Shahama, ridden by Jorge Vargas Jr., wins the Monmouth Oaks
For those in trainer Todd Pletcher’s camp, the feeling entering Sunday’s $250,000 Monmouth Oaks (G3) at Monmouth Park was that it was a two-horse race between Shahama and the Brad Cox-trained Juju’s Map.
Turns out it was a one-horse race.
Shahama stuck to the flanks of Juju’s Map for the first six furlongs of 1 1/16-mile feature and then powered away in the stretch for a 2½-length victory in the 98th edition of the race for 3-year-old fillies.
After trying to hold the lead against Shahama, Juju’s Map – the only Grade 1 winner in the field – finished a tiring third, three-quarters of a length behind the late running Shotgun Hottie.
The winning time was 1:41.54.
“We thought Brad Cox’s horse would be on the lead and we would be sitting second and that’s just how it played out,” said Anthony Sciametta, who handles Pletcher’s division at Monmouth Park. “She’s been training in New York and shipped down for this Saturday afternoon and did well and was well behaved. I know everyone who is around her likes her. She has a lot of class, as you can tell.
“I thought it was a two-horse race. You don’t like to say that, but we thought it was between Juju’s Map and us. Shahama was really good today.”
Ridden by Jorge Vargas Jr., Shahama was let go as the 17-10 second choice in the field of five for her third start in the United States. After making her first four career starts at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, she was sixth in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) and then second in the Mother Goose (G2) June 25 at Belmont Park in her previous start. The daughter of Munnings out of Private Feeling, by Belong to Me, owned by KHK Racing, has five wins and a second from seven career starts.
“It was kind of a two-horse race. No disrespect to the others, but Shahama and Juju’s Map were the classiest horses going in,” said Vargas. “I put my horse right on Juju’s Map early. I was travelling good the whole time and I kept her just outside because Todd told me she doesn’t like kickback from the dirt. She has a pretty face. She doesn’t want to get that dirty.”
Juju’s Map, the 9-10 favorite, set early fractions of :24.67, :48.71, and 1:11.88 through six furlongs but could not shake Shahama.
“At the half-mile pole I picked it up with her. Paco Lopez (aboard (JuJu’s Map) tried to do the same but didn’t have as much horse as I did,” said Vargas. “By the three-eighths pole I was in front and it was over.”
For Vargas, it marked his first graded stakes win since the Salvator Mile (G3) aboard Pirates Punch on September 20, 2020.
Shahama, who was bred in Kentucky by SF Bloodstock, paid $5.40 to win. Trainer Fawzi Nass paid $425,000 for her at the 2021 OBS Spring Sale of Two-Year-Olds In Training. To date she has earned $435,984.