Lewis Bay stamps ticket to Oaks

OZONE PARK, N.Y. -- There's a saying in horse racing if you want to make God laugh, make a plan. Five months ago, Chad Brown planned to run Lewis Bay in the Grade 2, $300,000 Gazelle Stakes and it was Brown who had the last laugh Saturday as Lewis Bay glided over the gooey going at Aqueduct to win the Gazelle by 1-1/2 lengths.

Royal Obsession finished second by seven lengths over Mo d'Amour. Dreams to Reality, Flora Dora, and Clair de Lune completed the order of finish. Behrnik's Bank scratched due to the wet track, according to her owner/trainer Peter Kazamias.

Lewis Bay was making just her second start since last Nov. 28, the day she won the Grade 2 Demoiselle over Aqueduct's main track. It was shortly thereafter that Brown planned on running Lewis Bay in the Davona Dale at Gulfstream in February and then the Gazelle as stepping-stones to a potential start in the Kentucky Oaks.

Lewis Bay finished second, seven lengths behind Cathryn Sophia in the Grade 2 Davona Dale on Feb. 27.

"Right after she won the Demoiselle we planned on the Davona Dale and Gazelle," Brown said. "Sure enough, she hit every breeze, she hit both races, and she's done everything perfect. She's such an honest, consistent horse you can make a schedule with a horse like her and she stuck to it. Very proud of her."

Brown figured Lewis Bay was the horse to beat in the Gazelle and instructed jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. to ride her as such. She broke alertly, but Ortiz wanted to follow someone so he took Lewis Bay three to four wide into the first turn as stablemate Claire de Lune set the pace stalked by Mo d'Amour.

The pace was tepid and Lewis Bay cruised to the front-runners, putting a head in front just before six furlongs were run in 1:13.88. Lewis Bay opened up a three-length lead in midstretch, but got to waiting on horses and her final margin ended up being 1-1/2 lengths.

"I don't want to make the lead too early but she just passed the horses on her own," said Ortiz, who won five of the first eight races on Saturday's 12-race card.

Lewis Bay, a daughter of Bernardini owned by the Alpha Delta Stables, covered the 1-1/8 miles in 1:52.60 over a sealed, muddy track and returned $5.50 as the favorite. She also earned 100 qualifying points to the May 6 Kentucky Oaks, which will be her next target.

"She's learning; the longer she can wait to get by horses the better," Brown said. "We'll continue to work on that. But she's an exciting horse coming into the Oaks. I know you got to face a horse like Songbird if she stays healthy and shows up there and that's a tall task, but anything can happen in a horse race and it's a big purse and it's a prestigious race so if our filly is sound and happy we'll go."

Royal Obsession earned 40 points and could run in the Oaks if her connections desire. However, she is owned by Stonestreet Stable, which also owns Rachel's Valentina, who ran a game second in Saturday's Grade 1 Ashland. Mo d'Amour, who was beaten 8-1/2 lengths, would also have enough points to run in the Oaks. Her connections, Ed Stanco's King of Prussia Stable, won the Oaks in 2013 with Princess of Sylmar.