04/11/2011 4:27PM

Oaklawn Park: Payton d'Oro seeks better start in Redbud

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Jeff Coady/Coady Photography
Payton d'Oro will try to be closer to the pace in Wednesday's Redbud Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Payton d’Oro, Distinctive Dixie, and Taptam each hooked loose-on-the-lead winners in their last starts but could see different trips Wednesday in the $100,000 Redbud at Oaklawn Park.

The 1 1/16-mile stakes for fillies and mares continues the Racing Festival of the South, where nine stakes worth $2.7 million are being run over the final six dates of the meet that ends Saturday.

The Redbud is a new stakes, added along with the Wednesday card as a means of making up some of the racing lost earlier in the meet to snow dates. A nice cast of eight will go, with most of the focus to be on Grade 2 winners Payton d’Oro and Distinctive Dixie. They chased home the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Decelerator in a $50,000 optional claimer at Oaklawn on March 17, but things could be different in the Redbud. Payton d’Oro figures to be closer to the pace after breaking a step slow in the one-mile race and finishing third in what was her first start since April 2010. “She jumped a little at the gate,” said Larry Jones, who trains Payton d’Oro. “And she was back in the back of the pack of a slow pace, and Lukas was on the slow pace by himself. He wasn’t getting pressured. We never got in a position to win the race.”

Payton d’Oro has since breezed five furlongs in a bullet 58.60 seconds April 8 in her final prep for the Redbud. Terry Thompson has the mount on the mare, who is 4 for 7 at Oaklawn, including a win over Distinctive Dixie in last year’s $100,000 Bayakoa.

Distinctive Dixie went on to win the Grade 2 Chilukki at Churchill Downs last November. The March 17 race was her first start of the year, and she chased Decelerator while racing in second, about 1 1/2 lengths off a pace of 24 seconds for the first quarter and 48 for the half-mile. Distinctive Dixie finished second as Decelerator drew out to a 7 3/4-length win. Since then, Distinctive Dixie has sharpened her skills for her second start of the year, breezing a half-mile in 47.60 on April 8.

“She was obviously coming off a layoff last time, and we weren’t 100 percent fit,” said Aimee Dollase, assistant to her father, trainer Wally Dollase. “She was definitely kind of just chasing the other mare. We can probably be a little more aggressive this time. She’s fit and ready to go. This time, we can be more aggressive.”

Gabriel Saez has the mount Wednesday.

Taptam faced another Lukas front-runner in her last start, hooking Absinthe Minded in the $100,000 Bayakoa in February. She raced second to that one for about three-quarters of a mile and finished sixth, one start after defeating males in the $100,000 Star of Texas for statebreds at Sam Houston Race Park in her first start since September.

“In hindsight, I think couple of things happened,” trainer Bret Calhoun said of Taptam’s effort in the Bayakoa, in which she was favored. “My filly ended up in chase mode, and I think that burned her up. I think she also regressed off that big effort off the layoff.”

Cliff Berry has the mount on Taptam, who last year was second to Zenyatta in the Apple Blossom.

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