There will be even more Canadian flavor in the $750,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., after owner/trainer Don Schnell said that multiple stakes winner Escape Clause would run in the 1 1/16-mile race April 14.
Escape Clause has been a win machine in Canada and the Pacific and Mountain time zones, capturing 20 of 30 career starts, including the $100,000 Harry Henson Handicap March 24 at Sunland Park in which she set a track record (1:34) for a mile. Escape Clause is an 18-time stakes winner, owns track records for 6 ½ furlongs and 7 furlongs at Century Downs in Canada and finished second against males in the $75,000 Manitoba Derby in 2017 at Assiniboia Downs in Canada.
“She's been quite a story,” said Schnell, who is based at Turf Paradise in suburban Phoenix. “She knows how to win, but we're taking on some monsters in the Apple Blossom. But she deserves one try there.”
Schnell said Escape Clause will van to Oaklawn, “probably Sunday or Monday,” and Tyler Baze will ride the 5-year-old Canadian-bred daughter of Going Commando in the Apple Blossom. Baze, a recent addition to the Oaklawn jockey colony, has ridden Escape Clause in her last three starts, including a 5 ½-length victory in the $100,000 La Canada Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 12 at Santa Anita. Escape Clause won the Harry Henson by 7 ¼ lengths.
The Apple Blossom, among the country's most prestigious events for older fillies and mares, closed last Thursday with 18 nominations.
Two other projected Apple Blossom starters recorded workouts Monday morning. Multiple Grade 1 winner Midnight Bisou worked 5 furlongs in 1:01 for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, her first published breeze since winning the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) March 16. The Azeri is the final major local prep for the Apple Blossom. Grade 2 winner Chocolate Martini had a 5-furlong bullet work (:59.40) at Churchill Downs for trainer Tom Amoss. Chocolate Martini, in her 4-year-old debut, was a Feb. 24 allowance winner at Oaklawn.
Wonder Gadot recorded a 5-furlong bullet work (:59) last Saturday morning in preparation for the Apple Blossom. Trained by Mark Casse, Wonder Gadot beat males in the first two legs of the Canadian Triple Crown last year, including the $1 million Queen's Plate June 30 at Woodbine. Wonder Gadot won a Sovereign Award as Canada's champion 2-year-old filly in 2017 and is a finalist for champion 3-year-old filly of 2018. Based at Oaklawn since early February, Wonder Gadot finished second in a March 8 allowance race, her 4-year-old debut. Wonder Gadot ran second, beaten a nose, in the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) last year at Oaklawn.
Post positions for the Apple Blossom, which has a record purse this year, will be drawn April 11.
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