An impressive array of nominees is set for the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks to be run on Sunday, March 27 at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino. The distaff feature is the co-feature to the $800,000 Sunland Derby (Gr. III) and looks to be a very strong betting event.
Trainer Bob Baffert should hold a strong hand with either Plum Pretty or A Z Warrior.
Baffert’s second nominee for the Oaks is the intriguing Plum Pretty. The bay filly is an elegantly bred daughter of Medaglia d’Oro out of an A.P. Indy mare. She has progressed nicely to her breeding in 2011. Since breaking her maiden at the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita last fall. Plum Pretty went on to compete bravely in graded stakes company in Southern California. On Jan. 15 at Santa Anita, Plum Pretty stalked a hot pace and finished determinedly to finish third in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez behind California Nectar and Zazu. Almost a month later, the hard trying filly generated another stakes placed performance in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes behind Zazu and Turbulent Descent. She has finished similarly behind both Turbulent Descent and Zazu as her stable mate A Z Warrior.
A Z Warrior won the Grade I Frizette at Belmont Park last fall and was one of the leading two-year-old fillies in the country. The daughter of Bernardini raced as a 4-1 proposition in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs. In her three-year-old debut, the dark bay filly tackled elite company in the Grade Sanita Anita Oaks. She chased the fast Turbulent Descent throughout but still managed a good third beaten five lengths. The highly regarded filly Zazu finished second in that one. A Z Warrior has earned nearly $270,000 from six starts for the Zayat Stables. She has been working forwardly at Santa Anita for much of the late winter months.
Doug O’Neill counters the Baffert trained duo with California Nectar owned by Suarez Racing, Inc. California Nectar enjoyed two lucrative scores in both the $100,000 California Breeders’ Championship and Grade 2 $150,000 Santa Ynez at Santa Anita Park. The Stormy Atlantic filly defeated Zazu and Plum Party in the Santa Ynez and marked herself as a rising star in the three-year-old filly division.
The local contingent is led by Island Fashion winner Golden Springs and runner-up Formal Plan. El Paso Times Stakes runner-up Paloma Mesa also deserves serious consideration.
Harissa, last year’s winner of the Sunland Park Oaks, has gone on to become a leading stakes winner on the East Coast.