04/26/2013 3:29PM

Kentucky Oaks: Rose to Gold is this year's Cinderella candidate

Barbara D. Livingston
Rose to Gold, who has been an overachiever, cost her owner just $1,400, but has earned her way into the field for the Kentucky Oaks.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Perhaps the best of the four workouts that took place during the special Derby/Oaks training session here at Churchill Downs on Friday was turned in by the 3-year-old filly Rose to Gold. With Calvin Borel aboard, Rose to Gold breezed an easy-as-can-be four furlongs in 47.68 seconds before galloping out five-eighths in 1:00.27 and pulling up three-quarters in 1:13.37.

Rose to Gold has been an overachiever since beginning her career last summer at Calder by winning a pair of stakes races by a combined 26 lengths. A $1,400 yearling purchase, Rose to Gold is owned by Kathleen Amaya and Raffael Centofanti and trained by Sal Santoro, who was selling Harley Davidson motorcycles less than two years ago.

“It’s kind of surreal for me to have a horse in the Kentucky Oaks and going up against fillies trained by Todd Pletcher, Bob Baffert, Bill Mott, and Richard Mandella,” said Santoro by phone from south Florida on Friday. “When you think of all the fillies in her generation and that she’s going to be one of the 11 who have done the impossible and made it to the Oaks, it’s unbelievable.”

Rose to Gold certainly has earned her spot in the loaded Oaks field, having won both the Grade 3 Honeybee and Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn in her last two starts. She also captured the Grade 3 Delta Princess in her 2-year-old finale.

Santoro was supposed to be on the grounds for Friday’s final Oaks work but had an issue back home that postponed his trip until Monday. He said he couldn’t be more delighted with the reports he has gotten from Churchill Downs, both from Borel and exercise rider Dennis Roberson.

“Calvin called me this morning after the work and said he was very pleased with the way she went, that we touched all the bases,” said Santoro. “Dennis has been an absolute life saver. He trains some horses of his own and was in the barn with me this winter at Oaklawn. When this filly got to be a little too strong for my regular rider over there, he began getting on her and she’s relaxed for him from Day One. He told me she’s been on the bridle and really pulling during her gallops since arriving at Churchill Downs and that she couldn’t be a happier horse.”

Santoro was realistic about his chances with Rose to Gold in the Oaks.

“We’re going up against a field of great horses trained by some great horsemen and it is going to be a tough mountain to climb,” said Santoro. “But no matter how the race plays out, just being there already makes me feel like a winner.”