AMERICAN OAKS | PURSE: $350,000 | 3-YEAR-OLD FILLIES | GRADE 1 | 1 1/4 MILES (TURF)
Juddmonte Farms' homebred Emollient is bred top and bottom for the turf, and on Saturday lived up to that promise when taking the Grade 1, $350,750 American Oaks by a half-length under jockey Mike Smith.
Emollient found herself tracking in third behind slow fractions of :25 3/5 and :50 1/5 set by Sarach in the opening half-mile of the 10-furlong contest. Smith niggled his filly and she eagerly moved up to press Sarach and keep her honest as the field headed down the backstretch through six furlongs in 1:14 4/5.
Emollient was even with the pacesetter rounding the turn before taking command in the lane. It wouldn't be an easy win for the Bill Mott pupil, though, as Emotional Kitten came running to threaten late and Topic rallied from the back in a bid to win. Nonetheless, Emollient held for the victory in a final time of 2:02 1/5 on Hollywood Park's firm turf.
"I got away slow, so I kept her covered up. She broke so flat footed I just put her right in behind," Smith explained. "I could tell how slow they were going, so I went for it to get on the clear and make the pace move. Looking back at it now, I can say it was a great move."
Sent off the 6-5 favorite, Emollient paid $4.40, $4.20 and $4.20. Emotional Kitten had three parts of a length to spare over Topic, while Sarach filled out the top four down on the rail. Next under the wire were Becky Lou, Scarlet Strike, Macha and Wittgenstein.
"Turning for home, I thought I had the race won, but she kind of hung the last eighth. She still ran a great race," jockey Victor Espinoza praised Emotional Kitten.
"She ran great," assistant conditioner Blake Heap said of Emotional Kitten, who is trained by Wesley Ward. "I just got off the phone with Wesley and he said he's had so many seconds in Grade 1 races, but has never won one. He said, 'What are you going to do?' She'll ship down to Del Mar with me and then we'll figure out where she'll go next."
Emollient improved her career mark to read 4-2-0 from eight starts and has banked $656,900 in lifetime earnings. Her record includes a nine-length win in the April 6 Ashland over Keeneland's Polytrack off a seven-day turnaround, which was also her only try on a synthetic track, and a runner-up effort in last November's Demoiselle.
"She answered a couple of questions today," assistant trainer Rodolphe Brisset stated. "We didn't know about the grass and we didn't know about the mile and one-quarter.
"That was a very good race for her. She's definitely going to stick to the turf, but we can keep in mind she won a Grade 1 on the synthetic, too. It's one or the other, we can keep everything open."
The Kentucky-bred miss is by Empire Maker out of the Touch Gold mare Soothing Touch. Emollient's second dam is Grade 2-placed stakes winner Glia, and her third dam is French highweight and multiple Group 1 queen Coup de Genie.
In addition to Glia, Coup de Genie would go on in the breeding shed to produce fellow French highweight and Group 1 winner Denebola, multiple Grade 3 heroine Snake Mountain and Group 3 victress Loving Kindness. Another of her offspring, the unraced Nureyev mare Moonlight's Box, found fame when foaling European champion, Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe scorer and sire Bago, as well as Group 1 star Maxios.
Coup de Genie is a full sister to fellow Mr. Prospector-sired Machiavellian, a French champion and leading stallion, and a half-sibling to another top sire in Group 1 winner Exit to Nowhere. The trio's dam is the Group 3-winning Halo mare Coup de Folie.
Emollient's fifth dam is the unraced Hoist the Flag mare Raise the Standard, a half-sister to Canadian Horse of the Year and breed-defining sire Northern Dancer.