Hopeful Growth
Hopeful Growth and Antonio Gallardo won the Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks. Photo By Ryan Denver/EQUI-PHOTO.

Prior to last month’s Grade 3 Delaware Oaks, Anthony Margotta, Jr., the trainer of Hopeful Growth said he was pleased with how his charge was training. But he still wasn’t sure how the race would play out.

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

That proved prescient. Hopeful Growth was a well-beaten fifth that day. But she gained valuable education, and Saturday at Monmouth Park, she parlayed her newfound knowledge into an upset victory in the Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks at Monmouth Park.

We were hoping to hit the board there, but typically a horse going two turns for the first time in our program may need a race around two turns the first time,” Margotta said. “This was our bull’s eye target.”

And Hopeful Growth and her team certainly hit the mark. Under jockey Antonio Gallardo, Hopeful Growth was never far back while in fourth place at the first three calls. The six furlongs went in a tepid 1:13.52, with Hopeful Growth, still fourth, just a length-and-change behind the Arnaud Delacour-trained Lucrezia, who was the post time favorite.

Hopeful Growth came calling for the lead in the lane, drawing away in the final furlong to win by four lengths while completing the 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.63. Delaware Oaks winner Project Whiskey was second, and the Todd Pletcher-trained Eve of War was third. Dream Marie, trained by 24-year-old Matthew Williams, completed the superfecta.

“I had good position the whole way,” said Gallardo. “I was close to the leaders. I had the favorite (Lucrezia) in front of me with Project Whiskey with her and the two horse (Princess Cadey) was just outside us. I just waited to get clear. I was able to do that before the quarter pole. I knew she had a lot left and she responded.”  

The win was Hopeful Growth’s third in five career starts, and it pushed her earnings to $183,240. It was also her first stakes win.

She is a daughter of Tapiture out of the Rock Hard Ten mare Maiden America. Owned by St. Elias Stable, she was a $160,000 auction purchase as a yearling at the 2018 Keeneland fall yearling sale.

For all the high hopes she came with and success she’s enjoyed, Margotta portrays Hopeful Growth as a work in progress, a filly still learning the ropes.

Gallardo had won with her at Tampa Bay Downs in early May. But even then, he said, Margotta’s focus was less on winning the race and more on the learning process.

“Anthony told me that day, ‘Try to teach her. I don’t want her to be a filly that just goes to the lead. I don’t care if you lose, just teach her’,'” the rider remembered. “That’s what happened in Tampa. She learned – and she still won. I was able to put her behind horses that day and she learned very fast. When I put her in the clear that race she took off. That lesson paid off today.”

“I took the blinkers off her last two races so she would learn a little,” Margotta added. “I put them back on so she would focus more after she learned a little bit. “

Seems like Hopeful Growth is turning into an adept pupil.