Desert Dawn Upsets Adare Manor in Santa Anita Oaks

H&E Ranch’s Desert Dawn may have been the longest shot on the board for the $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks (G2) April 9 at Santa Anita Parkbut no one told the Arizona-bred filly her odds.

Closing from eight lengths off the lead of pacesetting fellow Phil D’Amato trainee Ain’t Easy at 14-1 odds, the homebred daughter of Cupid gave 3-5 favorite Adare Manor all she could handle in a ding-dong battle down to the wire and emerged victorious by a neck.

Desert Dawn was entered off a fourth in the March 6 Santa Ysabel Stakes (G3) and had just a maiden win earned in August 2021 to her credit, yet punched her ticket to the May 6 Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) with her win in Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile event. The Santa Anita Oaks awarded qualifying points on a 100-40-20-10 scale to the top four finishers, placing Desert Dawn fifth on the Kentucky Oaks Leaderboard for a field limited to 14 starters.

Off at odds of 3-1, Ain’t easy shot to the front from post 2 while Adare Manor and John Velazquez, breaking from the far outside in a field of five sophomore fillies, pressed her every step of the way through splits of : 23.05, :46.46, 1:10.56, and 1:37.76.

Ain’t Easy had a head advantage on the favorite turning for home but tired leaving the furlong pole while Desert Dawn pounced and inched clear late to narrowly prevail.

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“We are obviously disappointed in the result,” Velazquez said of Adare Manor’s loss. “She just didn’t run her ‘A’ race. She broke slowly and was in a good position in the backstretch, but she just didn’t run the way she usually does.”

It was 7 1/2 lengths back to Ain’t Easy, who held for third. The final time was 1:43.50 on a fast track. Desert Dawn returned $31.20 on a $2 win ticket.

“She’s an honest filly,” D’Amato said of the winner. “I always thought once she’d get her scenario, it would work out for her, and I think the longer, the better. Umberto’s been breezing her and her last drill was probably her best drill to date, so it all worked out. “

Out of the winning Honor and Glory mare Ashley’s Glory , Desert Dawn improved her record to 2-0-1 from seven starts and increased her earnings to $378,400. She is the first graded stakes winner out of the mare and one of her most recent progeny, the other being a yearling Mainshaft filly.

“I knew we needed that last race and I felt the last work was better than shown,” said Rispoli. “I just wanted to keep her outside and I knew the pace would set up really well for her. We started to move at the three-eighths pole and she fought every step of the way…Now, it is on to Kentucky! “

Video: Santa Anita Oaks (G2)

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