Room Service, a game dead-heat winner of the Central Bank Ashland Stakes, squares off with fast-developing Nashoba's Gold in what shapes up as an outstanding renewal of the $350,000 American Oaks on the turf May 31 at Santa Anita Park.
The 1 ¼-mile grass test for 3-year-old fillies, established in 2002 at Hollywood Park, comes to Santa Anita for the first time Saturday. It is the eighth race on the card with a 4:30 p.m. scheduled start, one race after the $200,000 Californian for older horses prepping for the Gold Cup at Santa Anita.
Gary and Mary West's homebred Room Service ships in from Kentucky for trainer Wayne Catalano after spending the winter and part of the spring in Florida. The More Than Ready filly won the Herecomesthebride Stakes on the turf at Gulfstream Park March 2 before switching to Polytrack for the April 5 Ashland at Keeneland one month later. Room Service has repeatedly demonstrated a great late turn of foot and she came from 13 lengths back to draw even with Rosalind at the wire in the 1 1/16-mile Ashland. Those two were seven lengths clear of their nearest rival.
Room Service, one of three stakes winners produced by the West's stakes-winning Old Trieste mare Dream Lady, has won two of five starts on grass with one second and two thirds. Shaun Bridgmohan rode the bay filly for the first time in the Ashland and has the return call from the far outside post in the field of eight. Room Service carries top weight of 123 pounds.
Warren B. Williamson's homebred Nashoba's Gold, half sister to multiple Grade 1 winner Nashoba's Key, takes another step up the ladder for trainer Carla Gaines following victories in the Providencia and Honeymoon stakes over the course. The gray Smart Strike filly has three wins in four lifetime starts with one second.
Nashoba's Gold sat a good stalking trip for Joe Talamo in the nine-furlong Honeymoon May 4, shifting four wide for the drive and getting up by a length as the 7-10 choice. Talamo has the mount again on Nashoba's Gold, who drew post 2 and gets three pounds from Room Service.
AMERICAN OAKS DRAW
Diversy Harbor could not hold off Nashoba's Gold in the Honeymoon after getting the lead in the stretch, but gets another chance here. She was nosed out for second by 29-1 outsider Sweet Bliss last time. Glen Hill Farm's daughter of Curlin has now dropped two of three against Nashoba's Gold, winning their first encounter with an impressive late burst in the China Doll Stakes in March. She was then second to her rival in the Providencia before being overtaken in the Honeymoon.
Trainer Tom Proctor tabs Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith for the first time in an effort to turn the tables Saturday. They leave from gate 7.
Pam and Martin Wygod's homebred Sweet Bliss returns off her big effort in her stakes debut in the Honeymoon for trainer John Shirreffs. The Street Cry miss gets the services of Corey Nakatani, who rode her to a maiden victory in January. Shirreffs has won the American Oaks twice previously, in 2010 with Harmonious and the following year with Nereid.
Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella sends out Tiz the Key for B. Wayne Hughes' Spendthrift Farms as she makes her graded stakes debut off back-to-back wins at Santa Anita. The Tiznow filly won her most recent start, an allowance/optional claiming race at the American Oaks distance May 18, in game front-running style by three-quarters of a length. Tyler Baze gets the mount.
French-bred Little Journey was a good third in her United States debut, the listed Edgewood Stakes at Churchill Downs May 2, after fighting restraint early. Trained by Chad Brown, she was a two-time winner in her native country and has not been worse than third in eight lifetime starts. Jockey Joe Bravo makes a rare Southern California appearance.
Kissin Lucky Lips, second to Tiz the Key last time, and Reddam Racing's Loan Savant, winless in five starts in 2014, complete the field.