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Will it be a ‘Joyful’ or ‘Pretty’ summer?

Plum PrettyThe two best 3-year-old fillies in the country will be racing this Saturday, but it will be no rematch, as Plum Pretty and Joyful Victory will be running on opposite coasts. And while their connections are predicting a possible meet-up in the future, this weekend will serve to see if their spring form is holding up for a dominating summer campaign, as well.

Kentucky Oaks champ Plum Pretty will be running in the Grade II Hollywood Oaks against only four other rivals, but one of those happens to be Zazu, who is looking for revenge on Plum Pretty after finishing third to her in Kentucky. Plum Pretty has been a model of consistency; out of 5 starts, she has won 3 times and has never finished worse than third, while Zazu has 2 wins out of 8 starts, with one off-the-board finish.

The twist is that last time Zazu and Plum Pretty knocked heads in California, the tables were turned and Zazu came out in front while the Baffert trainee was third; in that race, the Grade I Las Virgenes, the early pace was blistering, setting up a perfect scenario for the late-closing Zazu to pounce. Without a true speedster in the Hollywood Oaks, Plum Pretty may get things her way this time around. Expected pacesetter Big Tiz will be looking to set a slow tempo in the attempt to steal her first stakes race, which may hurt Zazu’s chances. The other entries in the Hollywood Oaks are Wallstreeter and Love Theway Youare.

Joyful VictoryJoyful Victory will be headlining the historic Grade I Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park this Saturday. Larry Jones’s once-dominant filly will try to redeem herself after finishing a disappointing 4th in the Kentucky Oaks as the overwhelming favorite. She may have an easy time of it in this spot; while six contenders have lined up to spar with her, none of them have demonstrated Joyful Victory’s flashes of brilliance. Before the Kentucky Oaks, the gray filly won the Grade II Fantasy and the Grade III Honeybee back-to-back by a combined margin of 15 ¾ lengths. Jones attributes her disappointing effort in Kentucky to an inside trip; it will certainly be to her benefit to face half as many foes in the Mother Goose as her last start, but the cutback in distance to 1 1/16-miles may help even more.

Challengers in the Mother Goose include Victoria’s Wildcat, the winner of the Grade III Eight Belles Stakes at Churchill Downs, and Salty Strike, winner of the Grade III Dogwood Stakes at Churchill last time out. Buster’s Ready has never won a stakes race, but has racked up 3 wins in 8 starts, and ran second in the Grade II Black-Eyed Susan Stakes. My Assets has 1 win in 2 starts, having broken her maiden by 5 ¾-lengths going 1 mile here at Belmont.

Bob Baffert had been intending on running Plum Pretty in the Mother Goose Stakes, but held off shipping her to New York when his filly came down with a temperature. He says she has improved in the 24 hours since he made the decision to keep her home, and will continue to watch her up until post time for the Hollywood Oaks. If Plum Pretty runs and dominates in this race, she will be the unquestionable leader in the 3-year-old filly division. Meanwhile, Joyful Victory must win the Mother Goose to remain a legitimate contender for the Eclipse, and if she does win it convincingly, an interesting showdown is due to occur this summer, likely at the Graveyard of Champions.


The Grade I Mother Goose Stakes will air live from Belmont Park on TVG and HRTV at approximately 5:17pm ET.

The Grade II Hollywood Oaks will air live from Hollywood Park on TVG at approximately 7:35pm ET.

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