03/29/2014 2:22PM

Gulfstream Oaks: In Tune stays unbeaten with hard-fought win

Barbara D. Livingston
In Tune, with Javier Castellano up, holds off House Rules to win the Grade 2 Gulfstream Oaks.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Trainer Todd Pletcher maintained his recent dominance of the Grade 2, $300,000 Gulfstream Oaks as In Tune remained undefeated with a gutty neck victory over House Rules, likely sending her to Louisville for the May 2 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs.

The win was the third in as many starts for In Tune, a daughter of Unbridled’s Song and a half-sister to the turf stakes winner Affirmatif. It earned her 100 qualifying points toward the $1 million Oaks, under a system utilized by Churchill Downs in the event the race draws more than 14 entries.

It was the fourth win for Pletcher in the last five runnings of this race. Last year, Pletcher won it with Dreaming of Julia, who dominated by 21 3/4 lengths.

Saturday, In Tune had a fight on her hands. Under Javier Castellano, In Tune stalked the pacesetting Whomping Willow through six furlongs in 1:11.30 with House Rules, under Alex Solis, stalking her.

The two made a move to Whomping Willow at the five-sixteenths pole, and Castellano and In Tune, who were along the rail, were able to fend off House Rules and Solis who were on the outside. House Rules never switched leads during the stretch.

It was 2 3/4 lengths back to America in third. Camille Claudel, Joint Return, Penwith, and Whomping Willow completed the order of finish. In Tune covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:50.19 and returned $4 as the even-money favorite.

“She’s an amazing filly, she really fights hard, when she saw the other horse coming she took off again,” Castellano said. “She’s very game, great effort; she’s undefeated. I give her all the credit.”

Pletcher said he was a little concerned when House Rules, trained by legendary Hall of Famer Allen Jerkens, came up to In Tune.=

“Anytime one of ‘The Chief’s [horses] comes to you, you got to be nervous – he’s the greatest,” Pletcher said. “Proud of our filly for digging in and getting it done.”

Jerkens had mixed emotions about the loss.

“She lost a little ground but not that much, you get beat you get beat,” he said. “Happy with the race, disappointed that we got beat.”

While Pletcher said In Tune will be pointed to the Kentucky Oaks, Jerkens was non-committal.

“It’s too soon to say, we’ll see how she does after the race,” he said. “You know me, I love New York – right there at home – and the races are just as important.”