(Taraz coasts to win in the Martha Washington Stakes at Oaklawn Park / Coady Photography & Courtesy of Oaklawn Park)
From the Oaklawn Park Media Team:
Taraz answered one question in the $150,000 Martha Washington Saturday afternoon at Oaklawn, but one obvious question remained unanswered roughly 15 hours later regarding the unbeaten 3-year-old filly.
What’s next? Brad Cox said he’s simply not sure. Taraz, he said, could remain at Oaklawn, return to Fair Grounds, continue to run against fillies or challenge males.
“I’ve thought about it last night and haven’t really come up with a decision on what we’re going to do yet,” Cox, Taraz’s trainer, said before training hours Sunday morning at Oaklawn. “And race-wise? Same thing.”
Taraz, under regular rider Florent Geroux, was a comfortable 3 ¾-length front-running winner of the Martha Washington, the first of three local Kentucky Oaks points races. A towering daughter of Into Mischief, Taraz (3 for 3) won her two starts last year by a combined 18 ¾ lengths and had no trouble stretching out to two turns for the first time in her 2020 debut. Last of four to leave, Taraz quickly took command going into the first turn and controlled the 1-mile race through splits of :47.50 for a half-mile and 1:12.44 for 6 furlongs.
Taraz ($2.20) completed the distance over a fast track in 1:38.64 to earn a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 85. A homebred for famed Juddmonte Farms, she was making her first start since an 11 ¼-length gate-to-wire victory in the $75,000 Letellier Memorial Stakes Dec. 21 at Fair Grounds.
“I thought she kind of got lost a little bit down the lane yesterday,” Cox said. “I really do think she got lost. She’s like, ‘OK, I’m going around the second turn. What do you want me to do here?’ She got something out of it, but it would have probably been better if there was somebody there kind of pushing her along a little bit. So, we’ll see. Obviously, we got the result that we wanted and she did it well enough. We’ll see.”
Cox said Taraz will be nominated to major Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby preps. Oaklawn’s Kentucky Oaks series continues with the $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) March 7 and the $600,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) April 10. Taraz earned 10 points for her Martha Washington victory toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Oaks (G1), the nation’s biggest prize for 3-year-old fillies, May 1 at Churchill Downs.
“She came back good, so far,” Cox said. “We’re just walking her, obviously, but she appeared to check out of the race in great order last night and cooled out great and looked great. Everything looks good.”
Cox also trains unbeaten British Idiom, the country’s champion 2-year-old filly of 2019 who is based at Fair Grounds.
Answer In Breezes
Answer In moved closer to his scheduled 3-year-old debut in the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 17 with a sharp workout in company Sunday morning for trainer Brad Cox.
Breezing over a fast track just after the track opened under exercise rider Edvin Vargas, Answer In completed 5 furlongs in :59.40 and galloped out 6 furlongs in 1:12.60. Answer In worked with stablemate Gold Standard, who is scheduled to make her 4-year-old debut in the $200,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) for older fillies and mares Feb. 17. Exercise rider Gustavo Abrego, the brother of Cox’s assistant, Jorgito Abrego, was aboard Gold Standard. She was also credited with :59.40 for 5 furlongs.
“Both breezed really well,” Cox said. “Solid breeze. We’ll do a little something again next week.”
Cox said Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano will have the mount on Answer In for the 1 1/16-mile Southwest, Oaklawn’s second of four Kentucky Derby points races. Answer In, who races for Robert LaPenta and Madaket Stables LLC (Sol Kumin), hasn’t started since a runner-up finish in the $400,000 Springboard Mile Dec. 15 at Remington Park. Answer In, by Dialed In, has had five published works since early January at Oaklawn.
“He’s a good work horse,” Cox said. “She is, too.”
Gold Standard is also seeking her first career stakes victory after second in the $200,000 Remington Park Oaks (G3) Sept. 29 at Remington Park and third in the $200,000 Comely Stakes (G3) Nov. 29 at Aqueduct. Nominations to the Southwest and Bayakoa, also 1 1/16 miles, close Thursday.
Sweet as Honey?
Trainer Joe Sharp said O Seraphina will be pointed for the $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies March 7 following her runner-up finish in Saturday’s $150,000 Martha Washington Stakes.
O Seraphina, in her stakes and 2020 debut, was beaten 3 ¾ lengths by unbeaten Taraz in the 1-mile Martha Washington, Oaklawn’s first of three Kentucky Oaks points race. O Seraphina, unraced since breaking her maiden Dec. 22 at Fair Grounds, finished 6 ¼ lengths ahead of third-place finisher High On Gin.
“We were over the moon, obviously, about how she ran against a filly like Taraz,” Sharp said during training hours Sunday morning at Oaklawn. “The gallop out was very impressive. She got back to her on the gallop out. I think, with what’s thought to be the best 3-year-old in the country right now beating us, I thought she was very respectable in being defeated. It’s not often are we really enthused about a second-place finish, but I would say this would be one of the exceptions.”
Sharp said O Seraphina exited the Martha Washington in good shape physically. The Honeybee is the final major local prep for the $600,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) April 10. Both races are 1 1/16 miles.
The Fair Grounds-based Sharp was in Hot Springs to saddle O Seraphina and check on his Oaklawn division.
Early probables for Saturday’s $125,000 King Cotton Stakes for older sprinters, according to the Oaklawn racing department: Home Run Maker for trainer Jeremiah Englehart, Silver Ride(Robertino Diodoro), 2018 winner Wilbo (Chris Hartman) and millionaire and Grade 1 winner Whitmore (Ron Moquett). The 6-furlong race closed last Thursday with 28 nominations. Post positions will be drawn Wednesday. Whitmore, in company, breezed 5 furlongs in 1:00.40 moments after the track opened Sunday morning. … Bravazo, also just after the track opened Sunday morning, worked 5 furlongs in :59 for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who is pointing in the millionaire for the $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses Feb. 17. … Next-race plans are pending for Special Relativity, winner of Saturday’s $125,000 American Beauty Stakes for older female sprinters, trainer Robertino Diodoro said Sunday morning. The American Beauty marked the first Oaklawn stakes victory for M and M Racing (Mike and Mickala Sisk). M and M has led the owner’s standings the last two years at Oaklawn, setting a single-season record for victories (61) in 2019. … Following two consecutive poor performances, multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Gray Attempt is being treated for stomach ulcers, trainer Jinks Fires of Hot Springs said Sunday morning, with the hope the colt can run again at the end of the meeting. Gray Attempt, in his 4-year-old debut, ran ninth in a Jan. 24 allowance race.