Red Ruby
Red Ruby won the 2018 G3 Delaware Oaks. Photo by Allison Janezic.

The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench in the plans of many horsemen across the country. It’s led to canceled races, disrupted schedules, and frustrated connections.

But it hasn’t affected Hopeful Growth, or the operation of her trainer, Anthony Margotta. Hopeful Growth is 10-1 on the morning line in Saturday’s Grade 3, $300,000 Delaware Oaks.

“We didn’t really miss a beat with our whole stable,” Margotta said Thursday.

That’s because Margotta, a New Jersey native now based at Monmouth Park, took his stable to Florida for the winter, and Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs both raced all winter long.

Hopeful Growth broke her maiden at Monmouth at first asking in a 4 ½-furlong baby race last June. She had minor shin issues that kept her on the shelf until March, when she returned to be second in a Gulfstream allowance. She followed that effort up with an easy May 6 allowance score at Tampa Bay.

“She’s training very good,” Margotta said. “We’re very happy with how she’s been training.”

Hopeful Growth, a daughter of Tapiture, was a $160,000 auction purchase and races in the colors of St. Elias Stable. She’s a half-sister to the graded stakes winner Ten City, winner of the 2017 Grade 3 Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs.

Hopeful Growth’s connections have long harbored high hopes for her, and Margotta said that the 1 1/16-mile Delaware Oaks had been “on the radar for a while.”

If her having stayed in training throughout the winter provides an advantage over some of her rivals, though, that she’ll be trying a route of ground for the first time is the flip side. Her most recent win, at seven furlongs, was the farthest she’s gone, and while Margotta believes her breeding indicates she’ll relish the added ground, only time will tell.

“The only question mark is this will be her first time around the two turns,” he said.

Hopeful Growth has attracted a top rider in Trevor McCarthy, which should aid the cause. Margotta said he expects his charge to be a few lengths off the early pace before making her run.

“She won’t be forwardly placed or on the lead,” he said. “It looks like there’s a little bit of speed in here, which is OK.”

Hopeful Growth will have to contend with the top pair from the May 1 Gardenia Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Piece of My Heart, 2-1 on the morning line, sped to the lead in that one and never looked back in recording an impressive win, while Comical (5-2) was a willing second.

If all goes well on Saturday, another congenial spot – the Grade 3, $150,000 Monmouth Oaks – is available August 1. That one wouldn’t even require shipping.

Both the Delaware Oaks and Monmouth Oaks offer their winners 50 points towards entry in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, slated for September 4 this year.

The timing of the three Oaks is perfect, Margotta said, if his charge is good enough. By early Saturday evening, he’ll know more.