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Soothsay scores in Grade 3 Indiana Oaks at Indiana Grand

For the first half of Wednesday evening’s $200,000 Grade 3 Indiana Oaks, the owner and trainer of Soothsay were just hoping to get a piece of the pot in order to cover the cost of shipping from California to Indiana Grand Racing & Casino.

That’s what a bad start will do for you and Soothsay broke in the air and found herself last of nine 3-year-old fillies heading into the far turn. But Soothsay (photo), with a savvy ride from jockey Flavien Prat, turned on the jet engines, flying through the stretch to mow down the competition for a neck victory over 40-1 shot Moon Swag.

Lady Aces was another head back in third and Marion Francis yet another neck back in fourth.

“She was really tense in the gate,” Prat said. “I couldn’t get her to relax. She broke in the air … To be honest, usually when you break like that, it’s pretty much game over – at least for the win. So, I was just trying to regroup, to give her a chance at least in the first turn to save ground. Because the way she broke, I wasn’t able to gain ground. I tried to cut the corner again at the quarter pole, and she really dug in.”

The daughter of Distorted Humor covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.36 while forced to close into a tepid pace set by Lovely Ride, who carved out soft fractions of 24.71, 48.88 and 1:12.44 then weakened to finish fifth. Will’s Secret, the Kentucky Oaks third-place finisher and 2-1 favorite, never seriously threatened in finishing sixth, followed by Sweet Pearl, Malloy and Li’l Tootsie.

Soothsay paid $8.00 to win as the second choice, $4.20 to place and $3.40 to show. Moon Swag, the second-longest shot in the field, returned $20.80 and $11.80, with Lady Aces paying $7.20 to show.

It was the third victory in four lifetime starts, all this year, for Soothsay. That includes a victory in the Grade 2 Santa Anita Oaks in her second start, followed by a second in that track’s Grade 2 Summertime Oaks.

If she didn’t have much seasoning going into the race, Soothsay sure came out a more-seasoned filly. Not only was it her first time racing outside Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella’s Santa Anita Park base, but it was the first time she faced more than three rivals in a stakes (she ran against six horses in her maiden win).

“Well, to be a good sport, I told Flavien, ‘Hey give them guys several lengths and make it a real contest,’” Mandella joked by phone. “No, at that half-mile pole I was praying, ‘Please pick up some money so we can pay some expenses.’ But Flavien Prat showed what a star he’s become. He got off bad. He just sat there so cool, didn’t lose any more ground than he had to. Just such a great ride.

“Her stakes races here were such small fields. It wasn’t like she got a lot of experience. But she sure ran (like she had), other than getting away bad. But I think that was just sitting in the gate a long time. Their patience wears out sometimes, and it looked like that’s what happened, and she kind of just blew when they opened it. But she sure ran like a pro the rest of the way.”

Mandella started getting excited when Soothsay kicked into gear on the far turn.

“When she made that big move around the field going into the second turn, I thought, ‘Boy, that really looks impressive, but I hope she doesn’t come up short from such a big effort to make it up,’” he said. “When she straightened away in the stretch, she looked like she was very composed and still had her act together. The stride and power she has, I felt pretty good at that point.”

Soothsay, who now has earned $431,800 with the $115,200 payday, has already matched the three wins of her mom, the Bernardini mare Spellbound. The winner of Santa Anita’s Grade 2 La Canada, Spellbound also was trained by Mandella and owned by the partnership of Ramona Bass, Adela Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm. Soothsay runs for the Raydeltz Stable of Bass, Dilschneider and Claiborne’s Dell Hancock.

Taylor Cambra, assistant to Mandella, made the journey to Indiana with Soothsay.

“I thought it was going to be a really long drive home,” Hancock said. “But her mother ran like that. Spellbound won the La Canada running like that, so I thought, ‘Well, maybe she’ll be like her mother.’ But I didn’t think it would really happen. When they got to the three-eighths pole and she was really moving. I thought, ‘If she can be third, she can at least pay for the shipping.’ And then we started riding really hard from the quarter pole home. I’m so proud of her. So proud.”

The Brendan Walsh-trained Moon Swag came in off of a third-place finish in a Churchill Downs allowance race easily won by Lovely Ride. Moon Swag closed well from mid-pack under DeShawn Parker to take the Indiana Oaks lead with an eighth-mile to go before getting caught in the final strides.

“Everything went perfect,” Parker said. “I had a good trip from the outside. Turning for home, I felt I had plenty of horse. She tried hard. I thought I had it, but they were running.”

Lady Aces, who also shipped in from California after finishing third in the Summertime Oaks, balked at loading and held up the start. She pushed the early pace and hung in valiantly.

“Normally she’s never like that,” jockey Umberto Rispoli said of the loading difficulties. “She always goes into the gate pretty straight. At the three-eighths pole, she doesn’t give me anything. At the top of the stretch, she switched leads. Once when Flavien came next to me, we had contact with each other, and she just woke up and started to run.”

Trainer Peter Eurton, speaking by phone, said of Lady Aces: “It was such an odd-run race. When the 10 (Moon Swag) came up to her, maybe it bothered her a little bit and it seemed like she lost contact with the race, and here comes Flavien with the favorite and she re-engages herself. I’m just very proud of her. She’s got a lot of growing up to do. She got a little hot, I noticed. For all intents and purposes, it was a very good effort.”

Will’s Secret loomed at the quarter pole but couldn’t sustain any momentum.

“She made a little run up between horses,” said jockey Jon Court. “I thought she was just going to come flying like Flavien Prat’s horse. I thought it would be he and I down the lane with our two fillies. But he went on to win the race, and I just kind of flattened out, ran kind of even. I’m disappointed. I thought she’d be double tough here. Worst-case scenario, I didn’t think she’d be off the board.”