07/09/2016 7:55PM

Centeno changes strategy with Dark Nile in Delaware Oaks

Hoofprints, Inc.
Dark Nile, ridden by Daniel Centeno, relishes the sloppy going in the Delaware Oaks.

STANTON, Del. - The heavy downpour that preceded the Grade 3 Delaware Oaks on Saturday turned the track to slop and likely affected some of the runners in the race. Other horses may not have cared for the lengthy period of time they had to walk under tack in the paddock as the track crew floated some of the standing water off the inner part of the track.

But the wet conditions didn't bother jockey Daniel Centeno. Because of the wet conditions he went to Plan B with Dark Nile, the 1 1/4-length Oaks winner.

"The weather turned everything around," Centeno said. "The original plan was to settle her down and make one run, but I didn't want to be too far back."

Centeno put Dark Nile right into the mix and she settled in behind the leaders. Browse the 2-1 favorite, set fast fractions of 23.14 and 46.96 seconds over the sloppy footing while being pressed from the outside by Eighth Wonder.

Once Eighth Wonder began to retreat, Dark Nile surged to the lead outside Browse on the far turn, came into the stretch with a clear lead while well out in the track, and then persevered to hold the advantage over 17-1 longshot A Place to Shine.

"On the backstretch she was dragging me to the leaders," Centeno said.

Kinsley Kisses, the 5-2 second choice, raced within striking distance of the front-runners, moved closer on the turn, and continued with good courage in the stretch, although lacking the needed closing kick. It was 5 3/4 lengths back to Miss Inclusive in fourth.

Dark Nile is based at Fair Hill with Arnaud Delacour, who just prior to the $300,375 Delaware Oaks, won the $400,000 Belmont Sprint Championship with A. P. Indian.

Dark Nile, who is owned by WinStar Farm, paid $7 in the Delaware Oaks. She covered the 1 1/6 miles in 1:46.54 after a six-furlong split of 1:12.27 and a mile in 1:39.70.

"We've always liked her, and always thought she'd be a two-turn filly," Delacour said. "We tried her at six furlongs in her first start but she lacked speed and experience.

Dark Nile won a Tampa Bay Downs maiden race at a mile and 40 yards in her second race, and has since won a Pennsylvania-bred allowance at Parx going a mile and 70 yards and the Our Mims Stakes, the mile and 70-yard Oaks prep at Delaware Park.

She is now 3 for 4 with earnings of $243,980.

Delacour didn't have a definitive next race in mind for Dark Nile but said the Grade 1 Alabama at Saratoga on Aug. 20 would be a possibility.

"We will be looking at two-turn stakes, possibly at Saratoga," Delacour said. "First I will need to talk to the people at WinStar. They will have a big say in where she runs next."

The long time spent in the paddock prior to the Oaks may have hurt the chances of Eighth Wonder, who is a nervous filly. Her handler did a good job of keeping her calm but she did get wet and then was fractious at the gate. She tired to finish eighth and last after pressing the pace.