07/13/2013 9:07PM

Hollywood Park: Emollient delivers as favorite in American Oaks

Benoit & Associates
Emollient (No. 3), ridden by Mike Smith, wins the Grade 1 American Oaks by a half-length over Emotional Kitten.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – After leaving the winner’s circle following Saturday’s $350,750 American Oaks at Betfair Hollywood Park, Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith took a moment to congratulate himself on his ride.

He had the right.

Riding Emollient, Smith made a decision on the backstretch to move the 6-5 favorite three wide and engage a slow pace set by Sarach. It turned out to be a vital move. Emollient ($4.40) had a clean trip through the final five furlongs and won the Grade 1 American Oaks by a half-length over a determined Emotional Kitten.

“I had a chance to get clear and make the pace go,” Smith said of his backstretch move. “I thought if I stayed behind, I could have gotten out later, but if I didn’t, the closers would be coming. Looking back, it was a good move, but then if I’d gotten beat a head, you could have said I moved too soon.”

Making her turf debut, Emollient ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.38.

Even though Emollient is trained by Bill Mott in New York, Smith knows the filly. He rode Emollient to a nine-length win in the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes on the Polytrack synthetic surface at Keeneland in April and was aboard when she finished a disappointing sixth as the 6-5 favorite in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico on May 17. Emollient stumbled badly at the start of the Black-Eyed Susan on dirt, essentially losing all chance.

She had a better start in the American Oaks, even though Smith described her break as “flat-footed.” There was a plan to take Emollient to the lead if she broke sharply, but Smith settled the filly in third through the first half-mile, following Sarach, who set a slow early pace of 25.63 and 50.26 seconds.

When Sarach reached six furlongs in a poky 1:14.91, with Emollient only a head behind, Smith felt better about his decision to engage the leaders on the backstretch. Turning into the stretch, Emollient led by a half-length but was quickly challenged by Emotional Kitten, the winner of the Hilltop Stakes on turf at Pimlico on May 17.

Emotional Kitten got within a neck of Emollient in the final furlong but could not catch the leader.

“I thought I was going to get there right at the wire,” said Victor Espinoza, who rode Emotional Kitten.  “She ran an unbelievable race. I thought I’d catch them.”

Emotional Kitten finished three-quarters of a length in front of Topic, a maiden race winner in her last start June 13. Sarach, who won the Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap on June 8, was followed by Becky Lou, Scarlet Strike, Macha, and Wittgenstein.

Emollient, by Empire Maker, is owned by Juddmonte Farms. The American Oaks was her fourth win in eight starts. She has earned $656,900.

Ann Maree More than 1 year ago
There's a story there for the kind of year that Mike Smith is having. He runs 1/3 the number of times that the leader, Joel Rosario, runs, but makes more than twice as much per ride and has managed to be in about the #10 position earnings wise. Saving that aging body and having more fun doing it! He would be the first to tell you he isn't perfect, but he's about as close as anyone will ever get. He should get the Eclipse award for being the most efficient rider around!
nicholas More than 1 year ago
Great ride great trainer and class owners-- but I will say these kitten's joy offspring are runners-- seems they are everywhere --
Jordan More than 1 year ago
Hats off to Mott and Ward for spotting a soft grade 1 and having wisdom to make the effort to ship out. They were rewarded by running 1-2. And it truly was a brilliantly subtle ride Smith. He saved ground on the 1st turn, got Emollient to the outside on the backstretch, allowed Emollient to float wide, thus forcing Emotional Kitten to either back off and settle behind Emollient(rather than on her flank) or move through on Emollient's inside(Espinoza chose the former), quickly dropping back down to the 3 path around the far turn during that astute early move(leaving Emotional Kitten a few lengths arears), and then in the stretch guiding Emollient to the outside so that she could see the late challenge from Emotional Kitten before hand riding her the last 50 yards.
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
Jordan I often agree with many of your post. That said, I wonder, Does Emollient get the credit for the G1 win, or do we have to listen to all the "who did she beat " arguments when so many others think trainers dictate who runs against them? As I said I do agree with your post. hope you get my point.(LOL, OMG ,LMAOF,etc....)
Jordan More than 1 year ago
I get what you are saying. I wanted to emphasize that when the local SoCal contenders for a race appear weak, trainers and owners from the East have no problem shipping out West. And through shipping, Eastern horsemen can affect the quality of California stakes. Thus, when a Cali stakes race comes up light, one cannot simply bash the local contingent, but must also look at the absence of any shippers. Which should then lead one to question why no one shipped if the local contenders looked either weak or shallow. If Eastern horsemen can ship out for the American Oaks, why didn't anyone also ship out for the Hollywood Gold Cup? Is it possible that one of the local contenders for the Gold Cup made shipping less attractive? And if said local contender was at least partially responsible for the lack of shippers and, hence, the overall quality of the field, how can one then criticize him for not beating anybody? Shouldn't he instead be credited with helping make the field weak? Because ultimately, winning a race is not just about beating the horses that line up against you, it's also about getting as many of the potential starters as possible to select themselves out of the field before the entries are even drawn.
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
Nailed it....Just an inconvenient fact, I guess.
Glenn Canady More than 1 year ago
Thats why he is in the HOF.
Tom Mallios More than 1 year ago
with the success billy mott is having for juddmonte. i wonder if he is a shareholder by now
Richard More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Juddmonte Farm...simply the best!
Gary Camejo More than 1 year ago
Mike is having bang up year with stakes horses, way to go champ!
jttf More than 1 year ago
ran all 3 times without lasix at the age 2. a trainer with patience.
Brad Solomon More than 1 year ago
Nice ride Smitty!