(Defining Purpose wins the G3 Indiana Oaks / All Photos by Coady Photography)
From the Horseshoe Indianapolis Media Team / Jennie Rees:
Grade 1 winner Defining Purpose was the most accomplished 3-year-old filly in the $200,000 Indiana Oaks and she also had the speed to secure a good trip. The result was a 1 1/4-length victory over odds-on favorite Taxed in the Grade 3 race at Horseshoe Indianapolis.
Taxed, coming off an impressive victory in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico on Preakness Eve, broke on the rail, found herself last of the seven competitors for much of the race, was forced to come wide in the stretch and could only chip at Defining Purpose’s margin.
“She had the speed to put herself in position, and that’s what it looked like on paper,” said jockey Brian Hernandez, winning the Indiana Oaks for a third time. “There were a couple of fillies that were a little faster on the first turn. But when she’s able to get the trip like she did today, when she was able to cruise to every pole on her own terms, she’s got a pretty good turn of foot turning for home.”
Defining Purpose won Keeneland’s prestigious Grade 1 Central Bank Ashland at 20-1 odds in April. The Indiana Oaks was her first start since she finished seventh in an inordinately strong Kentucky Oaks on May 5. It also was her first start since being purchased privately by Japan’s Northern Farm.
“I think the spacing is a big deal for her,” said trainer Kenny McPeek, winning the Indiana Oaks for a second time after taking the 2013 edition with Pure Fun. “We spaced her race coming out of Oaklawn and then didn’t run her until the Ashland. And this race, we spaced her race again. She just runs a bit stronger with a little bit wider gap. Admittedly, I like running them, and maybe that’s not her game. We might sit on her until the Cotillion (G1 at Parx on Sept. 23). But I was impressed with her.”
Longshot Sandra D., who came into the race off a maiden victory, went to the lead and set a tepid first-quarter mile (24.12 seconds) that became a dawdling half-mile (49.06) and six furlongs (1:14) before giving way. Hernandez was content to track Sandra D. before taking over rounding for home. Taxed was making her move under Rafael Bejarano but had too much to do.
Taxed, with Rafael Bejarano up, finished 2 1/4 lengths in front of California invader Lily Poo, who beat fourth place Merlazza by a head under jockey James Graham. Flamand, Cloak of Mercy and Sandra D rounded out the field.
Trainer Randy Morse was visibly upset after Taxed’s defeat.
“When they walk like that and you’re — what was she, 12 lengths back? — it’s pretty hard to win,” said Morse. “She circles the field and how wide was she? Very wide. That’s racing. And that’s a good filly that won. When they’re going (slow) like that, it’s hard to pass them. That’s trotting horse time 1:14 and you’re back that far?”
The Equibase chart put Taxed four lengths back on the backstretch, but it surely seemed much more for Morse watching the race unfold.
“When she drew the inside (moving from post 2 to the rail with the scratch of Cotton Candy Annie), that’s why I told him, ‘You’ve got to get her out of the gate,’” Morse said. “You can’t sit back there and they’re walking on the front end and you’re back umpteen zillion lengths.”
Bejarano did not comment.
Defining Purpose, 8-5 in the morning line but who was dispatched as just over 2-1 by the betting public, finished up 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.83. She paid $6.40 to win, $2.80 to place and $2.20 to show. Defining Purpose now is 4-0-1 in nine starts. The winner’s purse of $117,600 brought her earnings to $673,788.
The dark gray daughter of Cross Traffic had finished in front of Taxed two of three times over the winter at Oaklawn Park, including winning the Years End Stakes to wrap up their 2-year-old seasons. Both fillies were drilled in the Grade 3 Honeybee won by the well-regarded Wet Paint, after which McPeek sent Defining Purpose to Keeneland. Taxed stayed at Oaklawn, finishing second in the Fantasy (G3) won by Wet Paint. But under Churchill Downs’ revised points qualifying system, Taxed missed making the Kentucky Oaks and instead ran in the Black-Eyed Susan.
“Taxed ran big but it looked like she had a little bit of a troubled trip,” McPeek said of the Indiana Oaks runner-up. “Our filly, when she’s fresher, she shows a little bit more speed, which gives her a much better chance because she’s in good position.”
Hernandez credited McPeek and his Churchill Downs assistant Greg Geier for figuring out that more time reaps rewards with Defining Purpose.
“And she came to this race a little stronger, she’s getting to be a little bigger filly,” the jockey said. “That was a pretty good performance today.”
Defining Purpose now has two ties to Indiana. Her dam, Defining Hope, is a multiple stakes winner at Horseshoe Indianapolis. The Indiana sired filly by Strong Hope had five wins during her racing career, four of which were stakes victories. She won all five races under jockey Malcolm Franklin for trainer Barbara McBride and Owner Colette Marie Vanmatre, a first-time racehorse owner of the standout filly who went on to year-end honors in Indiana. Vanmatre is the breeder on Defining Purpose.
The 21st season of live Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing extends through Friday, Nov. 17. Live racing is held Tuesday through Thursday with Saturday racing added in during the summer months. First post Tuesday and Wednesday is 2:30 p.m. Thursday racing begins at 2:10 p.m. The Summer Saturday Racing Series includes four all-Quarter Horse dates July 22, Aug. 12, Sept. 2, and Oct. 7 beginning at 10:45 a.m. For more information on live racing at Horseshoe Indianapolis, visit www.caesars.com/horseshoe-indianapolis.