Road To The Kentucky Oaks: Brown Enters Two In Saturday’s Gazelle

Trainer Chad Brown will send out a pair of stakes winners who are looking to take the next step up against graded company, with the duo competing as part of an eight-horse field in Saturday’s Grade 3, $250,000 Gazelle for sophomore fillies going 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The 127th running of the Gazelle – offering 100-40-20-10 qualifying points to the top-four finishers to the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on April 30 at Churchill Downs – is one of five stakes on a loaded Saturday at the Big, highlighted by the Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino for 3-year-olds going nine furlongs with the same point structure on the line for the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby on May 1.

The day will also include the first New York Grade 1 race of the year in the $300,000 Carter for 4-year-olds and up going seven furlongs; the Grade 3, $200,000 Bayshore for 3-year-olds going seven furlongs; and the Grade 3, $150,000 Excelsior for 4-year-olds and up going nine furlongs.

The Gazelle will be contested for the first time in two years, with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing last year’s edition to be missed. That marked the first time since the stretch between 1933-35 that the prestigious race for 3-year-old fillies was not run.

But the contest’s resurgence will see four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown enter the respective first and third-place finishers from the Busher Invitational on March 6, saddling Klaravich Stables’ Search Results and Louis Lazzinnaro’s The Grass Is Blue.

Search Results, unraced as a juvenile, improved to 2-for-2 in her career with a half-length score over Miss Brazil in the Busher, contested over a one-turn mile on an Aqueduct fast track. The daughter of Flatter earned a Gazelle field-high 84 Beyer Speed Figure for that effort and will now contest at two turns for the first time, with jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the irons from the outermost post 8.

Brown is a two-time Gazelle winner, earning winner’s circle trips with Awesome Feather [2011] and Lewis Bay [2016].

Ortiz, Jr., the winner of the last three Eclipse Awards for Outstanding Jockey, enjoyed a tremendous winter at Gulfstream with a record-setting 140 wins at the championship meet. He also piloted Lewis Bay to victory for Brown in the Gazelle five years ago.

Search Results, a debut four-length winner going six furlongs on January 3 at Gulfstream Park, was purchased for $310,000 at the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Her stablemate, The Grass Is Blue, ran third in the Busher, garnering a personal-best 74 Beyer. The consistent Broken Vow filly is 3-0-2 in six starts and has already won a stakes at the Gazelle distance, besting Coffee Bar by one length in the Busanda on January 24. That sophomore debut effort followed a three-race juvenile campaign in which she won her debut by 8 1/2 lengths in July at Monmouth Park before capturing a 6 1/2-furlong optional claiming sprint in October at Keeneland.

The Grass Is Blue earned her first stakes blacktype with a third-place effort in the Anne Arundel County on December 26 at Laurel to close the curtain on 2020. She will make her third consecutive start at Aqueduct, drawing post 5 with Manny Franco aboard.

Beach Haven Thoroughbreds’ Maracuja broke her maiden at third asking, rallying from last-of-six to draw away to a 3 3/4-length win going 6 1/2 furlongs on February 21 at the Ozone Park course. The Rob Atras trainee has made all three of her starts over the same track, starting with a runner-up debut on December 20 before a third-place finish on January 23 stretched out to seven furlongs.

Atras said he needed to be patient with the Honor Code filly, who has been training at Belmont Park, including a five-furlong breeze in 1:03.69 on March 28 over the dirt training track.

“It took her a little time to come around with some baby issues,” Atras said. “She was figuring things out in her first couple of starts, but her last race she really put everything all together.”

Maracuja, bought for $200,000 at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Yearling Sale, will have Kendrick Carmouche’s services from post 2 as she stretches out for the longest race of her young career.

“She acts like two turns shouldn’t be an issue but it’s a big ask going from six and a half furlongs to a mile and an eighth and stepping up to a big race like this. She’s continued to train forwardly,” Atras said.

Mia Martina will make her main track debut after winning her first two career starts on turf ahead of a fourth-place effort in the Grade 3 Florida Oaks going 1 1/16 miles on the Tampa Bay Downs grass on March 6.

Trainer Graham Motion said Mia Martina, owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Gianni Fittipaldi, has family history on her side in trying dirt. Out of Proud and Charming, Mia Martina’s sire is Not This Time, winner of the 2016 Grade 3 Iroquois and the runner-up to Classic Empire in that year’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Not This Time retired after that race due to a soft tissue injury to his right front leg, prompting a successful second career as a sire.

“We talked about it and thought this will be a good time to find out how she handles the dirt,” Motion said. “She has a dirt pedigree. She’s a very straight-forwarded filly who looks like the further she goes, the better, so we thought the mile and an eighth might suit her.”

Mia Martina, who drew post 3 with Junior Alvarado set to ride, worked for the first time on dirt, clocking four furlongs in 51 seconds flat on March 25 at Palm Meadows Training Center.

“She seemed to handle it fine,” Motion said. “She’s not a flashy racehorse anyway. We’re taking a bit of a shot but we felt this is a good spot to do it.”

Alwayz Late didn’t earn her first trip to the winner’s circle until her fourth career start on February 14 at Gulfstream Park but will make her first stakes appearance with momentum. Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott saw the daughter of Animal Kingdom win her second straight contest with a 1 1/2-length score traveling nine furlongs against allowance optional-claiming company on March 10 at Gulfstream, improving her record to 2-0-2 in five starts.

Alwayz Late, owned by Wachtel Stable, Pantofel Stable and TOLO Thoroughbreds, will ship to New York for the first time after continuing to train at Gulfstream. Tyler Gaffalione will ride from post 6.

Three Diamonds Farm’s Army Wife also won multiple races to gear up for a stakes bow, including a thrilling finish last out when she topped Happy Constitution by a nose in a one-mile optional claiming race on March 13 at Gulfstream.

Conditioned by Mike Maker, Army Wife was purchased for $190,000 at the 2020 Ocala Breeders’ Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training. Trevor McCarthy will ride from post 4.

Augustin Stable’s Song of Innocence made her last three starts on Turfway Park’s all-weather surface and will make her first stakes start for trainer Jonathan Thomas, breaking from post X in tandem with Eric Cancel. Song of Innocence broke her maiden at third asking going one mile at Turfway on January 29.

Magic Oaks’ Hybrid Eclipse, off two straight wins for trainer Linda Rice, will compete in a stakes for the first time in six career starts, exiting post X with Jose Ortiz aboard.

The Gazelle is slated as Race 9 on the 11-race program. First post is 12:50 p.m. Eastern.

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