Wednesday, June 29, 2011

DelPark News & Notes St. John’s River on target for July 9 Delaware Oaks

Wilmington, Del., June 29, 2011 — Dede McGehee’s St. John’s River, second in her most recent outing in the Grade I Kentucky Oaks, is on target for the mile-and-a-sixteenth $300,000 Grade II Delaware Oaks to be run at Delaware Park on July 9.

“She has been at Delaware since last Thursday (June 16),” said trainer Andrew Leggio, Jr., who trains on the Louisiana circuit. “The track is a little bit looser and cuppier then I like, but I think she will adjust to it fine. She has been over it now for three of four days and I am planning on blowing her out over it on Saturday morning. It has been really nice up here. I have been here four or five days myself and we really like it. I can tell you this, it is a lot cooler here then it is in New Orleans.”

In her most recent outing, St. John’s River ran second, beaten a neck in the mile-and-an-eighth Grade I Kentucky Oaks on May 6. Previously, the Kentucky-bred daughter of Include ran second, beaten a half length in the mile-and-a-sixteenth $500,000 Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks on March 26.

“She has a run a couple of really super races to finish second, so we are really hoping she will break through and get that graded stake victory soon,” Leggio said. “We really like this filly, and she is training real well, so I think she we will run a big race. We knew she was going to be a route horse all along. Her full sister is Panty Raid and she was a route horse. The further she went, the better she got, and this girl is sort of following the same path as Panty Raid.”

In 2007, Panty Raid won the mile-and-an-eighth Grade II Black-Eyed Susan, the mile-and-a-quarter Grade I American Oaks on the turf and the mile-and-an-eighth Grade I Spinster Stakes on the synthetic surface at Keeneland.

St. John’s River’s only career victory came on January 21, when she posted a four-length triumph against maidens going a mile and 70 yards at the Fair Grounds. She followed by running second, beaten a neck in a mile-and-70-yard allowance at the Fair Grounds on February 25. She has a career record of a win, three seconds and a third from five starts, with earnings of $320,070.

A strong showing in the Delaware Oaks could send St. John’s River to the mile-and-a-quarter Grade I Alabama Stakes at Saratoga on August 20.

“We are just going to take it one race at a time,” he said. “We want to get through this race, but I do have my eye on the Alabama. If she comes out of this race good and runs well, we will probably go to the Alabama.”

Since the Delaware Oaks was reinstituted as part of the Delaware Park stakes schedule in 1996, five fillies, including the last three, have won the Delaware Oaks and followed with a victory in the Alabama Stakes. They are Blind Luck (2010), Careless Jewel (2009), Proud Spell (2008), Island Fashion (2003) and Runup the Colors (1997). Both Blind Luck and Proud Spell won the year-end Eclipse Award for 3-year-old fillies.

It has been a little while since Leggio has been to Delaware Park, and while he knew about the Delaware Oaks as a young man, he has a much better appreciation for it now.

“The last time I was at Delaware Park was about 60 years ago when I was 16 or 17 years old and I was just coming on the racetrack,” he said. “In those days, I did not realize how important these kind of races were. I was just a kid learning how to gallop. I did not know an allowance condition from a claiming race in those days, but I sure do now.”

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