The Oaks is the filly equivalent of the Kentucky Derby and its outcome is extremely important in breeding circles.
Bird Town, with Edgar Prado riding, stumbled badly coming out of the gate for the 1 1/8-mile race and was well back when the field passed the finish line for the first time, led by 5-2 favorite Elloluv. But as the field clipped through stakes-record times at each call, Prado got his filly moving.
At the top of the stretch, Santa Catarina surged to the lead and appeared to have every chance to win. But when Prado put Bird Town to the drive, she went by willingly and drew clear.
Prado said trainer Nick Zito, "told me to get a good position going into the first turn and save something for the end. Unfortunately, none of that happened."
Prado said he was fortunate to stay aboard when Bird Town stumbled at the start but did not lose faith and his filly kept to the task until he could get her into position to make her winning move.
Bird Town finished in the stakes-record time of 1:48.64.
Bird Town's stumble was not the only problem in the race. The field bunched up in the first turn and both Yell, who finished third, and Lady Tak, who finished off the board, were roughed up in some bumping.
"It really takes a lot out of a horse," said Jerry Bailey, who rode Lady Tak.
Bird Town was bred by her owner, Marylou Whitney.
Whitney said she, "had lots of advice from lots of people" about what stallion to choose for her mare, Dear Birdy.
"I said, 'I want Cape Town,'" said Whitney. That mating produced Bird Town.
Coming into the Oaks, Bird Town had two wins, four seconds and one third from seven starts but only one minor stakes victory during the Gulfstream Park winter meeting. In her last outing, she was second to My Boston Gal in the Grade II Beaumont Stakes at Keeneland on April 10.
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