Sarah Sis will be the first Kentucky Oaks starter for trainer Ingrid Mason, who is in her sixth consecutive year of training on her own. Mason started out as an exercise rider, a gig that took her to Dubai for Sheikh Mohammed before returning stateside to ride as a jockey in California for five years.
Mason walked away from the industry for a few months but found horses calling her back. Not long after Mason struck out on her own in Florida, Hurricane Wilma destroyed her barn and wiped out her horses. On Friday, Mason will saddle her most successful runner since rebuilding.
“I think when you're successful, the business comes to you,” said Mason. “When you win races, people notice. I'm appreciative of my owners.”
Sarah Sis, a Sharp Humor daughter owned by Joe Ragsdale, comes to Friday's Oaks out of a fifth-place effort in the Grade 3 Fantasy. Before that, she was never off the board in six starts and gave Mason her first graded stakes win as a trainer with the Grade 3 Honeybee at Oaklawn Park.
Mason said Sarah Sis's easy morning works under Julio Felix are no indication of the filly's abilities; she prefers Felix's easygoing style in workouts because she'd rather horses save themselves for the afternoons. Felix told Mason after Sarah Sis's maiden victory that the horse was special, and Mason said the horse has convinced her they belong in a Grade 1.
“The filly's doing great. She couldn't be doing any better,” said Mason. “It's just a matter of whether she can handle the competition and the distance.”
One of Sarah Sis's biggest qualifiers is her versatility; while Mason doesn't expect Stevens to send the horse to the front early, she can run with pacesetters or well off the lead with a strong closing kick if needed.
Off the track, Mason estimates Sarah Sis is as sweet a horse as she's ever trained, and is as people-oriented as they come; that sweetness may be a reflection of Mason's program, which seeks to get horses out of their stalls as much as possible to stave off boredom. Sarah Sis seems plenty relaxed…just don't house her near the dumpsters.
“I had her at Arlington and they took out the trash behind her stall, and she just went berserk,” said Mason. “We had to move her. Some horses, when they hear something and can't see it, it agitates them a bit.”
Gary Stevens will be in the irons Friday when Sarah Sis will break from the 11th post position. Mason has not decided where she will watch the action.
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