When returning from a two-month freshening in the Tangelo, Dogwood Trail got caught up in a speed duel and weakened late, falling a length short to Huasca, but on Sunday the tables were turned. Sent straight to lead by jockey Jesus Rios, Dogwood Trail got away with more comfortable fractions of 22.88 and 45.50 seconds through a half-mile as Charles Assimakopoulos’ Fond of Sarah sat just off her in second, followed closely by Sweet Swingin. Meanwhile, Huasca, the race’s 3-2 favorite, was forced to steady as the filly got caught up in tight quarters mid-pack.
As the field of nine rounded the far turn into the stretch, a confident Rios quickly glanced under his shoulder and asked Dogwood Trail for more run; the daughter of Awesome of Course accelerated and seized command of the race as Huasca, in the clear, launched her rally while five-wide. The favorite loomed large in the stretch, but this time, Dogwood Trail would not be denied. The sophomore filly maintained a comfortable advantage through the stretch and registered a 1 ¼-length victory. The final time for the seven-furlong contest was 1:22.12.
"Last time they went head and head. This time, they backed off a little bit and she was able to control things,” Gold said. “When (Huasca) came, I said, 'Uh oh, she's got a full head of steam,' but she had enough left. It was a good ride by Jesus (Rios). It was our turn."
“The plan was to get out in front and stay on top by myself,” Rios said. “She ran beautifully.”
The Azalea was Dogwood Trail’s graded stakes debut; she had previously finished second in two ungraded Gulfstream stakes, the Tangelo and the Any Limit Stakes in March. A Jacks or Better homebred, the 3-year-old filly improved her record to 3-2-0 from six career starts for earnings of $180,510. She has never finished worse than second at Gulfstream Park.
"We'll have to think about what's next. This one is graded, so that changes the picture a little bit,” Gold said.“We try to stay home when we can, but the opportunities get limited during the summer, so we'll see what's around after this."
Dogwood Trail returned $8.20 as the Azalea’s second choice, while Huasca paid $2.80 to place. I’m a Looker, who shipped in to Hallandale from Louisville for trainer Patrick Dupuy, finished 2 ¾ lengths back in third, returning $4.80 to show.