Gary and Mary West's sophomore filly Family Tree won the G3 Iowa Oaks just over two weeks ago, but that didn't stop her from storming home the three-length victor in Saturday's G2 Indiana Oaks at Indiana Grand. The daughter of Smart Strike covered 1 1/16 miles over the fast main track in 1:44.46 for trainer Wayne Catalano under the guidance of jockey Julien Leparoux.
“Let me tell you something, the way she (Family Tree) looked and was acting in the stall, and the way she came back and worked — just galloping she went in 47 (for a half-mile) no problem,” said Catalano. “You don't want to do too much coming back in two weeks, but that's how she was. So the way she trained and everything, she looked so good – bright eyed, eating good, training good – if you don't go now, I mean, when do you do it?”
Longshot Sweet Legacy jumped out of the gates on top of the eight-filly field to take an easy lead, but she was pressured immediately by the Bob Baffert shipper Emmzy on her outside. Leparoux and Family Tree kept a close eye on those proceedings from third, maintaining clear sailing along the outside while never more than a length off the leader. Mines and Magic was tucked in along the rail beside those three, a bit rank while blocked behind the leaders while chasing fractions of :24.37 and :49.88.
As Emmzy made her move to take over the lead on the far turn, Leparoux simply kept Family Tree to task alongside her. Approaching the straightaway, Family Tree exploded past her west coast rival and floated home under a hand ride, crossing the wire three lengths in front of Emmzy. Mines and Magic was able to get up for third, and Dothraki Queen closed from the rear of the field to be fourth.
“With the post we had, there was some speed in the race but we had a good post, so we sat right next to it,” explained Leparoux. “We didn't want to be too far from Baffert (Emmzy). We got a great trip, but with that post we were expecting it, and she won very easily today. All the way around I could do whatever I wanted.”
Bred in Kentucky by Dell Ridge Farm and Sam-Son Farm, Family Tree was a $225,000 yearling purchase at the Keeneland September Sale. The Indiana Oaks is her second graded victory, and her fourth overall from nine career starts. She boasts career earnings of nearly $430,000.
“I would think they'd be looking for a Grade I somewhere,” said Catalano. “But we'll see. We'll talk to Bennie (Glass, the Wests' racing manager) and the Wests (Gary and Mary West). So far they've been right. I stepped up to the plate and took a chance, everybody is like, 'sometimes you've got to do it.' To be honest with you, it was my idea – now that she won (laughed Catalano).”
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