03/29/2012 3:36PM

Fair Grounds: Oaks favorite Summer Applause learns lesson in loss

Hodges Photography/Lou Hodges Jr.
Summer Applause (center), who won the Rachel Alexandra last time out, hopes to use the Fair Grounds Oaks as a springboard to the Kentuckhy Oaks.

NEW ORLEANS – The best thing that happened to Summer Applause this winter at Fair Grounds might have been losing the Silverbulletday Stakes.

In her maiden win late last summer at Woodbine, Summer Applause got a clean stalking trip, and the Dec. 31 seven-length two-turn allowance win that led to her private purchase came in galloping wire-to-wire fashion. But in the Silverbulletday, Summer Applause turned into the stretch and suddenly was hemmed in by Inny Minnie. The situation was uncomfortable and unfamiliar, and Summer Applause switched her leads and dropped down toward the rail, intimidated. By the wire, she had righted herself, finishing second behind Believe You Can.

The experience of encountering and getting past trouble seemed to flip a switch in Summer Applause’s mind. Since the Silverbulletday she has grown and changed for the better, and after winning the Feb. 25 Rachel Alexandra Stakes by one length, and training strongly since, Summer Applause comes into Saturday’s Grade 2, $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks looking like the horse to beat and a major contender for the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs.

“I think there’s been a lot of change in her,” said Bret Calhoun, who took over Summer Applause’s training a few weeks before the Silverbulletday. “Repetition and experience goes a long way with her. When we first got her she could be a little fractious in the barn, in the gate, but she’s gotten very relaxed. She’s still pretty immature. Physically, she’s still a little light, and she’s definitely going to get stronger and grow up.”

Even as a raw, unfinished product, Summer Applause, a daughter of Harlan’s Holiday, looks pretty good. She ran down talented Avie’s Sense after that filly got loose on the lead in the Rachel Alexandra, and has subsequently posted three near-bullet workouts.

“She’s a very willing workhorse,” Calhoun said. “She puts a lot into her breezes.”

Avie’s Sense wasn’t entered in the local Oaks, but Believe You Can and Inny Minnie are back, along with three new players, one of them the undefeated Small Kitchen. Small Kitchen, a daughter of Corinthian trained by Mike Maker, launched her career on Feb. 2 and has won her two starts by a combined 13 lengths. Both races were sprints, but Small Kitchen’s connections believe the filly can succeed racing two turns.

“Based on her works, she’s always had plenty left, and she’s pliable in the mornings,” said Maker’s Fair Grounds assistant, Joe Sharp. “So mentally, I’m not worried about her, and her pedigree suggests she’ll go the distance.”

Ramon Dominguez was named on Small Kitchen at the time of entry, but Miguel Mena is expected to have the mount. Rosie Napravnik rode Small Kitchen in both her wins, but sticks with Believe You Can. Small Kitchen breaks from the outside gate, and it will be interesting to see if Believe You Can goes with her or takes back from post 1. Believe You Can won the Silverbulletday on the lead, but finished fourth in the Rachel Alexandra racing from behind.

“We’re going to let her break and see what happens,” said trainer Larry Jones. “We’re not going to go out there and go 22 and four just to do it. Rosie knows her so much better now.”

Inny Minnie, third in the Silverbulletday and Rachel Alexandra, adds blinkers Saturday. Disposable Pleasure overcame a troubled trip to win the Demoiselle last fall, but finished an even fourth in the Davona Dale at Gulfstream in her 2012 debut. Colonial Empress enters as a maiden, albeit one who has made her first two starts in stakes races.

The Oaks goes as race 10 on a 12-race card with a first post of 12:10 p.m. Central. Also on the program are two stakes for Louisiana-bred females as well as the $100,000 Bayou Handicap.

Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), Post Time: 4:58 ET Saturday

Purse: $500,000; 1 1/16 miles





ML Odds


Believe You Can

J. Jones

R. Napravnik



Inny Minnie

S. Margolis

S. Bridgmohan



Colonial Empress

D. Lukas

C. Lanerie



Summer Applause

W. Calhoun

R. Albarado




T. Pletcher

J. Graham



Small Kitchen

M. Maker

M. Mena