When 6:30 p.m. (ET) rolled around on Sunday and betting closed in the Kentucky Oaks Future Wager, Donna Veloce was overlooked as the sixth choice at 12-1. Had the pool remained open for another hour – long enough for bettors to witness Donna Veloce’s easy triumph in the $100,000 Santa Ysabel (G3) at Santa Anita – it’s probable her odds would have dropped.
Simply put, Donna Veloce was sensational in her seasonal bow. Favored at 3-10 against five rivals, she never had to use her fastest gear in the 1 1/16-mile Road to the Kentucky Oaks prep race, though her victory was not without an element of drama. Breaking from the rail under Flavien Prat, Donna Veloce stumbled at the start and was quickly swallowed up behind runners, which forced the typically speedy filly to settle off the pace in fourth place.
But though Donna Veloce was a bit headstrong in the early going, she gradually settled down to bide her time as longshots Gidgetta, Speech, and Tiz Fake News dueled for the lead through quick fractions of :22.79 and :46.80. When Tiz Fake News began to fall back heading into the far turn, Donna Veloce sliced between rivals, rallied smoothly to the outside, and pounced to the lead at the top of the stretch.
From there, there result was never in doubt. Under a hand ride from Prat, Donna Veloce drew off with authority, winning eased up by 4 1/4 lengths in the time of 1:45.43. Speech held on for the runner-up spot, followed by Storie Blue, Paige Anne, Gidgetta, and Tiz Fake News. Gingham was scratched.
“She was ready, but she stumbled there at the break and that got us in behind those horses, so she was a little bit keen,” Prat told Santa Anita. “When we turned down the backside, she dropped the bit and relaxed very well. It’s always great when they are able to adjust and I hope she can improve off of this race. She was full of run at the end and she handled everything well.”
Winning trainer Simon Callaghan was similarly impressed with Donna Veloce’s adaptability.
“I thought it was a perfect race,” said Callaghan. “We didn’t plan to take back like that. I thought she would be the fastest filly, Flavien went to Plan B, letting them go when she didn’t break good. She got a good schooling, got around them and I think that is gonna serve her to good effect in the future.”
The Santa Ysabel marked Donna Veloce’s first stakes triumph and secured the daughter of Uncle Mo 50 Kentucky Oaks qualification points. When added to the 12 points she accumulated by battling to close runner-up efforts in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and Starlet (G1), Donna Veloce sits second on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard with 62 points.
Bred by Coin Broker Syndicate, Donna Veloce races for the partnership of Kaleem Shah, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael B. Tabor, and Derrick Smith. With a 4-2-2-0 record to her credit, Donna Veloce has accumulated $490,000 in purse money, a fair chunk of her $800,000 purchase price.
Callaghan indicated Donna Veloce would likely complete her Kentucky Oaks preparations in the $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks (G2) on April 4.