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Kent Desormeaux celebrates aboard Decked out after winning the 2016 American Oaks
The feature race on New Year's Eve at Santa Anita was the $300,000 American Oaks (G1) for 3-year-old fillies. Just 4273 fans came out on a rainy Saturday afternoon with temperatures in the mid 50's, with the turf course downgraded to good and the main track sloppy. Originally scheduled for 1 1/4 miles starting on the downhill chute, due to the wet course the race was shortened to 1 1/8 miles but remained a turf event. Matriarch (G1), Del Mar Oaks (G1), and San Clemente (G3) third place finisher Stays in Vegas was sent off as the 5-2 favorite in the field of 12 over 4-1 Sassy Little Lila, second in the Winter Memories, and 17-4 Queen Blossom, winner of the Park Express (G3) but 6th last out in the Blue Wind (G3) both in Ireland.
Decked Out (outside) wins the American Oaks
Winning trainer Keith Desormeaux said, "She won the Providencia on Santa Anita Derby Day on soft ground so I definitely wasn't worried. We don't get this weather too often here in southern California. She looked tired, she looked like she was starting to labor so I was surprised that she continued on. She showed her heart today. She was training awesome coming into today. I think a key decision was not run her at Del Mar. We skipped a race in hopes of getting her fresh and that may have been the winning decision." Jockey Kent Desormeaux added, "It was doubtful from the 1/4 pole. I wasn't getting there fast enough and I thought I had won, but with the recent photo finishes, I was scared to have an opinion. She's knocked on the door all year."
Solid Wager (outside) and St. Joe Bay dead heat in the Midnight Lute Stakes
Peter Miller, who trains both winners, said, "This is unbelievable. Both horses ran super. Both riders rode super. I couldn't call it and obviously the Stewards couldn't either, so I'm just elated for everyone involved. Watching it live I thought the two won, then when I watched the replay I thought the three won and when they put up the "DH" I didn't know what to do!"
Left: Trainer Peter Miller with the jockeys of his dead heat winners: Kent Desormeaux (St. Joe Bay, left) and Victor Espinoza (Solid Wager). Desormeaux said, “This is incredible for Pete. Dead Heats are not abnormal, but what is totally unique is being in a dead heat for the same trainer. I’ve ridden 40,000 horses, and that’s only happened to me one other time. It was for Richard Mandella, maybe in 1992, in the Beverly at Hollywood Park. He leaves the gate like a Quarter Horse, and he jumped over every hoof print and all the tractor marks. I really sat down on him leaving the chute and coming on to the main track. He pitched himself well in front, and threw on the brakes. I know for certain that the other horse was lucky to tie."
Espinoza said, “He’s such a cool horse. He likes to just take his time and he tries as hard as he can down the stretch. Kent's was the only horse I was concerned about getting by down the lane because everyone else looked like they were struggling. When I crossed the wire I couldn’t tell but I was in front of him just a jump after. Kent thought he won right away but I said ‘Hey. Don’t be so sure.’"
Goodyearforroses wins the Robert J. Frankel Stakes
Winning trainer Richard Baltas said, "She's trained very forwardly and has worked well. When the race came off the turf, we thought 'Well, it's a small field. And, she kind of skips across the dirt in the mornings.' I didn't know if she was going to like it or not, but she's a very sound horse, and I thought it was worth giving her a shot, especially with all the scratches."