Kathleen O. takes Gulfstream Park Oaks
Winngate Stables’ multiple stakes-winning filly Kathleen O. kept her perfect record intact and further established herself as one of the leaders of her division with a powerful 2 ¾-length triumph over Goddess of Fire in Saturday’s $250,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2).
Favored at 1-2 over six rivals off three wins to start her career, the last two coming this winter at Gulfstream, Kathleen O. completed the distance in 1:43.75 over a fast main track to give Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey his fifth Oaks win following Glitter Woman (1997), My Flag (1996), Inside Information (1994) and Dispute (1993). All four came when the race was contested as the Bonnie Miss.
Kathleen O., with regular Hall of Fame rider Javier Castellano aboard, was making her two-turn debut in the Oaks. She graduated last fall sprinting seven furlongs at Aqueduct before heading south, where she captured a pair of one-mile stakes – the Jan. 1 Cash Run by 8 ½ lengths and the March 5 Davona Dale (G2) by two lengths. All her wins came in late-running fashion.
“We got an outside post going around the first turn the first time, and she kind of drifted out a bit, anyway. I think she wants to run a distance of ground,” McGaughey said. “She just does everything right. She laid in there and Javier you can see when he kind of let her run up to them, she does it pretty easy. He said from there, he just kind of let her cruise.”
Kathleen O. was unhurried early trailing horses in the clear on the far outside as 25-1 long shot Cancel This led through a quarter-mile in :24.17 and a half in :48.27, pressed by Amani’s Image with Blustery and Running Legacy in the next flight ahead of Goddess of Love.
Luis Saez and Goddess of Love launched their bid leaving the backstretch, moving up to fourth and taking over the lead on the far turn as the long shot leaders began to fade. Castellano followed on her outside and ranged up to the leader as they straightened for home.
“I had a beautiful trip,” Castellano, who previously won the Oaks with In Tune (2014) and Grace Hall (2012), said. “I had no question at all that she would handle two turns. She has strong power at the finish. I like the way she did it today, nice and easy with a strong finish. She has a lot of potential. I think she’s going to be fun in the future.”
Goddess of Fire held a slim advantage after going six furlongs in 1:12.50, but Castellano and Kathleen O. were in full flight as they rolled up alongside and kept going. Goddess of Fire was 17 ¼ lengths ahead of show finisher Running Legacy, followed by Amani’s Image, Blustery and Cancel This. Catiche was scratched.
“She ran super,” Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher said of Goddess of Fire, runner-up in the Feb. 19 Rachel Alexandra (G2) at Fair Grounds. “Luis tried to spread the race in the middle of the turn and the favorite just ran her down, but I was pleased with her effort.”
Said Saez: “We just got run down. The winner is a good filly. I knew she was right there and I tried to stay in front of her and make my move a little early so I could get away from her, but we were second-best.”
Kathleen O., who returned $3, is one of just two horses owned by Winngate’s Patrick Kearney, purchased for $275,000 as a 2-year-old in training last April in Ocala. The other is Cloudy, a 3-year-old Noble Mission colt, is winless in two starts.
“This is just awesome,” Kearney said. “A year ago, I didn’t own a horse. I told Shug, we’d known each other a long time, ‘I’d like to do something different and get some excitement in my life. Do you mind if I get a horse?’ He said, ‘You don’t get one horse, you get two.’ Long story short, in Ocala last year he picked out Kathleen O. This is just incredible. I know I’m living a dream. It’s just wonderful.”
Kathleen O. earned 100 qualifying points and, with a total of 150, moved to the top of the leaderboard for the Kentucky Oaks (G1) May 6 at Churchill Downs.
“I figured that Todd’s filly (Goddess of Fire) was going to be the one that we were going to have to chase and it was. This is kind of a miracle. The (owner) gets one horse, and it’s this one. If he doesn’t have any more fun, which he will, he’s had a lot of it,” McGaughey said.
“We’ll see how she comes out of it. Obviously the Kentucky Oaks is a big spot for me,” he added. “I really like the Oaks. I’ve won it one time. I remember the thrill and I’d like to have it again. The long stretch at Churchill Downs, maybe it will be for her.”