Canadian star Escape Clause arrived Monday night after a 21-hour van ride from her base at Turf Paradise in Phoenix to run in Sunday's $750,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles.
Owner-trainer Don Schnell said Escape Clause left Sunday morning and the lengthy trip, approximately 1,300 miles, was broken up with an overnight stop in Odessa, Texas.
Escape Clause, a 5-year-old Canadian-bred daughter of Going Commando, will represent the first Oaklawn and Grade 1 starter for Schnell, 66, a trainer for 45 years.
“It seems like the older she gets the better she gets,” Schnell said Wednesday morning. “People thought I was crazy to bring her down to Del Mar to run her in a stake there and at Santa Anita. I always had faith in her. I'm used to training $3,000, $4,000 horses. I don't get the chance to train good horses and she developed into a good one. Maybe we're crazy, but I'm going to give her a try at one Grade 1.”
Escape Clause has been a win machine in Canada and the Pacific and Mountain time zones, capturing 20 of 30 career starts, including the $100,000 Harry Henson Handicap March 24 at Sunland Park in her last start when she set a track record (1:34) for a mile. Escape Clause is an 18-time stakes winner, owns track records for 6 ½ furlongs and 7 furlongs at Century Downs in Canada and finished second against males in the $75,000 Manitoba Derby in 2017 at Assiniboia Downs in Canada.
Schnell said Tyler Baze, a recent addition to the Oaklawn jockey colony, will ride Escape Clause in the Apple Blossom, among the country's biggest events for older fillies and mares. Baze has ridden Escape Clause in her last three starts, including a 5 ½-length victory in the $100,000 La Canada Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 12 at Santa Anita. Escape Clause won the Harry Henson by 7 ¼ lengths.
Schnell said Escape Clause had been under consideration for the $400,000 Beholder Mile (G1) March 30 at Santa Anita before racing at the Southern California track was suspended following a spike in equine fatalities. The Beholder Mile was originally scheduled to be run March 16.
“I wasn't sure whether they're going to race or when they're going to race and things were put off,” Schnell said. “I didn't want to run against Marley's Freedom, especially going a flat mile Although she did get beat, she did run second. We looked at this race and distance is more suitable to her. The farther we go, the better she is. Thought we would give it a shot here in the Apple Blossom.”
Escape Clause was assigned 117 pounds for the Apple Blossom, 5 less than high weighted and expected starter Midnight Bisou, a multiple Grade 1 winner. Other probable starters include multiple Grade 1 winner Elate (120 pounds), Canadian champion Wonder Gadot (118) and Grade 2 winner Chocolate Martini (116).
Post positions for the Apple Blossom will be drawn Thursday.
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