By NYRA Press Office — On Father’s Day, it was the mother-to-be who brought home the victory for Team Valor International. Oleksandra (AUS), the lone mare in the field of nine, won the one-mile Grade 3 Poker Stakes by a neck over favored Raging Bull in Sunday’s feature on the turf at Belmont Park, Elmont, Ny.
In her fourth start of 2021, Oleksandra, who is currently in foal to Into Mischief, broke a step slow from the gate, bumping into favorite Raging Bull, and was last for the first six furlongs of the one-mile Poker. Jockey Joel Rosario did not panic, though, content to let his mount run at the back of the pack and allow the race to develop in front of them. Get Smokin, winner of the Seek Again Stakes in his previous start, took the lead within the first furlong, with Raased and Tell Your Daddy running close behind, and he held onto that advantage until the final turn.
Favorite Raging Bull found himself boxed in for much of the race, but, as the field entered the stretch, he made his move on the rail, just to the inside of Get Smokin. At the back of the field on that last turn, Rosario took Oleksandra to the outside, moving down the center of the course as Raging Bull began to overtake Get Smokin. Raging Bull got to the lead in that last furlong, but Oleksandra moved past him, taking over first place and determinedly holding off Raging Bull to win the G3 Poker by a head. The final time for the mile was 1:32.11.
Behind Oleksandra and Raging Bull came Front Run the Fed, Sanctuary City, Get Smokin, Penalty, Tell Your Daddy, Raased, and Veronesi.
Oleksandra paid $36.80, $7.30, and $5.40. Raging Bull paid $2.60 and $2.10. Front Run the Fed paid $3.00 to show.
Trainer Neil Drysdale was pleased with Oleksandra’s career finale. “Things haven’t gone exactly smooth this year for her. We ran in Kentucky and realized she doesn’t like the soft going. So, then we decided not to run here [in the Jaipur] because it was raining a lot here too at the time. Since she’s more relaxed this year, we decided to try her at a mile hoping she could get the distance, and she did. She’s pregnant [in foal to Into Mischief], so this was her swan song. She’ll go out on a high note.”
Joel Rosario was not deterred by that slow start. “She always comes out of there like that [slow] but then she can be a little aggressive after. She relaxed very nicely. Neil Drysdale is a tremendous trainer.”
Foaled in Australia, Oleksandra is a daughter of 2011 Grade 1 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom out of the Caesour mare Alexandra Rose. Bred by her owner Team Valor, this 6-year-old mare was a $1.45 million RNA at the November 2020 Keeneland Breeding Stock sale. This victory in the G3 Poker Stakes is her first win of 2021 and her eighth career victory in 20 starts for career winnings of $705,748.