My Miss Lilly Earns Oaks Berth With Gazelle Triumph

Courtlandt Farm’s My Miss Lilly used a stretch-drive surge to win her first graded stakes, outkicking Sara Street and Virginia Key in the final jumps to capture the 123rd running of the Grade 2, $300,000 Gazelle for 3-year-old fillies on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack.

My Miss Lilly earned 100 points towards the Grade 1, $1 million Kentucky Oaks on May 4 at Churchill Downs. The Tapit filly, who won her debut on December 13 before running third in back-to-back stakes starts, stalked early as Sara Street led the field of six through an opening quarter-mile in 23.97 seconds and the half in 48.31.

Out of the final turn, jockey Joe Bravo set My Miss Lilly down from the three path with Virginia Key and Sara Street all vying for supremacy. My Miss Lilly, stretching out to the Gazelle distance of 1 1/8 miles for the first time, gained the lead in the final furlong and held on for a half-length victory over Sara Street, hitting the wire in 1:50.42.

“It was the first time I was able to sit on her, and she did everything correctly,” said Bravo. “I don’t think distance is going to hurt her. She’s bred to go long. I think she had [Sara Street and Virginia Key] beat. I don’t think she’s the kind of filly who is going to want to draw off.”

Off at 5-2, My Miss Lilly paid $7.90 on a $2 win wager and potentially punched her ticket to Kentucky Oaks while giving trainer Mark Hennig his first Gazelle win. The impressive rally started a packed stakes card that that is highlighted by the Grade 1, $400,000 Carter Handicap and the Grade 2, $1 million Wood Memorial.

“She’s a filly we’ve always been looking forward to getting around two turns,” Hennig said. “Her dam’s side indicates sprint, but she’s all Tapit. She’s a big long-legged Tapit, just dying to run two turns. We felt like getting around two turns was going to happen for her at a mile and an eighth.

“She had to go a little wide coming off that turn and I was worried about that, that it might catch up to her late, but she I feel like she’ll really relish more and more distance,” he added. “Like Joe said, she felt like she could’ve run around there again. She was very strong.”

My Miss Lilly more than tripled her career bankroll to $255,400. Hennig said the connections will see how the Kentucky bred comes out of the race before committing to the Oaks.

Godolphin Stable’s Sara Street, making her graded stakes debut for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, garnered 40 points to bring her total to 60.

“She ran very well. Second best today, no excuses,” McLaughlin said. “We ran great and we were happy with her performance. We were a little unlucky to get beat. We’ll have talk about what’s next.”

Virginia Key, making her first stakes start for trainer Todd Pletcher, earned 20 points, finishing 12 ¼ lengths clear of the rest of the field.

Midnight Disguise, the 8-5 favorite, finished fourth. The Linda Rice trainee, who was coming of wins in the Busanda and Busher, earned 10 points to bring her total Oaks qualifying points to 70, though Rice said she might not send the Midnight Lute filly to Churchill next month.

“I think we’d be more inclined to stay home. [Owner] Bill [Wilmot] and I discussed it and we don’t need to take her to Kentucky off of that effort,” Rice said. “This performance was disappointing. The speed didn’t break and they went pretty slow. I don’t know how much that was a factor, but either way I think it was a subpar effort for her. Up to this point she’s fired every time we’ve lead her over here and today wasn’t her day.”

Mo Shopping and Smokinpaddylassie completed the order of finish.

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