08/19/2005 11:00PM

Miss Matched turns it around in Oaks

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The trainer John Ward apparently knows the purpose of a prep race. Miss Matched finished third, beaten more than 15 lengths, in a July 29 prep for the $100,000 Arlington Oaks. Saturday, looking like an entirely different horse, she won the Oaks by a length over longshot Gallant Secret.

The two favorites, Whimsy and Eyes on Eddy, failed to show their best. Whimsy got through on the inside and made a bid in the stretch, but faded late and finished fifth. Eyes on Eddy lacked early speed, closing late for fourth. A head behind Gallant Secret in third came Tappin for Gold, who was difficult to load and raced wide in her stakes debut.

Miss Matched ($14.20) broke alertly under leading rider Shaun Bridgmohan and raced close to the early pace, as Ritzy went a wind-aided opening half-mile in 47.65 seconds. A winner in her only previous two-turn start, the Grade 3 Dogwood early this summer at Churchill, Miss Matched settled into a comfortable gallop on a drying-out racetrack producing fast times. Bridgmohan waited until midstretch to ask Miss Matched for her best, and she left Whimsy behind, easily holding clear the late runners. Miss Matched was timed in 1:49.39 for 1 1/8 miles.

Owner John Oxley privately purchased Miss Matched, a daughter of Formal Gold, after her career debut last year at age 2. Miss Matched now has won 5 of 8 starts for earnings of more than $283,000.