You might say it was a red-letter day at Del Mar. Two races after Red King toppled 7-10 favorite United in the Del Mar H. (G2), Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Red Lark pulled a 19-1 upset in the $252,500 Del Mar Oaks (G1).
Trained by Paddy Gallagher and piloted by Drayden Van Dyke, the Irish-bred was overlooked as a photo-finish maiden winner who’d yet to break through in a stakes. Red Lark had been thereabouts when a closing fifth to Warren’s Showtime in the Mar. 7 China Doll, fourth to Laura’s Light in the May 30 Honeymoon (G3), and second to the older Toinette in the June 20 Wilshire (G3). A third in a July 12 allowance to Carpe Vinum and California Kook didn’t enhance her reputation, but she picked the right day to put it all together in a reversal of form.
Red Lark was settled just about midpack in sixth as Laura’s Light, the 3-2 favorite, led the way. Shaking clear of pace rival Aqua Seaform Shame after an initial quarter in :24.26, Laura’s Light set steady splits of :48.14 and 1:12.34 on the firm turf. But Parkour was close enough to apply a modicum of pressure, and Laura’s Light might have felt that as she began to look vulnerable swinging into the stretch.
While Warren’s Showtime was the first to pounce on the favorite, Red Lark followed her move and packed an even stronger punch inside the final furlong. Van Dyke’s well-timed ride beat the deep-closing California Kook, who flew from last to grab second. By that point Red Lark was safely in front, a length up at the wire as she completed 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.64.
Warren’s Showtime was another half-length back in third. Neige Blanche got up for fourth in her U.S. debut. Carpe Vinum, Laura’s Light, Guitty, Parkour, recent French émigré Miss Extra, Parkour, and Aqua Seaform Shame concluded the order of finish. Trickle In was scratched.
“The allowance race here set her up well,” Gallagher said, “and she came out of it good. I was confident in the filly; I knew she was happy and all, but I didn’t know if she was good enough. She needed to run the race of her life and she did. Drayden had her in a great spot all the way and when he asked she responded and was good enough.”
“Out of the gate, we had the perfect spot,” Van Dyke recapped. “I wanted to follow Mike Smith (on Warren’s Showtime), because I thought his filly would be the one to beat. I knew my filly had a good chance because she was really fit. We got bottled up in her last race. Today, she got to run and she showed how good she is.”
Red Lark, who paid $40.20, has bankrolled $225,024 from her 12-2-2-1 record. Beginning her career in Ireland with jockey-turned-trainer Johnny Murtagh, the bay was unplaced in three turf maidens as well as the Tattersalls Ireland Super Auction race. She appreciated the switch to nursery company on Dundalk’s Polytrack, where she placed second in her Oct. 18 finale as a juvenile. After a fourth in her American bow on the Golden Gate Tapeta, Red Lark prevailed in a 1 1/8-mile maiden on the Santa Anita turf and graduated to stakes.
Bred by Mrs. S.M. Rogers and Sir Thomas Pilkington, Red Lark twice failed to reach her reserve at auction as a yearling. She RNA’d for €14,000 at the Goffs February Sale and for €12,000 at Tattersalls Ireland.
Red Lark is now the first Northern Hemisphere Grade 1 winner for Darley sire Epaulette, whose overall headliner is South African champion Soqrat. Her dam is the stakes-winning Darshaan mare Firecrest.