French import Azaelia will seek to build on her first U.S. victory when she takes on 13 other 3-year-old fillies in the $75,000 Tropical Park Oaks, scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on turf.
“She's been training great. She's up at Payson Park,” trainer Shug McGaughey said. “She's done everything great. So far, so good,”
Azaelia launched her career in France, where she finished second in the Prix Vanteaux (G3) before finishing fourth behind multiple-Group 1 winner La Cressoniere in the Prix de Diane Longines (G1) at Chantilly in her last two starts before coming to North America. Favored in the Valley View Stakes (G3) at Keeneland Oct. 21, she was never a factor in her U.S. debut and final start for trainer Simone Brogi.
Allen Stable and Peter M. Brant's filly was transferred to McGaughey following the Valley View and experienced instant success by winning an optional claiming allowance at Aqueduct Nov. 19 despite adversity. She was bumped hard while advancing along the inside and was checked in traffic caused by a fallen rival on the turn into the stretch.
“It ended up being a funny race because a horse fell in the race. We were making our run and I said, 'oh,' but she sustained her run,” McGaughey said. “I think she's a filly that's got a big future.”
Azaelia prevailed by a length over Family Meeting, who was also entered in Saturday's race at Gulfstream, in her impromptu first start for McGaughey.
“We were impressed with what we saw and how she handled herself,” said McGaughey of Azaelia's pre-race preparation. “I hadn't really planned on running her, but she got to training so well, we said, 'Well, let's give her a chance. The race is there for her.'”
Julien Leparoux was named to ride Azaelia for the first time.
Glen Hill Farm's Family Meeting will seek to win Saturday for the first time in seven starts since winning the Jimmy Durante (G3) at Del Mar in November 2015. The Tom Proctor-trained filly with an explosive late kick has been stakes-placed in three of her six losses since earning graded-stakes credentials at Del Mar.
Jose Lezcano is scheduled to ride the daughter of Sky Mesa for the first time.
Michael Maker-trained Try Your Luck also has a strong stakes resume, which includes a 7 ½-length triumph in the $200,000 Dueling Grounds Oaks at Kentucky Downs in her most recent start.
The daughter of Lookin At Lucky, who was claimed for $75,000 by Out of This World Racing LLC at Gulfstream in February, has finished first in four of her last six starts. After breaking her maiden at Keeneland in April and winning an allowance at Churchill in May, Try Your Luck finished third in the Regret (G3) at Churchill and third in the Ta Wee at Indiana Grand. She got back on track to win the Pucker Up (G3) at Arlington by a nose, only to be disqualified, but she got to keep the winner's purse for the Dueling Grounds Oaks next time out.
“She prefers to be covered up. There were a couple races at Churchill and Indiana that she was stuck inside and couldn't run her race and still run credible,” said Maker, who named Corey Lanerie to ride the Kentucky-bred filly Saturday.
Those fillies meriting strong consideration in the Tropical Park Oaks include Todd Pletcher-trained Shaan, who is scheduled to make her first U.S. start after winning two of six starts in Europe; Gypsy Eyes, a European import who won an allowance at Gulfstream and the Cellars Shiraz at Gulfstream Park West for trainer Patrick Biancone in her first two starts in the U.S.; the Christophe Clement-trained duo of Stella Rose and Welcoming; and Graham Motion-trained runners Okana and Ultra Brat; as well as the Chad Brow-trained pair of Penjade and Island Reward.
Insta Erma, Artesian and Rontos Lily round out the field.
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