(Little Jamie / All Photos by Coady Media)

From the Horseshoe Indianapolis Media Team / Jennie Rees:

Chatalas shows class, edges Little Jamie in

$200,000, Grade 2 Indiana Oaks at Horseshoe Indianapolis

SHELBYVILLE, Ind. (Saturday, July 6, 2024) — Grade 2 stakes-winner Chatalas was the most accomplished filly heading into Saturday’s $200,000, Grade 3 Indiana Oaks at Horseshoe Indianapolis. However, you wouldn’t have known that by her odds, the public sending her off at almost 11-1 odds in the field of six 3-year-old fillies.


But at the wire, that was front-running Chatalas prevailing by a head over 9-1 Little Jamie, with odds-on favorite Impel another half-length back in third. Those who believed in Chatalas — unfazed by her six-month layoff and double-digit defeats in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and Los Alamitos Starlet (G2) — were rewarded with a $23.80 win mutuel.


The victory was particularly meaningful for Louisville-based trainer Grant Forster, who received Chatalas only a few weeks ago. Her California trainer Mark Glatt and owner Joseph Miller’s Rancho Temescal Thoroughbred Partners wanted to pursue the East’s more plentiful graded-stakes opportunities for 3-year-old fillies on dirt.


“Certainly where you’re in a situation like this, where you’re the place-keeper and trying to keep everything rolling, you feel a little bit of pressure,” Forster said. “Just really glad she broke well. When she made the lead, I felt really good. She’s got a lovely long stride. When she got into that stride down the backside, it looked like she was just cruising. Turning for home, it looked like she lost the lead there for a little bit, but she showed some real fight.”


Antonio Fresu, a fourth-generation jockey from Italy now based in California, was riding in Indiana for the first time. His game plan was channeling Chatalas’ Chandelier — her Grade 2 Chandelier Stakes victory at Santa Anita on Oct. 7, when she also led all the way.


“The track is playing fast,” Fresu said. “I tried to reproduce the Chandelier when I won that on her last year. Same gate, made the lead, she relaxed really well on the backside. When I asked to pick it up, she wasn’t ready when the other opponent came to me. So, I just tried to get her into her stride again, and she fought really hard to the end. She just wanted to win. She was all game today, in great shape. She was nice and fresh. She always showed talent, and we always thought she was a nice filly. And she’s showing us what she’s made of.”


Little Jamie, with Corey Lanerie riding for trainer Robbie Medina, turned in a huge effort in her stakes debut after most recently finishing third in a Churchill Downs’ entry-level allowance race. Little Jamie applied the most pressure on Chatalas, getting in front briefly at the stretch call.


“As soon as I said to myself, ‘I’m about to win it,’ then it was like, ‘oh, crap,’” Lanerie said. “I thought I put that horse away, and she never went away. She just grinded back to me. I couldn’t ask for a better trip. It drew up the way we thought. We just got beat.”


Said Medina: “Even though the 2 had an easy lead the whole way, approaching the eighth pole, I thought we had her. And we did go by her. She did this in her last, that’s why I took the blinkers off. She gets to that horse, and she kind of just wants to stay there. She ran better without the blinkers today. I just hope with racing she figures out how to finish the job. But hopefully one of these little Oaks races around the country has her name on it —will have her name on it.”


Trainer Brad Cox in the next race would win the $300,000, Grade 3 Indiana Derby with Dragoon Guard but had to settle for third with Impel. Asked about her race, he said with a rueful laugh, “I don’t know. I wish I did. 


“Listen, I don’t know if she just doesn’t want to go that far. She’s really laid back, kind, does everything right,” he said. “Has a great mind. She’s kind of bomb proof. But sometimes she might a little too bomb proof. She doesn’t really get rolling. She’s a bit of a tricky one to figure out. We’ll regroup, shuffle the deck. She’s never run a bad race, just not always quite as well as we expect her to. It’s always a little disappointing when you’re 3-5 and third in a stakes. But we’ll regroup.”


Chatalas, a Kentucky-bred daughter of 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner, covered the 1 1/16 miles in a respectable 1:42.93 after fractions of 23.72, 47.48, 1:11.29 and the mile in 1:36.19.


Chatalas won the Chandelier in her third start after finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante. In the Breeders’ Cup, she was taken out of her running style when squeezed back at the start. In the Starlet, she was impeded late, finishing fourth but promoted to third. Her last start was a second by a neck in a turf stakes on Dec. 29.


“I don’t think there could have been a better race for her off the bench,” Forster said. “I only got to talk to the jock briefly, but he made it sound like she still had a lot left, like she was kind of waiting on the opposition maybe a little and might enjoy getting into a fight. Really encouraging moving forward.


“Watching her, I don’t think there will be any distance limitations with her. For coming off a layoff and running two turns on the dirt, that’s always a difficult chore. You’re always concerned with how they progress from 2 to 3. But some of the owners were here, and they hadn’t seen her for a while. They were just tickled with how she looked, and how she developed. Obviously with that pedigree you expect her to go forward and keep getting better hopefully.”


Chatalas now is 3-1-1 in seven starts, earning $370,000 with the $118,800 paycheck.


Concluded Forster, winning his sixth career graded stakes: “Very exciting day and very exciting about what lies ahead.”


The 22nd season of live Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing extends through Thursday, Nov. 14. Racing is held Monday through Thursday at 2:10 p.m. For more information on live racing at Horseshoe Indianapolis, visit www.caesars.com/horseshoe-indianapolis/racing or find the track on Social Media @HSIndyRacing.