This winning thing is getting old hat to Farrell — so much so that the feisty filly trained by New Orleanian Wayne Catalano is learning to calm down.
Running a near perfect race, Farrell took over at the top of the stretch for the wire in winning the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks by 3¼ lengths Saturday on Louisiana Derby Day.
It was her fourth consecutive victory, including three in a row at the Fair Grounds, as she swept the Road to the Derby series. She had also won the Silverbulletday on Jan. 21 and the Rachel Alexandra Stakes on Feb. 25.
“She settled extremely well today,” said jockey Channing Hill. “At the end, I had a ton of horse left.”
The victory gave Farrell 100 points, breaking a tie for first place with Unique Bella, a California filly many consider to be the best in the nation.
However, in blowing away the field by at least three lengths for the second consecutive race, Farrell may have propelled herself into the favorite's role for the $1 million Kentucky Oaks, the top race for 3-year-old fillies, May 5 at Churchill Downs.
Farrell, the 1-2 betting favorite when the race started, broke from the gate and was positioned in the center of the track in just off the pace in third place behind Daria's Angel and dangerous Vexatious.
Daria's Angel still led going into the turn. However, Farrell took the lead at the top of the stretch and began pulling away. She easily held off Wicked Lick, who also had surged in the stretch, and Vexatious, a California filly who had finished third in a race against colts.
“With the (No. 6) post position draw we had, with no real outside pressure, it gave me a chance to have an option to do whatever she really wanted,” Hill said. “I wanted to keep my filly close, just kind of make her keep going. One I picked her up from the (3/16ths) pole, I knew it was over. … I really think if she has a target, she'll run it down, no problem.”
Catalano said Farrell is maturing, becoming less feisty with each race. Hill said she seems a more confident professional.
“She was so calm before the race, just taking everything in,” Hill said.
It was Catalano's second career win on Louisiana Derby Day. He won the 1997 Louisiana Derby with Crypto Star.
“It's a great feeling to go to the Kentucky Oaks; it looks like she could be the favorite,” said Catalano, thanking his crew and Farrell's owners. “She has to prove she can win from behind, and today she did, although I thought Channing was being a little cute.
“Twenty year's later, he we are, going to the Oaks.”
In two other top races, Enterprising rallied in the late stretch to win a three-horse photo finish against Kasaqui and Oscar Nominated in the $300,000 Muniz Memorial Handicap for 4-year-olds and up on turf.
Enterprising, with Tyler Gaffalione aboard, will qualified for to the Woodward Memorial Stakes and the Arlington Million. Enterprising also had won the Fair Grounds Handicap on Feb. 25.
“He's on top of his game,” trainer Michael Maker said. “We like his chances.”
In the $400,000 New Orleans Handicap, Honorable Duty passed Breaking Luck in the final yards to get the win. Iron Fist was third. New Orleans-based Mo Tom, owned by Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson and wife Gayle, finished seventh.
It was his second consecutive disappointing performance after finishing sixth in the Mineshaft on Feb. 25. Mo Tom won the 2016 Lecomte and ran in the Kentucky Derby, finishing eighth.