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Anisette Leads Local Contenders in American Oaks

Holiday visitors from England and Kentucky add spice to the local cast assembled for the American Oaks (G1T) on Santa Anita Park‘s festive Dec. 26 opening day.

Musical Mischief  won her last two starts, at Horseshoe Indianapolis and Churchill Downs, for trainer Michael McCarthy. Khinjani , trained in England by Ed Walker and now in Mark Glatt’s barn, comes off a successful campaign in unheralded British races.

Musical Mischief, a daughter of Into Mischief  , took four tries to get her picture taken but then dominated her return Nov. 23, winning by 11 1/2 lengths. That race was to have been her turf debut but was switched to the fast main track. The Oaks is a big class jump into a first stakes race of any kind.

Khinjani, by Sir Percy , also is ambitiously slotted. She was last seen winning a Class 4 handicap at Windsor Oct. 16—her second win from 10 starts.

The locals are led by Anisette , who raced in England as a 2-year-old but hit the ground running under the care of Leonard Powell. The Awtaad  filly, racing for Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, won her first start in a hefty allowance event, then won the San Clemente Stakes (G2T) and Del Mar Oaks (G1T) back to back in the summer. The latter score featured a dramatic move from the back of the pack.

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She since has finished second twice at Santa Anita, in the Rodeo Drive Stakes (G2T) at 1 1/4 miles and the Autumn Miss Stakes (G3T) at what seems to be her preferred distance of one mile.

“She’ll have had seven weeks from the Autumn Miss to the American Oaks and it’ll be on her home turf (at) a mile and a quarter against straight 3-year-old fillies,” said Aron Wellman, president and founder of Eclipse. “We’re very enthused about putting an exclamation point on what’s already been a blockbuster season for her.”

At the time of her Del Mar Oaks win, Powell said Anisette “is the goods.”

“Her turn of foot made the difference at the top of the lane,” Powell said. “I didn’t think we’d be so far back, especially with a half-mile in :47 (seconds), but she was good enough to overcome that and close the ground. He (jockey Umberto Rispoli) kept his cool. We got a dream run on the rail and he had the horse to do it.”

Anisette also has the advantage of experience at the 1 1/4-mile distance with the runner-up showing in the Rodeo Drive. Khinjani is more experienced at the trip with a win, two seconds and a third from six starts, but against softer opposition. 

The American Oaks cast also has Del Mar Oaks runner-up Be Your Best , who since has finished out of the frame in two starts including the Twilight Derby (G2T) in her most recent.

Phil D’Amato saddles Elounda Queen . The Australia  filly won a group 3 stakes at Deauville before shipping out. Stateside, she has found the going tougher, finishing seventh in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1T) at Keeneland and 12th in the Matriarch Stakes (G1T) at Santa Anita. She wheels back on just more than three weeks’ rest.

The race has been a tossup for the past decade with Chad Brown and Richard Baltas the only repeat winners in that span. On the jockey side, Juan Hernandez rode Queen Goddess  to victory in 2021 and Rhea Moon  to the winner’s circle in 2022.

Entries: American Oaks (G1T)

Santa Anita Park, Tuesday, December 26, 2023, Race 5

  • Grade I
  • 1 1/4m
  • Downhill turf
  • $300,000
  • 3 yo Fillies
  • 1:00 PM (local)

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