Shimmering Aspen revving up for G3 Charles Town Oaks
by Ted Black
In each of her last two starts at Laurel Park for trainer Rodney Jenkins and owner Hillwood Stables [Ellen Charles], Shimmering Aspen has made quick work of her stakes rivals in one-turn events. With those notches in her belt, her connections are now setting sail to fish in deeper waters.
They plan to give her another chance at earning graded stakes glory later this month in the Grade III, $300,000 Charles Town Oaks at the two-turn distance of seven furlongs over the West Virginia oval.
“She’s been doing great,” Jenkins said of Shimmering Aspen. “She likes having a little space in between her races. I think having six, seven, maybe eight weeks between races works out best for her. She came out of that last race super, so we’re going to try her up there at Charles Town later this month. I called [racing secretary] Charlie McIntosh up there and told him we intended to come up for that race. I think she’ll handle the smaller track perfectly. She’s got tactical speed, so I can see her laying close and still being able to finish up strong.”
Charles purchased Shimmering Aspen, a three-year-old daughter of Malibu Moon, for $200,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Fall Yearling sale in Timonium. She is out of the graded stakes-placed, West Virginia-bred Lion Hearted mare Aspenglow.
Shimmering Aspen is rapidly approaching her original purchase price in career earnings having won four of five starts this year and banked $140,000, and she now sports five wins from seven career outings with a lifetime bankroll approaching $167,000. Her five wins have been by a combined total margin of 27 1/2 lengths, an average margin of victory of 5 1/2 lengths — the exact margin of her Twixt Stakes tally August 12.
Her Twixt victory came a year and a week after making her career debut at Laurel when she finished a respectable third in a maiden special weight event. Sent out as the solid 3-5 favorite in the Twixt under regular rider Steve Hamilton, Shimmering Aspen sat just off dueling leaders Mo’ne Davis and Mayla down the backside and into the far turn, swept to command with authority leaving the quarter pole and drew clear to win by 5 1/2-lengths under moderate urging while stopping the timer in 1:22.72 for the seven furlongs.
Two months earlier Shimmering Aspen had proved much the best in the Alma North Stakes for Maryland-bred three-year-old fillies, defeating Crabcakes by nearly six lengths while getting the seven panels in 1:23.12. It was an ideal performance for the Jenkins trainee, helping to erase lingering memories of her mid-May foray into the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes.
That day, over a sloppy, sealed Pimlico course, Shimmering Aspen surged to the lead with a furlong to go before tiring to seventh in the 1 1/8 mile fixture.
“I really didn’t think she ran poorly in the Black-Eyed Susan,” Jenkins said. “That was her first try going a distance of ground, and she just didn’t get over the track as well as I thought she would. But she came out of it great and we started looking for another Maryland-bred race for her a week or so later. She trains at Laurel so she always gets over the track really well. She seems to really like those one-turn sprints, so that’s where we’ve tried to keep her.”
Jenkins is optimistic the Malibu Moon filly will perform well in the Oaks while racing under the lights for the first time and trying two turns for the first time since the Black-Eyed Susan while back at her preferred distance of seven furlongs. The Charles Town Oaks is the centerpiece of the September 23 “Race For The Ribbon ” card that also includes one open $50,000 stakes, the Pink Ribbon for fillies and mares, and five other $50,000 stakes for West Virginia-breds preparing for the October 14 West Virginia Breeders Classics.
“She’s never raced under the lights anywhere, but she trains at 5:30 every morning at Laurel when it’s dark and there are some lights on the track,” Jenkins said. “The only difference is there will be a crowd there and other horses going into the gate with her. But she’s been able to adapt to everything so far. We’ll take it one race at a time, but her next start after the Oaks would probably be in late October. We doubt that she can get into a Maryland Million race. We’re not planning to have her run that day.”
Shimmering Aspen has worked once since winning the Twixt. On September 1, she ripped off a half-mile over the newly renovated Laurel Park racing strip, getting the distance in a sharp 46 3/5 seconds. She seems to be heading towards the Grade 3, $300,000 Charles Town Oaks in peak form for Jenkins and Charles.
“If she comes out of the Oaks well, I have another race in mind for her later next month,” Jenkins said. “But it all depends on her.”