THE US FLAGBEARER for Phoenix Thoroughbreds, Lady Apple added to her big race haul on Sunday with a smooth victory in the 1700m Grade 3 Houston Ladies Classic at Sam Houston Race Park. The 4yo Curlin filly and Ricardo Santana Jr surged up the rail to overtake pacesetting and eventual runner-up Serengeti Empress late in the straight to earn a second straight big race victory. With a quick break, Serengeti Empress sped to the early lead with Lady Apple settled off the pace as the favourite took the field of six through respectable early fractions. The field bunched up on the turn and Lady Apple was forced to wait for running room along the rail as Street Band was making a wide move into contention.
The favourite began to tire with Lady Apple finding room to her inside and Street Band challenging to her outside. The Oaks winner hung on tenaciously, but Lady Apple was able to get her measure in the final strides for a cosy victory. “She sat in a comfortable spot,” said winning jockey Ricardo Santana. “She was really comfortable in that position. She was travelling good and I was really happy with how she was travelling. Turning for home, the rail opened and I asked her and she gave it to me. She is an amazing filly. I knew she was going to give me everything she had.” Lady Apple’s stablemate Midnight Bisou opened her championship campaign with a win in last year’s Ladies Classic and trainer Steve Asmussen is hoping for the same this year. “Midnight Bisou started her year here and ended up with an Eclipse Award,” Asmussen said.
“We will try to follow a similar plan with her and go to Oaklawn, most likely for the Bayakoa.” Lady Apple earned a berth in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks with her victory in the Fantasy Stakes last April. She was third, beaten just over seven lengths by Serengeti Empress on the first Friday in May, but came back to win the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks. Well beaten in the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes, Sunday was her first start since winning the Grade 3 Remington Park Oaks at the end of September.