(Wet Paint / Photos by Holly M. Smith)

From the NYRA Media Team:

Godolphin’s Kentucky homebred Wet Paint will look to regain winning form for conditioner Brad Cox in Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks, a nine-furlong main track route for sophomore fillies, at Saratoga Race Course.

The bay daughter of Blame enters from a rallying runner-up effort to returning rival Hoosier Philly in the one-mile Monomoy Girl on June 17 at Ellis Park where she stalked a slow pace and pounced from last-of-5 to improve to third at the stretch call. She made up ground in the stretch under Tyler Gaffalione, but settled for second 3 1/2 lengths back of the winner. The Monomoy Girl was her first start since finishing a closing fourth as the post-time favorite in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 5 at Churchill Downs. 

“Her last run was really good,” said Cox. “It wasn’t a graded stake but it was a very good filly that won it and we didn’t have much chance with no pace and the way the track was playing. I’m totally looking forward to her moving forward off that race.”

Wet Paint made her career debut last fall on turf at Kentucky Downs and finished a distant 10th, prompting Cox to start her on dirt in her next outing to win by 2 3/4 lengths in an October maiden tilt at Horseshoe Indianapolis. Two starts later, she made her stakes debut a winning one in Oaklawn Park’s 1 1/16-mile Martha Washington to kick off a three-race win streak that included Grade 3 scores at the Arkansas oval in the Honeybee and Fantasy ahead of her Oaks effort.

The bay filly posted her final work ahead of the CCA Oaks with a five-furlong breeze in 1:00.60 on Saturday over Saratoga’s Oklahoma dirt training track. 

Flavien Prat, the pilot in each of her stakes wins, returns to the irons from post 2. 

Repole Stable’s New York-bred Gambling Girl came up a neck shy of victory last out in the Kentucky Oaks, sweeping from 11th in the field of 14 to steadily make up ground down the lane and finish second, at 13-1 odds, to the victorious Brendan Walsh trainee Pretty Mischievous. 

“We were cautiously optimistic going into the Oaks because she had trained so well once we got to Churchill,” said her Hall of Fame conditioner Todd Pletcher, who vies for a record-extending ninth win in this event. “She always trained really well, but it seemed like she took her game to another level when she got to Churchill. She made a pretty good run at winning it and came up a couple strides short.”

Gambling Girl, bred by Gallagher’s Stud, graduated at third asking at the Spa by 10 1/2 lengths when facing fellow state-breds in a seven-furlong maiden tilt. She won the state-bred Joseph A. Gimma at Belmont at the Big A in her next start before stepping up to the graded ranks two starts later when a close third in the Grade 2 Demoiselle behind her winning stablemate Julia Shining. 

The bay daughter of Dialed In earned her way into the Oaks starting gate with runner-up efforts in the Busanda and Grade 3 Gazelle at Aqueduct Racetrack before her trip to Churchill. Pletcher said he is hopeful a return to Saratoga will lead to another trip to the winner’s circle for the consistent filly. 

“I think she handled [Saratoga] fine,” said Pletcher, who won last year’s CCA Oaks with subsequent Champion 3-Year-Old Filly Nest. “I think the mile and an eighth is important. She seems to be better the further she goes.”

Irad Ortiz, Jr., aboard for seven of Gambling Girl’s 10 starts, retains the mount from post 4. 

Gold Standard Racing Stable’s graded stakes-winner Hoosier Philly [post 5, Edgar Morales] will face the first Grade 1 test of her career for trainer Tom Amoss. The daughter of Into Mischief earned her lone graded win in the Grade 2 Golden Rod in November at Churchill Downs, which capped a three-race win streak she posted to kick off her career. 

This year, Hoosier Philly started her campaign with a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds Race Course and followed with a fourth in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks before a brief layoff, returning with a game runner-up effort to Taxed in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan on May 19 at Pimlico Race Course. 

