Intriguing group slated for G3 Delaware Oaks

An intriguing group of eight sophomore fillies – four of them already stakes winners – is set to face the starter in Saturday’s Grade 3, $300,000 Delaware Oaks.

The 1 1/16-mile affair has been carded as the sixth race on the card with an approximate post time of 3:00pm.

The Bill Morey-trained Shotgun Hottie is the 5-2 morning line favorite. Owned by Omar Aldabbagh and Jeff Ganje, the Gun Runner filly was third in the Grade 3 Gazelle in her most recent outing April 9. She earned her top victory in the seven-furlong Ruthless Stakes February 6.

Trevor McCarthy, who rode her in both the Gazelle and the Ruthless, has the mount.

Trainer Robert “Butch” Reid won the Delaware Oaks two years ago when Project Whiskey pulled the upset. He and the Cash Is King/LC Racing ownership group combined for that victory and will try to do so once again with Morning Matcha, who’s 6-1 on the morning line.

Chuck Zacney, the primary owner of Cash Is King, which gained national fame by campaigning Delaware Park maiden winner Afleet Alex to the 3-year-old championship in 2005, has won the Delaware Oaks two additional times: in 2019, with Jaywalk and in 2007 with Moon Catcher.

“Getting back to Delaware Park is special for me because that is kind of where it all started for me with Afleet Alex and Tim Ritchey,” Zacney said. “I have so many wonderful memories from when Afleet Alex ran there, but I have always loved Delaware Park and I always look forward to going there. It is beautiful and I love the atmosphere and the history of the track.  It is my favorite racetrack without a doubt.  I am looking forward being down there this Saturday.”

Zacney feels good about Morning Matcha, but he also knows winning graded races is always a heavy lift.

“A lot of good horses have raced in the Delaware Oaks,” Zacney said.  “We have run some nice ones in the race and we have gotten very lucky through the years.  I have been fortunate to win the race three times and with three different trainers (Butch Reid, John Servis and Tim Ritchey).  Let’s hope it is four times with three different trainers after Saturday.”

Morning Matcha has a career record of three wins, four seconds and two thirds from 12 starts with earnings of $334,390.

In her most recent, the Pennsylvania-bred daughter of Central Banker tried the turf for the first time in her career and finished seventh in the seven furlong $150,000 New York Stallion Stakes at Belmont Park on June 19.

She achieved her top result March 8, when she won the Main Line Stakes at Parx Racing by nearly seven lengths as the favorite. She’ll enter this contest as the most experienced filly in the group.

“She is an honest and consistent filly, so we are optimistic about our chances to do it again because this is the kind of race you can never win enough and if I can win another, it will be just as special as the first,” Zacney said.

“She is coming into the race perfect,” said trainer Butch Reid, Jr.  “We are coming into the race on a little short notice, but when we tried her on the turf in her last in New York, she did not do a whole lot of running, so she is still pretty fresh which gave us the idea of coming back in two weeks and taking a shot at the Delaware Oaks.”

Project Whiskey was 38-1 when she won the Oaks two years ago, while Morning Matcha figures a contender.

“I am from South Jersey,” Reid said. “I have been coming to Delaware Park since the 1970s and I have been there for quite a few really good Delaware Oaks, so that is a race I would love to win again.”

Other stakes winners in the group include Midnight Stroll (9-2) and Sandstone (6-1). Trained by John Terranova, II, Midnight Stroll scored in the Sophomore Fillies Stakes for Florida-breds two races back but was up the track last out in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico.

Sandstone won the Rags to Riches Stakes at Churchill Downs on Halloween night of her freshman season but has struggled since, losing as the favorite in three straight. After a trainer switch, she’ll make her second start in the barn of Wayne Catalano.

One other notable is Republique. Trained by Saffie Joseph, Jr., the Strong Mandate filly is two-for-two in her young career, both wins having come on the synthetic at Gulfstream Park.


Morning Matcha
Morning Matcha at Pimlico prior to the Black-Eyed Susan. Photo Allison Janezic.