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Stakes Winner Ocean Safari to Return in $100,000 Searching
3YO Filly Ends Layoff Saturday in First Race Outside Florida
BALTIMORE – Soldi Stable and Ohana Racing’s Ocean Safari, unraced since becoming a stakes winner three months ago, is set to return in her first start outside of South Florida in Saturday’s $100,000 Searching at Laurel Park.
The Searching for 3-year-old fillies, cut back from 1 ½ miles to a mile and a sixteenth for its 12th running, is the first of two stakes scheduled for the grass on a 10-race program followed by the $100,000 Bald Eagle Derby for 3-year-olds going 1 3/16 miles.
First race post time is 12:40 p.m.
Ocean Safari has been third or better in five of her six career starts, the exception coming Feb. 5 when she ran sixth after stalking the pace of the 1 1/16-mile Sweetest Chant (G3) at Gulfstream Park, where trainer Gilberto Zerpa is based and she has raced exclusively. Beaten a half-length when second in the Jan. 1 Ginger Brew, the Temple City filly bounced back to win the one-mile Honey Ryder May 7.
“She’s a filly that has to be run with time between races, so after the last race we gave her some time,” Zerpa said through his assistant trainer, Heather Boraco. “She’s a small filly but she has a big heart, so we gave her the necessary time to get her in the right mind frame for this race.”
Zerpa has a string of horses at Monmouth Park this summer, where Ocean Safari has been training steadily since early June for her return including a bullet four-furlong work from the gate in 47.60 seconds July 19. She turned in a maintenance half-mile breeze in 50 seconds July 26.
“This looked like a good spot for her on the grass,” Zerpa said. “She’s all grass, all the time, and given the fact that we’re trying other places besides Florida this looked like the best spot for her.”
Ocean Safari has raced beyond a mile twice, finishing third in a one-mile, 70-yard allowance last fall over Gulfstream’s Tapeta course as well as the Sweetest Chant on turf. Daniel Centeno gets the call from Post 5 in a field of 11.
“I think she’ll do good at the distance,” Zerpa said. “She’s coming off the mile win and she’s a filly that likes to sit right off the pace, third or fourth. She’s got a good kick at the end so I think the distance shouldn’t be an issue.”
Trainer Graham Motion captured last year’s Searching with Grade 3 winner Blame Debbie and also won a division of the race in 2000 with Confessional. This year he entered the trio of stakes winners Sparkle Blue and Vergara and recent acquisition Pharoah’s Song.
Bred by Catherine Parke and owned by Parke and Augustin Stable, Sparkle Blue made her stakes debut last fall at Laurel when she was fourth to Consumer Spending in the 1 1/16-mile Selima. From there she was sent to California where she won an optional claiming allowance before coming up empty in the Jimmy Durante (G3), both going a mile, 24 days apart at Del Mar.
Out of the Smart Strike mare Silk n’ Sapphire, Sparkle Blue is a half-sister to millionaire Shared Account, who won her first two starts at Laurel before going on to three graded-stakes victories capped by the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). Sparkle Blue made a triumphant return to the races in the 1 1/16-mile Christiana July 2 at Delaware Park under Jeremy Rose, who returns to ride from Post 8.
“Jeremy did a great job with her. She’s been a little tricky in the past, this filly, and Jeremy has that style of kind of leaving horses alone and letting them do their thing. He very much suited this filly, and it worked out well. He gave her a great ride,” Motion said. “I can’t say I wasn’t a little surprised coming off the layoff, but we always thought she had that kind of ability. She’s from Shared Account’s family, so it’s been a great family for us.”
Motion has been pleased with the mental and physical development of Sparkle Blue since the Hard Spun filly turned 3.
“I think she’s grown up. I think she’s physically a stronger filly than she was last year,” Motion said. “Funny enough, I didn’t plan on running her at Delaware until kind of the last minute. I got close to the race and I just sort of started thinking. I wasn’t sure I was going to run her but she seemed to be doing so well that I thought it made sense to get her started.”
Gary Broad’s Vergara set the pace in her most recent race, the 1 1/8-mile Wonder Again (G2) over a yielding Belmont Park turf, before tiring to finish fourth to Consumer Spending. She ran third to Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) winner Pizza Bianca in the one-mile Hilltop May 20 at Pimlico and won the 1 1/16-mile Tepin on the Aqueduct turf last fall in her juvenile finale.
Pharoah’s Song was purchased for $210,000 by Nathan McCauley’s River Oak Farm out of Fasig-Tipton’s July 11 horses of all ages sale and sent to Motion after the daughter of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah had one win in three starts for her previous connections, including a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight triumph over her elders June 3 at Churchill Downs in her most recent start.
“Nathan picked her out of the sale and sent her to me, so we haven’t had her very long. She’s kind of done everything I’ve asked her to do,” Motion said. “We kind of had this race in mind and I told Nathan that if she trained well we’d do it, and she really has. She’s been a very straightforward filly in the morning. She’s done everything nicely and seems like a class filly.”
Jorge Ruiz gets the assignment on Pharoah’s Song from Post 9.
Live Oak Plantation homebred Quality Control will go for three straight wins as she makes her stakes debut in the Searching. The bay daughter of Quality Road broke her maiden Jan. 13 on Gulfstream’s Tapeta and came back to beat older horses in a May 21 optional claiming allowance on the Parx turf, both races coming at a mile and 70 yards. Victor Carrasco rides for trainer Mike Trombetta from Post 10.
Also entered are Cupid’s Strike, a 9 ½-length maiden winner going 1 1/8 miles May 26 on the turf at historic Pimlico Race Course; Gastown Babe, a debut winner sprinting June 18 on the Laurel turf before running second to her elders July 17 in her only two starts; Lady Puchi, fourth in the Ginger Brew and Hilltop; Music Amore, exiting an allowance win July 7 over Presque Isle Downs’ all-weather surface; recent Delaware maiden winner Queen Macha and Tasweya, runner-up to Sparkle Blue in the Christiana.
Searching, a 1978 Hall of Fame inductee, was a bay daughter of 1937 Triple Crown champion War Admiral bred by Odgen Phipps that won the Gallorette Stakes at Pimlico in 1955 and 1957 for trainer Hirsch Jacobs, retiring with a record of 25-14-16 with $327,381 in purse earnings from 89 starts. As a broodmare, Searching also enjoyed great success with offspring such as Affectionately, an 18-time stakes winner and dam of 1970 Preakness winner Personality, and Admiring, the grand-dam of 1993 Kentucky Derby winner Sea Hero.