03/21/2015 6:25PM

Don't Leave Me returns to capture Bourbonette Oaks

Coady Photography
Don't Leave Me wins the Bourbonette Oaks by three-quarters of a length Saturday at Turfway Park.

FLORENCE, Ky. – In a field full of out-of-state invaders, it was Don’t Leave Me, who campaigned in Canada last year, up late on the outside to win the Grade 3, $150,000 Bourbonette Oaks over the favored Sweet Success on Saturday at Turfway Park.

The Lemon Drop Kid filly, who runs as a homebred for Pin Oak Stables, was a rare Turfway starter for trainer Malcolm Pierce.

“I’ve run here before, but I can’t remember how long ago it is,” Pierce said.

Sweet Success was sent away as the favorite off a sharp maiden win last out at Gulfstream Park but was making her first start around two turns. The filly got things all her own way on the lead, cruising through opening fractions of 24 seconds flat and 47.84.

Sharla Rae, a three-time stakes winner in California, sat in second throughout and loomed the danger turning for home. But Don’t Leave Me and Jose Lezcano, who had been fifth after six furlongs, cut the corner quite wide and rallied down the outside to win by three-quarters of a length. The filly stopped the clock in 1:38.60 for the mile on Turfway’s Polytrack.

Sweet Success turned back Sharla Rae to hold second by 1 1/2 lengths. After the top three came the multiple stakes winner Harlan’s Destiny in fourth.

Don’t Leave Me ($13.40) won for the third time in four career starts. A maiden winner on Polytrack and an allowance winner on turf at Woodbine as a juvenile, the filly was soundly beaten in her only prior graded stakes try, checking in sixth in the Grade 2 Natalama Stakes on Sept. 13 at Woodbine after being bothered at the break. The Bourbonette marked her first start since.

“We thought we’d bring her here,” said Pierce. “She ran well in the fall at Woodbine [on Polytrack].”

With Saturday’s victory, Don’t Leave Me earned 50 qualifying points toward the Kentucky Oaks on May 2. The filly was not an early Oaks nominee and would need to become a late nominee by April 8 in order to be eligible to run. Pierce was not immediately willing to commit to the filly classic, instead mentioning potential targets on turf or synthetic tracks such as the Grade 3 Selene Stakes back at Woodbine on May 24. 

“We’ll have to see how she cools out, but this is Polytrack and [the Oaks is] on the dirt,” Pierce said. “It’s a whole different ballgame.”