Judy and Kirk Robison's Vertical Oak bested a field of 12 other sophomore fillies by nearly four length's in Friday's G3 Miss Preakness Stakes, powering clear under Jose Ortiz to win her first graded stakes event. Trained by Steve Asmussen for his second win on the card, the daughter of Giant Oak (Giant's Causeway) covered six furlongs over Pimlico's fast main track in 1:10.06. Our Majesty was second, and My Miss Chiff was third.
“She's a nice filly,” Asmussen said. “She got away from the gate cleanly. That's been key for her. Jose did a great job getting her away from the gate. I thought she ran very powerfully from there. I felt she was fast enough for this group off her last race. She had a rough trip the time before, so I was concerned about her confidence. This did exactly what I hoped it would.”
An issue with a shoe kept G1 winner Pretty City Dancer in the paddock when the rest of the field went out to the track to begin their warm-up, and eventually the Mark Casse-trained filly had to be announced as a late scratch.
“She tried to flip the first time we put a nail in, and that was it,” he said. “It wasn't worth it. She wasn't having anything to do with it, just too worked up. At that point, she's going to be compromised in the race, so why would you do it? You're just running out there for no reason. Some horses can have a shoe put on in the stall, some can't. She just couldn't do it, it was overwhelming.”
The speedy group of fillies were well-bunched at the start of the race, with My Miss Chiff, Our Majesty and Vertical Oak the quickest of the early runners. Puerto Rican transplant Too Much Tip was well-forward early, and R Angel Katelyn was prominent along the rail. Through a first quarter in 22.61 seconds, My Miss Chiff held her slight lead over her two rivals, but as they passed the half-mile point in 45.54 seconds Ortiz was urging Vertical Oak on while three-wide.
At the head of the lane Vertical Oak held a slight lead, but she willingly extended that advantage while ridden out to the wire. About four lengths behind her was Our Majesty, bottled up a the top of the stretch but re-rallying for the place position. My Miss Chiff had to settle for third, and Too Much Tip was fourth.
“She broke well,” Ortiz agreed. “I had to put her there because of the size of the field. I was in great position going into the turn. I was third in the clear. I waited and waited, then she jumped into the bit, so I knew I had a horse when I asked her.”
Bred in Kentucky by Millenium Farms, Vertical Oak commanded $20,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall yearling sale. She has now won four of her eight lifetime starts, including her last two outs, both in stakes races, and earned more than $240,000.
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