Reprinted from Bloodhorse
Oleksandra was one of the top female turf sprinters in North America last year, illustrated by victories in the Buffalo Trace Franklin County Stakes (G3T) at Keeneland and the Smart N Fancy Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.
In 2020, it seems she is among the best again—only this time in open company.
Facing seven male rivals June 20 at Belmont Park in the $250,000 Jaipur Stakes Presented by America’s Best Racing (G1T), the daughter of Animal Kingdom rallied past them all, catching Kanthaka in the closing yards for a neck victory under Joel Rosario.
As usual for the late-running 6-year-old, Oleksandra left her supporters on edge waiting for her charge. After a brief steady at the start when bumped by Kanthaka, she fell 11 1/2 lengths off the early pace as Pure Sensation and Hidden Scroll battled for the lead with splits of :21.33 and :43.62.
Midway on the turn, Oleksandra began to pick up momentum, and Rosario swung her three wide before angling out even farther in the stretch. She then began picking off rivals, moving into fourth with a furlong to go as Texas Wedge poked his head in front, and then she passed the three in front in the closing eighth of a mile.
“She put up a great performance and did well in the end,” Rosario said. “She’s an amazing horse.”
Oleksandra stopped the clock in 1:06.80, just .06 off the course record. She won her first grade 1 and improved to 3-for-3 on the Belmont turf. Last year she won two allowances at Belmont, including one against males.
“She is so much fun to watch race. She makes life very exciting,” Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale said.
Oleksandra paid $6.50 as the slight favorite. In her previous start, she was a fast-closing second to the highly regarded Jolie Olimpica in the Monrovia Stakes (G2T) at Santa Anita Park in her season debut.
West Point Thoroughbreds’ Kanthaka, trained by Graham Motion, just missed in his first race in over a year to be second, 1 1/4 lengths in front of third-place Texas Wedge, who was three-quarters of a length ahead of Stubbins. White Flag, Lonhtwist, Pure Sensation, and Hidden Scroll completed the order of finish.
“I think my horse got a good trip and ran very good,” said Kanthaka’s jockey, Jose Ortiz. “The winner was very impressive. I knew she was going to come sooner or later, but I thought I had her. My horse never stopped running.”
Oleksandra (left) with jockey Joel Rosario in the irons comes up on the outside and out duels Kanthaka with Jose Ortiz to the wire in 37th running of the Jaipur at Belmont Park on Belmont Stakes Day June 20, 2020
Team Valor International owns Oleksandra, whose sire won the 2011 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) for the partnership. Team Valor bred both.
Oleksandra became the 30th grade 1-winning horse owned by the partnership, according to Team Valor founder and CEO Barry Irwin.
“I think today was her day,” he said. “She had a nice little run, had that great prep. She loves Belmont Park. They were smoking. We got Rosario on her again. It just had all the earmarks of her day.”
With the Jaipur part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, the victory provided Oleksandra with a paid, automatic berth in the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1T) at Keeneland.
Not originally nominated to the Breeders’ Cup, which contributed to her sitting out the Turf Sprint at Santa Anita in 2019, she was made a horse-of-racing-age nomination two weeks ago, Irwin said.
Bred in Australia, Oleksandra is out of the graded stakes-winning Caesour mare Alexandra Rose. Oleksandra is related to two other winners, including Hostwin Galaxy, who was stakes-placed in Macau.
“We’re looking forward to the Breeders’ Cup because she showed she really likes that Keeneland course,” Irwin said. “That’ll be her last race.”