Amy's Challenge emerged in good order from her narrow victory in the $125,000 Dixie Belle Stakes Saturday at Oaklawn, but next-race plans are pending for the unbeaten 3-year-old filly, trainer Mac Robertson said Sunday morning.
In what was a virtual match race, Amy's Challenge edged Mia Mischief by a neck under regular rider Jareth Loveberry, stretching her winning streak to three in her 2018 debut.
Amy's Challenge beat males twice last year at Canterbury Park in Minnesota, including the $75,000 Shakopee Juvenile Stakes Sept. 16 in her last start. She was a 16 ½-length winner of her Aug. 6 career debut.
Amy's Challenge has never raced beyond three-quarters of a mile, but Robertson said he wants to stretch out the Kentucky-bred daughter of Artie Schiller. Oaklawn's two-turn stakes series for 3-year-old fillies begins with the $125,000 Martha Washington at a mile Feb. 10. It continues with the $200,000 Honeybee (G3) March 10 and $400,000 Fantasy (G3) April 13, both at 1 1/16 miles.
Robertson said Amy's Challenge is “absolutely” a Martha Washington candidate, but nothing is set in stone regarding her next start.
“Personally, I'd like to run March 10 and then April 13,” Robertson said. “We'll see. Good race (Saturday). She was tired at the end. She had four works in four months. I'm hoping she'll improve.”
Amy's Challenge was scheduled to make her two-turn debut in the $400,000 Alcibiades Stakes (G1) Oct. 6 at Keeneland, but Robertson said she “tied up” on consecutive days, a physical ailment that causes severe muscle cramping.
Amy's Challenge bobbled at the start of the Dixie Belle, but quickly recovered and tracked Mia Mischief through blazing fractions of :21.48 for a quarter-mile and :44.49 for a half-mile.
Amy's Challenge (on the outside) and Mia Mischief matched strides through the stretch before the former stuck her head in front near the wire. Amy's Challenge covered 6 furlongs over a fast track in 1:10.61.
“She was all heart down the lane,” Loveberry said Sunday morning while checking in on his prized mount. “Once we engaged that filly, she wasn't giving up. We got to the eighth pole and I could feel her getting a little bit tired.”
Loveberry said the bobble at the break was beneficial to Amy's Challenge, who led virtually every step in both starts last year.
“It actually set it up very nice,” Loveberry said. “She got to sit off it and relax. Showed a different aspect.”
Owned by Robertson's longtime client, Novogratz Racing Stables Inc. (Joseph Novogratz), Amy's Challenge raised her career earnings to $136,800 with the Dixie Belle victory. She was purchased for only $20,000 at Fasig-Tipton's Kentucky Fall Yearling Sale.
Early Sunday morning, Amy's Challenge could be found in her favorite spot – beside the winner's circle, of course – in a round pen outside the Davona Dale barn.
“Life is good,” said Robertson's wife/assistant, Cyndi.
Amy's Challenge was named Canterbury Park's 2017 Horse of the Meet.
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