OAK LEAF STAKES | PURSE: $250,000 | GRADE 1 | 2-YEAR-OLD FILLIES | 1 1/16 MILES
ARCADIA, Calif. -- The closer the calendar gets to November, the more the outlook on the season changes for the people surrounding the unbeaten 2-year-old filly Weemissfrankie.
After winning the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante in her stakes debut last month, Weemissfrankie made her first start around two turns, and first start on a dirt track in Sunday's $250,000 Oak Leaf Stakes at Santa Anita.
With a determined rally, Weemissfrankie closed through the stretch to win by a half-length over Candrea, confirming her status as one of the top choices for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs in November.
"There were expectations today," trainer Peter Eurton said. "You have to perform. With the Debutante, there was no pressure. This is fun. I won't lose sight of what we accomplished."
Unbeaten in three starts, Weemissfrankie needed all of the 1 1/16 miles of the Grade 1 Oak Leaf Stakes to beat Candrea, the winner of the Phil Shepherd Stakes at Fairplex Park last month. Weemissfrankie was timed in 1:42.92.
Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Weemissfrankie was fifth in the field of eight on the turn, trailing then leader Self Preservation by about four lengths. Racing wide into the stretch, Weemissfrankie closed steadily and was 2 1/2 lengths behind Candrea with a furlong remaining. She took the lead in the final 75 yards.
"I think she beat a good field of horses," Eurton said.
The Oak Leaf Stakes was Weemissfrankie's first start on a dirt track. She made two starts on Del Mar's Polytrack surface during the summer and trained on Hollywood Park's Cushion Track synthetic surface in the spring and early summer.
"I don't know if she handled the dirt as well," Eurton said. "She loves synthetic at Hollywood Park and Del Mar. She didn't like the dirt hitting her in the face on the backside, Rafa said."
Weemissfrankie, by Sunriver, races for a partnership. She has earned $257,800 from her three wins.
Candrea is likely for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, trainer Bob Baffert said. "This should set her up," he said.
Charm the Maker held third, followed by My Gi Gi, Self Preservation, Regal Betty, Wild Truffles, and Silent Saga. Charm the Maker made her stakes debut, and first start at 1 1/16 miles I the Oak Leaf. She won a six-furlong maiden race at Del Mar in August.
"We jumped her into a tough spot and she ran well," said Dan Landers, assistant to trainer Ron McAnally.