Hoosier Philly has attended the pace in her last two outings after utilizing stalking trips in each of her previous starts. Amoss said he decided to send Hoosier Philly closer to the lead at Pimlico to try and get the jump on the speedy Bob Baffert-trained favorite Faiza. 

“She’s a really good athlete, so she can do a lot of different things,” said Amoss. “We knew that Bob Baffert’s filly was the one to beat, so we tried to take it to her early. Although we were able to out-finish her, we maybe set it up for a very good filly that ended up beating us in Taxed.”

Though Hoosier Philly posted another prominent trip next out in the Monomoy Girl, Amoss said that tactic is not necessarily going to be her normal moving forward. 

“We came back at Ellis and it was a race void of speed and we took advantage of it,” said Amoss. “I’ve always said tactical speed is the most dangerous weapon a horse can have, and she has it. Under any pace scenario, we would be able to adapt, and that’s nice.”

Graded stakes-winner Southlawn [post 1, Florent Geroux] will look to rebound from a troubled 10th in the Kentucky Oaks where she bumped with rivals into the first turn and encountered more traffic trouble when swinging wide and brushing with foes again into the stretch. Trained by Norm Casse and campaigned by Robert E. Masterson, the Pioneerof the Nile bay entered the Oaks from a clear 3 1/4-length victory over Pretty Mischievous in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks, equaling a career-best 86 Beyer. 

“Right now, the leader of the division is Brendan’s filly, and we beat her in the Fair Grounds Oaks,” said Casse. “Our feeling is that Southlawn at her best is as good as anyone else. We don’t worry about anyone else, we just worry about how she is doing.”

In addition to the Fair Grounds Oaks, Southlawn boasts an eight-length allowance coup three starts back at Fair Grounds when she also posted an 86 Beyer. The $290,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase is out of the multiple graded stakes-placed Uncle Mo mare Mo d’Amour, a half-sister to the multiple graded stakes-placed Colonial Creed. 

Richard Dunn, Ten Strike Racing, Gary Barber, Jeremy Sussman and Todd Monken’s She’s Lookin Lucky [post 6, Kendrick Carmouche] steps back up to graded level after a seven-length first-level optional claiming romp over a sloppy and sealed main track on June 29 at Ellis Park. 

Trained by Matt Shirer, the daughter of Lookin At Lucky dueled for the early lead before coming away with the advantage at the half-mile call and drawing away at the top of the stretch under Luis Saez, garnering an 86 Beyer for the victory. The effort was a marked improvement from a distant fourth in her prior race traveling a one-turn mile on June 2 at Churchill.

“It was a big effort,” said Shirer. “I wasn’t 100 percent sure she’d like the slop that day. She had run kind of a dull effort once at Fair Grounds on a good and sealed track. We were hoping she’d run a big race and the two turns helped as opposed to the one-turn at Churchill. She put in a huge effort.”

She’s Lookin Lucky will make her second outing in a graded event after finishing a distant 10th in the Grade 3 Fantasy three starts back on April 1. Her other win came in her third lifetime start and first for Shirer when taking a one-mile and 70-yard maiden by 13 1/4 lengths in prominent fashion in February at Fair Grounds. 

“I think she likes up near the lead – not necessarily on the lead – but clear sailing is usually the best thing for her,” Shirer said. 

Completing the field is Black Type Thoroughbreds, Swinbank Stables, Steve Adkisson, Christopher Dunn and Anthony Spinazzola’s graded stakes-placed Sacred Wish [post 3, Manny Franco], who finished second in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks in April for trainer George Weaver. 

The CCA Oaks is slated as Race 9 on Saturday’s 11-race program, which co-features the Grade 3, $200,000 Caress in Race 6. First post is 1:10 p.m. Eastern.

Saratoga Live will present live coverage and analysis of the Saratoga Race Course summer meet on the networks of FOX Sports. For the broadcast schedule and channel finder, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule/.