Joint Return, Camille Claudel Lead Field of Eight in Gulfstream Park Oaks
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - A group of eight promising 3-year-old fillies will clash in the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks on Saturday.
Main Line Racing Stable's Joint Return is one of only two stakes winners in the field, and she will be looking for her fourth straight victory while making her first start in South Florida for trainer John Servis.
After finishing third in her career opener at Parx in October, the daughter of Include graduated by four lengths at that Pennsylvania oval on Nov. 19 and added another romp in an allowance there on New Year's Day. Joint Return tested added-money company in Aqueduct's Busher Stakes over 8 1/2 furlongs on Feb. 1 and came from off the pace to win by 4 1/4 lengths. That effort signaled that she was a prime prospect for the bigger prizes in her division.
"Right after the Busher, we decided to send her down and point for this race," Servis said. "I gave her a few days to recuperate from that and then we put her on a van. She's great, she's really doing well and she's enjoying the weather very much."
Joint Return, a $60,000 Keeneland yearling purchase, has recorded four workouts since arriving at Palm Meadows, including a five-eighths move in 1:01 on March 13. All four of her starts have come at a mile and beyond, and her pedigree suggests that she will relish the added ground in the Gulfstream Park Oaks.
"I think she's looking for (the distance), actually, and maybe even a little bit further," Servis added. "It depends on how she runs Saturday, but if she runs like I think she's going to run, then the Kentucky Oaks (G1) is our goal, and we'll go from there."
Joint Return drew post four in the Gulfstream Park Oaks and will have regular rider Kendrick Carmouche in the irons.
Another Gulfstream Park Oaks contender who began her career in the Mid-Atlantic region is Camille Claudel. Trained by Francis "Tres" Abbott III for the Sycamore Racing partnership, the daughter of Broken Vow faltered in her debut in a Parx sprint on Oct. 19, but decimated Laurel maidens by 19 lengths going a mile on Nov. 27. After getting off to a rough start in the Busanda Stakes at Aqueduct on Jan. 4, the gray filly finished sixth and joined Abbott's string at Palm Beach Downs. She was dismissed at 47-1 odds in an 8 1/2-furlong allowance at Gulfstream on Feb. 27 and turned in a solid performance, chasing the Todd Pletcher-trained In Tune throughout for a runner-up finish. Camille Claudel--named for the famed French sculptor and artist--will get another crack at In Tune in the Gulfstream Park Oaks.
"I was a little surprised that she was such a big price last time, even though I realize that she had not run great in New York, but she had some excuses up there," Abbott said. "I thought she ran really well the other day--I knew Todd's filly would be tough to beat and I think she'll still be tough to beat on Saturday. She's been doing really well."
Produced by stakes winner Charming Ruckus, Camille Claudel was purchased for $65,000 as a yearling at Fasig-Tipton. Her two best efforts have come when she has been in contention from the start, and Abbott is expecting that pattern to continue.
"I think the track kind of forces your hand a little bit, but I anticipate that we won't be far back," Abbott said. "She likes to be pretty close. I've seen that there's a little bit of rain forecasted. If my memory is correct, I don't think any of the other fillies have much form in the slop, and this filly broke her maiden by 19 in the slop."
Forest Boyce, who guided Camille Claudel to victory at Laurel, will be back in the saddle when they break from the three hole.
Also in the field are America (trainer Bill Mott), Penwith (Kiaran McLaughlin), Whomping Willow (Dale Romans), In Tune (Todd Pletcher), Holiday Magic (Bill Kaplan) and House Rules (Allen Jerkens).
The Gulfstream Park Oaks is one of seven graded events on Saturday's program, which will be headlined by the $1-million Besilu Stables Florida Derby.