Desert Dawn prevailed as the longest shot among five fillies in the $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks (G2), rallying to edge odds-on favorite Adare Manor by a neck, and the Arizona-bred filly earned a spot in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs on May 6.
Last seen finishing a well-beaten fourth in the March 6 Santa Ysabel (G3), the daughter of Cupid returned a $31.20 win mutuel after notching her first stakes win. Umberto Rispoli was up for owner/breeder H & E Ranch and trainer Philip D’Amato, and Desert Dawn completed the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:43.50.
“I have been working this horse, I knew this filly was better than that last year,” Rispoli said. “I knew we needed that last race and I felt the last work was better than shown. I just wanted to keep her outside and I knew the pace would set up really well for her. We started to move at the three-eighths pole and she fought every step of the way. She gave me the Santa Anita Oaks and now it is on to Kentucky!”
Desert Dawn stalked in third as Ain’t Easy showed the way through opening fractions in :23.05, :46.46, and 1:10.56. Adare Manor, a smashing 13-length winner of the Santa Ysabel, loomed a menacing presence while pressing the pacesetter on the outside in second.
Five lengths back after the opening half-mile, Desert Dawn began to motor into contention on the far turn, and she swept to the lead in upper stretch. Adare Manor gamely fought back, and had every chance in deep stretch, but Desert Dawn got the upperhand late.
It was another 7 1/2 lengths back to Ain’t Easy in third. Under the Stars and Micro Share followed.
Desert Dawn needed the 100-point win to join the 14-horse Kentucky Oaks field. The Santa Oaks awarded 170 points total as a major qualifier in the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series, and Desert Dawn entered with only eight points to her credit.
Also with the Santa Ysabel, the bay filly also recorded a third in the Chandelier (G1) and a fourth in the Starlet (G1) last year. Desert Dawn, who is out of the Honour and Glory mare Ashley’s Glory, broke her maiden the second time out at Del Mar last summer, and her record now reads 7-2-0-2.
“She’s an honest filly,” D’Amato said. “I always thought once she’d get her scenario It’d work out for her, and I think the longer the better. Umberto’s been breezing her and her last drill was probably her best drill to date, so it all worked out.”