Benefitting from a stalking trip and the graded stakes experience she gained in her last start, Skeptic took full advantage of both to score the biggest victory of her young career, winning the $100,00 Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks on Saturday at Monmouth Park by three-quarters of a length over the late-closing Sassy Sienna.
Skeptic, the 4-1 third choice in the field of nine 3-year-old fillies, stayed on the flanks of front-running speedster Starcloud until jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr., gave her the cue to go midway through the final turn of the mile and a sixteenth feature race.
She took command at the top of the stretch and then held off 2-1 favorite Sassy Sienna. It was another 3½ lengths back in third to Gio Game.
After winning two straight races, including an impressive allowance score at Churchill Downs on May 13 against older horses, Skeptic was a flat fourth, beaten 11½ lengths, in the Grade 3 Indiana Oaks on July 14.
But trainer George “Rusty” Arnold and Hernandez said she earned invaluable experience from that first graded stakes try.
“She wasn't quite ready for her last race at that time,” said Hernandez, Jr., who has ridden Skeptic in her last four races. “She found out when you go into a graded stakes for the first time the water gets a little deeper. It may have been a little too deep for her then. But she got a lot of experience out of that race and she showed it today.
“Coming into this race we were hoping our filly would show up like she can – and she did.”
Arnold said the daughter of Tiznow-Clear Thinking had given hints of a strong performance in the Monmouth Oaks with the way she had been working in the morning recently. Coupled with the experience from the Indiana Oaks he was cautiously optimistic that a big effort was coming.
“We really liked her going into the Indiana Oaks and we knew that beating Rodolphe Brisset's filly (winner Talk Veuve To Me) was going to be hard,” said Arnold. “She found out stepping up like she did can be tougher than her previous two races were. But she gained a lot of experience. She has been training great at Saratoga leading up to this so I felt really good about her chances but you never know until they get it done.
“We were hoping to be right behind a horse or two and it worked out just right. It was one of those days she had a good day.”
Skeptic, who won for the third time in seven career starts, covered the distance in 1:43.84. She paid $10.40 to win.
“She's got a pedigree,” said Arnold. “She's going to get better as she goes on. I think she has a chance to be a good one.”
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