Gazelle gives runners a taste of Kentucky Oaks’ nine-furlong distance

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Jen Caldwell

April 6th, 2016

Four races are scheduled for Saturday that offer points toward a starting berth in the May 6 Kentucky Oaks (G1), but only one of them actually takes place at the Oaks distance of nine furlongs.

The $300,000 Gazelle (G2) drew seven runners to go 1 1/8 miles over Aqueduct’s main track. The contest is one of only two races in the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series of points of events carded at the Oaks distance. The other – the Demoiselle (G2) for two-year-old fillies – also took place at Aqueduct.

In fact, the winner of last year’s Demoiselle is showing up for the Gazelle. Lewis Bay stamped herself as one two watch when breaking her maiden by six lengths last October at Belmont Park, and lived up to that promise next out when taking the Demoiselle by 1 3/4 lengths for trainer Chad Brown.

That was Lewis Bay’s final start as a juvenile, and she opened her sophomore campaign with a runner-up effort in the Davona Dale (G2) at Gulfstream Park most recently on February 27. She returned to New York in March and has been working well in advance of the Gazelle. Regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr. has the call.

The Busanda and Busher stakes are preps at Aqueduct leading up to the Gazelle, and the winners from each of those events are showing up on Saturday. Flora Dora, who finished fourth in the Demoiselle, proved best in the Busanda to kick off 2016 but offered no rally in the Busher when crossing under the wire in fourth. Mo d’Amour, seventh in the Demoiselle, captured the Busher by two lengths in her third start of the season.

Junior Alvarado will take the reins on Flora Dora for the first time while Mo d’Amour will be reunited with John Velazquez.

Dreams to Reality also ran in both the Busanda and Busher, finishing fourth and second, respectively. The Michael Dilger pupil earned her first win last December against maiden claimers by 7 3/4 lengths and gets Kendrick Carmouche back in the saddle on Saturday.

Clair de Lune is an interesting prospect in that the Brown trainee will be facing stakes rivals for the first time in the Gazelle. The bay miss tired to seventh in her career opener on December 27 but returned in 2016 with a pair of easy wire-to-wire wins. Most recently, Clair de Lune drew off to a 6 1/2-length victory against allowance/optional claimers on March 11 under returning rider Jose Ortiz.

Royal Obsession and Behrnik’s Bank complete the Gazelle field. The former brought a two-for-two mark into the Rachel Alexandra (G2) on February 20 at Fair Grounds, where she finished fourth by only 1 3/4 lengths. Behrnik’s Bank romped by a combined 31 lengths in her initial two starts at Penn National before just missing by a neck in the December 20 Fifth Avenue division of the New York Stallion Series S. She’ll be making her seasonal debut in this spot.

Lewis Bay photo courtesy of NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography