Monday, March 26, 2012

Oaks Contender: Princess Arabella


The sun was setting on the year of 2011 as a chestnut filly paraded before the grandstand at Santa Anita Park in Peachtree Stable’s silks. In minutes, a maiden special weight for juvenile fillies, who the next day would be declared three-year-olds, would be run. It was their last chance to get a victory as a two-year-old. The chestnut filly carrying the purple colors of Peachtree was one of only two first-time starters in the field, but was certainly the most highly-regarded filly entered, as she went off at even-money.

After breaking slowly, Princess Arabella gained on the leaders with every stride, always growing closer to the lead. Under Martin Garcia, the Bob Baffert trainee swung wide on the far turn, floating effortlessly to a victory that resulted in a final winning margin of 3 ½ lengths. By the end of the six-furlong race, many people were talking about Princess Arabella. Lofty hopes and dreams were already pinned to her.

With the champion two-year-old filly of 2011, My Miss Aurelia, out of the picture with sore shins and arguably the best California juvenile filly, Weemissfrankie, also out with an injury, many Kentucky Oaks (GI) dreams found their way to Princess Arabella. She was just a maiden winner, but when she loaded into the starting gate on February 12, 2012 in an allowance race at Santa Anita, those dreams had a chance to expand.

Princess Arabella did not disappoint. The distance of her second start was just one furlong longer than her debut, so the chestnut filly would still only be racing around one turn. In a field of five, Princess Arabella found herself in third for most of the race before striking to the lead under light urging to gallop to another 3 ½-length victory.

Talk of the Kentucky Oaks regarding Princess Arabella heated up. Baffert pointed the filly to the Sunland Park Oaks, the same race that Plum Pretty won by 25 lengths in 2011 before triumphing in the Kentucky Oaks. Facing stakes company for the first time, Princess Arabella used a new tactic, breaking like a rocket from the starting gate to find the lead in her first try around two turns. She did not look back from there, going on to effortlessly win the mile and one-sixteenth race by 8 lengths.

With her remarkably easy win, Princess Arabella likely stamped herself as the current favorite for the Kentucky Oaks. There are still just less forty days until the prestigious race for sophomore fillies, but this filly, who I have followed since nearly the beginning of her career, has clearly declared herself to be one of the most talented three-year-old fillies in the nation. Princess Arabella has not yet faced very tough horses, but in winning the Sunland Park Oaks, she defeated the stakes-winning and graded stakes-placed Glinda the Good, the stakes-winning horses Take Me Away Today and Regal Betty, and the stakes-placed Ize in Trouble. By easily defeating Glinda the Good, she effortlessly conquered a filly who faced one of the top-rated sophomore fillies in the nation, On Fire Baby.

Her pedigree suggests that she will also have no trouble getting the nine-furlong distance of the Oaks. She is by Any Given Saturday, the winner of the 2007 Haskell Invitational (GI, 9F), the Brooklyn Handicap (GII, 9F), and the Dwyer Stakes (GII, 8.5F). Princess Arabella is a member of his first crop, which includes horses that have already been proven at races at one mile or longer. For instance, his daughter, Sunday’s Child, is a black-type winner at one mile on the grass, and his son, Saturday Launch, is an allowance optional claiming winner over one mile on the turf at Gulfstream. Any Given Saturday is by Distorted Humor, who can obviously produce distances horses. He is, of course, the sire of the Belmont Stakes (GI, 12F)- and Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI, 10F)-winning Drosselmeyer, the Clement L. Hirsch Turf Championship Stakes (GI, 10F)- and San Luis Rey (GII, 12F)-winning Fourty Niners Son, and the Kentucky Derby (GI, 10F)- and Preakness Stakes (GI, 9.5F)-winning Funny Cide.

Princess Arabella’s dam, Tortuga Lady, is by the 1995 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes-winning Thunder Gulch and out of a Conquistador Cielo (also a Belmont winner) mare. In addition to producing Princess Arabella, Tortuga Lady has produced the filly’s half-sister, Dyna’s Lassie, a stakes winner and multiple stakes-placed mare. Tortuga Lady is full sister to the late Invisible Ink, third-place finisher in the 2001 Florida Derby (GI) and runner-up in that year’s Kentucky Derby.

Princess Arabella descends from female family two, the same family that has produced the great champions Busted, Cigar, Go for Wand, Northern Dancer, Phar Lap, Secretariat, and With Approval. Recent family two stars include Dreaming of Anna, Giacomo, Gio Ponti, Kitten’s Joy, Point Given, and Shackleford.

This filly could certainly be on an ascent to stardom. With her sheer talent and promising pedigree, Princess Arabella packs undeniable potential to not only become a graded stakes winner or even the Kentucky Oaks winner, but a fan favorite. She has not yet been tested and is already beginning to capture the hearts of racing fans. This excitement is only aided by her flawless race record. Princess Arabella could very well go on to do great things and produce a huge fan base along the way.


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