LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Sardula, considered a speed freak last year as a 2-year-old, added a new dimension to her racing career when she came from off the pace under 42-year-old rider, Eddie Delahoussaye, yesterday and defeated previously unbeaten filly Lakeway in the $283,600 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs.
It was the second upset in a rich stakes event on the Kentucky Derby eve program. About an hour earlier, Pat Day on Paradise Creek stormed past Mike Smith aboard 1-5 favored Lure and won the $233,950 Early Times Turf Classic by four lengths.
Delahoussaye saved ground in the Oaks, moving to the rail at the top of the stretch. He prevailed by a head with Sardula after a hard-fought duel with Lakeway for the last eighth of a mile in the 120th running of the Oaks, the Derby's sister race.
Winning trainer Brian Mayberry brought Sardula to the Oaks in an unorthodox manner. Entering the race, she only had one sprint race, which she won by 8 1/2 lengths at Santa Anita Park on April 9, at 6 1/2 furlongs. She had to stretch out to nine furlongs for the Oaks.
"We had been teaching her to relax and I thought maybe we had done our job too well," said Mayberry, after the filly lagged nearly 12 lengths off the pace in the early running.
Delahoussaye said his familiarity with the Churchill Downs strip contributed to his victory. Rain had started to fall about midday and the track was listed as "wet-fast" for the Oaks. "When it rains, this track gets good," Delahoussaye said. "I went to the rail because not many other riders had been going there during the day and I knew it would be good."
Kent Desormeaux, who rode even-money favorite Lakeway, said felt he had "so much horse" that he was not concerned about Sardula. He had rallied four horses wide on the turn, easily passing the filly. "But then I looked over and here she came again," Desormeaux said. "That is some kind of filly."
Desormeaux's apparent overconfidence in Lakeway stemmed from the fact that the filly was undefeated in four consecutive starts and had been considered as a possible entry to take on the colts today in the Kentucky Derby.
Sardula ran the nine furlongs in 1 minute, 51 seconds. Dianes Halo, ridden by Gary Stevens, finished third, two lengths behind Lakeway.
The rain contributed to the defeat of Lure in the Turf Classic.
"The horse prefers hard going," said trainer Shug McGaughey. The grass course was listed as "yielding" for the race. "But I can't really give him any excuses."
Lure was trapped in along the rail by Yukon Robbery during the early running after The Name's Jimmy set the early pace.
"I knew there was other speed in there," McGaughey said. "And naturally we would have preferred getting off to an easy lead by ourself."
Once Lure got the lead in the stretch, Paradise Creek rallied under Day and easily passed him.
"We had run against Lure four times before and each time he beat us," said Billy Mott, trainer of Paradise Creek. "My horse just ran huge today."
It was the second win in as many starts for Paradise Creek since being purchased two months ago by Masayuki Nishiyama of Tokyo. Nishiyama is the second-leading thoroughbred owner in Japan, according to his representative, Emanuel De Seroux, a bloodstock agent who lives in Los Angeles. De Seroux said Paradise Creek will eventually be retired to stud in Japan.
Both Paradise Creek and Lure could meet again at Pimlico Race Course in two weeks in the Early Times Dixie Stakes.
McGaughey said that despite the defeat, he thought Lure had run well.
"It was only his second start of the year and he carried 123 pounds [five more than Paradise Creek]," McGaughey said.