Wilmington, Del. — It could be the start of something exciting when Sagamore Farm’s Tell A Great Story and James Glover’s Ile St. Molly meet in the $300,000 Grade II Delaware Oaks at Delaware Park this Saturday.
Since the Delaware Oaks was brought back to the stakes schedule in 1997, the race contested at a mile and a sixteenth has produced five eventual winners of the Alabama Stakes, two 3-year-old filly champions and one Horse of the Year. Of all of those, the one who achieved the least prior to the race but arguably accomplished the most after was the eventual 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace. Havre de Grace had made four career starts before the Delaware Oaks in 2010. During her 2-year-old campaign, she had one maiden victory from two starts. Before making the third start of her 3-year-old season and the first in a series of six clashes with Blind Luck (culminating in the epic Delaware Handicap), she had won an allowance and run second in the local prep for the Delaware Oaks, the Go For Wand Stakes. When nine fillies go postward in the eighth race with an approximate post time of 4:45p.m. this Saturday, everything is possible as Havre de Grace and Blind Luck proved not so long ago.
Tell a Great Story defeated Ile St. Molly by only a nose in the mile-and-seventy-yard $75,000 Go For Wand Stakes at Delaware Park on June 15, The pair, who left the rest of the field nearly 12 lengths behind that day, have both exceeded expectations and overcome long odds just to get to this Saturday.
Tell a Great Story almost did not survive her birth on April 5, 2010. The home-bred daughter of Bluegrass Cat was born tiny and unable to breath. She was termed a “dummy foal” due to her inability to feed from her mother after birth and was nursed to health by her handlers. But the Maryland-bred conditioned by Ignacio Correas, IV broke her maiden in her first career start, going five and a half furlongs at Laurel Park on January 30. After finishing third and second against allowance competition, she posted her second career victory in a mile-and-a-sixteenth allowance at Pimlico on May 12. She has a career record of three wins, a second and a third from five starts, with earnings of $103,820.
“She is doing well and we think she is going to make a good showing,” said Correas. “We are going to do exactly what we did before the Go For Wand. We are going to ship in the day before the race. On the morning of the race, we are going to gallop and go to gate. She has been very good in the gate lately, and she has been very good shipping lately. She has had some problems with both in the past, but she has been handling both well. In her last two or three races, she has been very good, so we are going to just do what we have done with her recently with success.”
Correas knows if she can run back to her Go For Wand performance, she will be tough.
“Hopefully, she runs the same way and if she runs the same race, we know we are going to have a good chance,” Correas said. “Her two workouts coming into this race have been good, and she is training very well. She has been getting better with every race, and I think that is because she is becoming more mature and focused. This is going to be a big step up for her though. When you run for this kind of money with these stakes, it is never easy, so we are also looking at this as a chance to see where we are with this filly. We are very happy with where we are now and we will see where we are after the race. Hopefully, we will be a whole lot happier.”
When trainer Kenny Smith shipped into Delaware Park this year, he knew he was bringing a talented filly in Ile St. Molly. He just was not expecting the Arkansas-bred to race herself into the Delaware Oaks. In her first effort going a mile or longer, the home-bred daughter of Ile St. Louis notched a 3/4-length score in the one-mile $50,000 Our Mims Stakes at Delaware Park on May 18. She followed with her second-place finish to Tell A Great Story in the Go For Wand. Previously, she had two career victories against state-breds. Earlier in the year, she posted a 3 3/4-length victory in the six-furlong $60,000 Rainbow Miss at Oaklawn Park, and last year she broke her maiden in her career debut six-furlong restricted stake race at Louisiana Downs. She has a career record of three wins and a second from seven starts, with earnings of $119,370.
“We have been trying to teach her to lay off the pace a little bit, but however it sets up, I think we can do either this time,” said Smith. “I think we can win on the lead or I think we can just set off the pace if we have to do it. I look for a good race out of her. She is easy and a pleasure to train. A lot of them will surprise you, and that is why you got to give them all a chance to run in these kind of races to see if they can handle it. Some of them handle it and some of them do not. I have had a bunch of horses in my career handle it, but I have had a whole lot more who have not. That is a part of the game. But I think this filly is special. I think she is going to run really well, and I do not think the mile-and-a-sixteenth will bother her one bit. In the Go For Wand, both of those fillies finished awfully strong with a pretty fast final quarter. My filly was a little aggressive down the backside, but we got outrun, and when you get outrun, you just go to the next race.”