APPLE BLOSSOM HANDICAP | PURSE: $500,000 | 4-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 1 | 1 1/16 MILES
HOT SPRINGS, Ark. -- Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty got her 4-year-old season started in a powerful way Friday at Oaklawn Park, when she shuttled to a 2 1/4- length win over Absinthe Minded in the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap.
The score gave Plum Pretty's trainer, Bob Baffert, his fifth graded win at the meet, and his second during the Racing Festival of the South that wraps up Saturday with the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby.
"If we can just keep going one more day," said Baffert, who has Bodemeister and Secret Circle in the Arkansas Derby.
The Apple Blossom was Plum Pretty's first start since November, when she finished fifth in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic. She hopped out at the start of the mile and a sixteenth race, and assumed a tracking position behind Twelve Twenty Two, who showed the way through an opening quarter of a mile in 23.89 and a half-mile in 47.54.
Plum Pretty and jockey Rafael Bejarano engaged the pacesetter into the final turn, maintained a measured lead around the bend, then started to move away from the field at the quarter pole. Plum Pretty covered the distance on a track rated fast in a sharp 1:42.64. She paid $3 to win.
"It was a little anxious moment at the start, then [Bejarano] got her to settle," said Baffert, who trains Plum Pretty for Peachtree Stable.
"She was so strong today."
Bejarano was pleased with the effort from Plum Pretty.
"She was great relaxing and after a half-mile I felt in total control," he said. "She was ready to go when I asked her."
Plum Pretty, who was the 117-pound starting highweight in the Apple Blossom following the defection of Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, won her second Grade 1 race in the Apple Blossom. Overall, she has won 5 of 11 starts and $1,656,700. Plum Pretty is a daughter of Medaglia d'Oro.
Baffert said next-race plans are to be determined for Plum Pretty.
"She'll go to California and we'll map out something later on," he said. "We'll pick out a spot. She'll tell us when she's ready to go somewhere."
Tiz Miz Sue finished third in the Apple Blossom, a neck behind Absinthe Minded. It was another 14 lengths back in fourth to Holy Heavens, then three more lengths to Twelve Twenty Two.
Attendance at Oaklawn on Friday was 22,629.