Family Tree did Thursday night at Prairie Meadows in the Grade 3, $200,000 Iowa Oaks what she could not do May 28 in a Churchill Downs allowance race, namely hold off Ready to Confess and win a horse race.
At Churchill last month, pace-pressing Ready to Confess challenged pace-setting Family Tree in upper stretch and pushed past to win by three-quarters of a length. Ready to Confess had aim at Family Tree in upper stretch again in the Iowa Oaks and could make no late ground, going down by two lengths. It was another 3-1/2 lengths back to Put Da Blame On Me in third, with 104-1 shot For All the Grands fourth.
Thrilled, the 8-5 favorite for trainer Todd Pletcher, dueled inside Marquee Miss through a solid opening quarter-mile in 23.29 seconds and a half in a demanding 46.32 and took the worst of the pace battle, fading to finish ninth of 10.
The pace probably took its toll, and surely many horses Thursday night did not care for the surface, rated good for the Oaks, as it was drying after heavy rain hit Prairie Meadows just before the first race on the card.
Meanwhile, jockey Florent Geroux had Family Tree perched just behind the dueling leaders down the backstretch and around the far turn. Family Tree this year and last always has run better chasing horses than making the pace, and she cemented that preference Thursday night, making a decisive move to the lead past the quarter pole and finishing with plenty of energy to turn away Ready to Confess.
Wayne Catalano trained Family Tree for Gary and Mary West early in her career, saw her moved into Bob Baffert's barn for several starts, but got Family Tree back again when the Wests decided to leave her with Catalano when Baffert dispersed his spring Churchill string. Family Tree worked twice for Catalano and broke through Thursday night with her third win from eight starts and first stakes victory.
She ran 1-1/16 miles in 1:43.25 and paid $8. Family Tree is a daughter of Smart Strike and the Giant's Causeway mare Giant Mover, and she was bred by Dell Ridge Farm and Sam-Son Farms.
Tarty to the Party comes late to win Saylorville
Poor Dr. Fager's Gal. She was the rare horse to emerge energized from a dreaded "between trip" after being caught outside Donita's Ruler and inside She'sabrees from the midpoint on the the far turn to the midpoint of the homestretch in the Saylorville Stakes on Thursday. But no sooner had Dr. Fager's Gal come back on to retake the lead from She'sabrees than Tarty to the Party clipped home on the far outside to score a 12-1 upset in the $100,000 Saylorville for female sprinters.
Tarty to the Party lingered last of six for jockey Corey Lanerie down the backstretch and around the turn in the six-furlong Saylorville, and even at the stretch call she had but one horse beat. That's where Tarty to the Party began doing her best work, however, and as Dr. Fager's Gal valiantly pulled clear in the final furlong, Tarty to the Party swooped in and stole a win.
Ray Tracy trains the winner for J. R. Boesen and Patrick Sullivan, who claimed the 7-year-old for $25,000 in May after they'd lost her for $20,000 in March. That was a timely reclaim, since the mare is by Speightstown and out of a Royal Academy mare, enough pedigree to make a first stakes win in a six-figure open race mean something. Tarty to the Party ran six furlongs in 1:09.56 and paid $25.60 to win.
She'sabrees had the lead before the furlong grounds but flattened late and finished third, a neck behind Dr. Fager's Gal and three-quarters in front of Fioretti.