losing] won't change my life one way or another. But it's going to give me great joy to do something I love; that's why I got back into training.
“To be honest, I didn't think I'd stumble across one of these [potential stakes winners]. I was fortunate enough to do it and I'm tickled pink to be training her. She's so good. She's such a nice filly.”
After breaking her maiden in the $100,000 Busanda at 1 1/8 miles in her fourth career start to earn 10 qualifying points to the Kentucky Oaks, Repole Stable's Always Shopping will take the next step towards the premier race for 3-year-old fillies by targeting the $250,000 Busher Invitational on March 9.
A Repole Stable homebred sired by multiple graded stakes winner Awesome Again and out of multiple graded stakes placed mare Stopshoppingmaria, Always Shopping made an inauspicious debut on July 29 at Saratoga Race Course, where she ran fifth.
Following a pair of seconds in the fall at Belmont and Aqueduct, she stalked a field of nine to win the Busanda by 1 ¼ lengths.
“She came out of her race in the Busanda in good shape,” said Byron Hughes, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. “She's back to the track galloping and her energy is good. We're happy with her overall appearance so far.”
With one win and two seconds in three starts at a mile or more, Hughes thinks Always Shopping just needed some distance to begin to show the best of her ability.
“It took her a little time to get acclimated to racing, but she's always been wanting to go two-turns,” said Hughes. “Timing wise, things worked out taking a shot in the Busanda and thankfully things worked out, so we'll look to take the next step here targeting the Busher.”
Calumet Farm's Oxy Lady looks poised to shrug off her last effort as she readies for the $250,000 Busher Invitational trainer Jack Sisterson said.
Oxy Lady ran sixth in the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra, getting caught four-wide on the first turn and settling towards the rear in the 1 1/6-mile route at Fair Grounds on February 16. Cutting back to a mile in the 40th running of the Busher for 3-year-old fillies, Oxy Lady will look to recapture the form that saw her start her career with two wins through her first four starts.
“She came out of her last race in great shape,” Sisterson said. “She seems a lot more focused. I think you can put a line through the Rachel Alexandra. She did everything right leading up to that race. I take the blame for not having her 100 percent ready.”
Bred in Kentucky, Oxy Lady is 2-1-1 in six career starts, including 2-0-1 in three starts at the Busher distance. She will now be looking to earn points towards qualifying for the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, with the Busher awarding 50-20-10-5 points to the top-four finishers.
Oxy Lady will be making her first appearance at Aqueduct since winning the Grade 3 Tempted at a mile on November 2, coming from off the speed to post a five-length win and a personal-best 94 Beyer Speed Figure.
“She has tactical speed and can be behind the pace. She's pretty versatile,” Sisterson said.
The daughter of Oxbow gave Sisterson his first career graded stakes win in the Tempted. The 34-year-old native of England was an assistant to Doug O'Neill, including playing a key role during I'll Have Another's 2012 Triple Crown bid that included a victory in that year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness before a tendon injury forced his retirement.
Out on his own since 2018, Sisterson entered the weekend with six career wins in 67 starts. Earning him his first stakes trip to the winner's circle as a head trainer has created a special bond with Oxy Lady, according to her conditioner.
“It's great, she's done all the hard work,” Sisterson said. “There's a bond there. My staff did a great job to have her ready. I can't take too much credit. She's a nice filly.”
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