Trainer Brad Cox has gone over it his mind several times, trying to figure out why Sassy Sienna, so consistently good all winter, threw in a clunker in her last start the way she did.
The only explanation he has come up with – and the common thread with the other poor performance of her 11-race career — is that she does not seem to like night racing.
That's something Sassy Sienna, a Grade 3 winner, won't have to worry about Saturday at Monmouth Park as part of a field of nine 3-year-old fillies in the Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks, the feature race on a 12-race card.
“I don't have an answer for why she ran poorly in Iowa,” Cox said, referring to a seventh-place finish in the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks on July 5, Sassy Sienna's most recent start. “The only thing I can attribute it to is night racing. She didn't run well there under the lights. I say that because she also didn't perform well at Remington Park in December (when she was a well-beaten fifth) under the lights.
“I kind of hope she's like me and just doesn't like night racing.”
Despite being in the shadow of stable mate Monomoy Girl, the sport's top 3-year-old filly, Sassy Sienna has carved out a niche for herself among sophomore distaffers, with career earnings of $405,100. The highlight so far was her victory in the Grade 3 Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Parkon April 13 at the same mile and a sixteenth distance as the $100,000 Monmouth Oaks.
Overall, the daughter of Midshipman-Tap For Gold, has a 3-2-2- line from 11 career starts. Her only other off-the-board finish was when she was sixth in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, won by Monomoy Girl.
“She's sound and she's been consistent,” said Cox. “Now we're trying to see if we can get her back on track.”
Following the Kentucky Oaks, Cox gave Sassy Sienna two months off leading into the Iowa Oaks. It was her first extended break since she started her career in July of 2017, when she started 10 times over the next 11 months.
“She has pretty much run non-stop since we started with her. We'd never given her a break,” said Cox. “So maybe the layoff was a reason for how she performed in Iowa. We thought the layoff would be a positive. It wasn't on race day.
“I don't know what happened that day. She was training extremely well leading up to that race, spitting fire. Hopefully she will rebound and give a good account of herself at Monmouth Park on Saturday.”
The Mark Casse-trained Gio Game, who has been chasing Monomoy Girl to no avail in her past two starts, will take some beating, Cox said.
“Overall, I think it's a very competitive field,” he said. “Gio Game has been racing against Monomoy Girl, so she is stepping back in class. That should help her. But Sassy Sienna has been working very well recently at Churchill Downs. I think she is ready to rebound.”
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