Her lead couldn't have been much tougher and quite frankly should have derailed her, but tell that to Haggin Oaks who was more powerful than a locomotive.
Winners-Over pacers, in quest for a $4,500 purse, were featured at Cal Expo on Saturday night (February 12), on which Haggin Oaks absolutely wouldn't be denied.
In advance of starting from her assigned post-five in the field of six, trainer James Kennedy knew his all-male competition was keen.
"I was a little concerned about my chances because Marlin Hanover (Luke Plano) had won three in-a-row and has been racing real good, plus Albion (Dave Siegel) is a pretty good horse also," stated Kennedy. "My strategy was to leave and 'hopefully' control the tempo."
Leaving and four-wide until three-wide just as the field entered the first-turn, the six year-old stayed three-deep after an eighth of a mile versus dropping in behind a parked-out advancing One And Only (Jim Lackey).
"Yes, I could have fallen in behind One And Only, but I didn't as I really wanted to be on the front-end."
Racing three-wide and intent for the front while in a dingdong battle with One And Only and the strong pace pushing Albion, Haggin Oaks didn't see the two-path until well past a demanding :28 first-quarter, then didn't see the one-path until she had traveled a bruising three-eighths of a mile.
"It was a very tough lead as we were pushing pretty hard there. Was I worried? Well, you may not believe this, but I said to her in the post-parade that we were going to get beat up in the first-turn and that I had faith in her. And honestly, once I made the lead, I felt the same. At that point, as hard as I had to work for the lead, I wanted to stay there and was just hoping Marlin Hanover wasn't going to come from last to try and get the point because I wanted to give her a breather."
Getting his wish with a half mile left to pace in the race, Kennedy was pleased and had a plan.
"When I saw the half mile of :57.2 come up, I knew I had gotten myself a little :29.2 breather and with One And Only behind me and in my mind thinking he's not as good as my mare, I was going to take advantage of that and try to gain some ground on the rest of the field and make the others horses have to get around him - - which is why I went a quick third-quarter."
Letting his anxious mare pace a :28.3 third-quarter, but not letting her go as fast as perhaps she wanted to, the pair, with the horses to beat not within four-lengths or more of them, reached the three-quarter mile station, timed in 1:26.
"She was feeling strong and I was feeling strong with her. And since I didn't hear or see anybody at that point, I just popped the earplugs and asked her to go on and see what happened."
Drawing clear into the stretch, but with the field getting closer at the seven-eighths mile pole, Kennedy went to work and soon had Amigo De Garcia (Steve Wiseman) at his wheel.
"I just asked her to go and once they got to her shoulder, she dug in and fought him and the field off and finished and raced like the superstar that she is."
Digging down deep under an all-out drive, Haggin Oaks won ($10.00) by three-quarters of one-length. Owned by Shari Burns, Ferris Funk & Gerald Cimini, the only lady in the race stopped the timer at 1:54, a seasonal best and her 22nd career triumph. Ivegotwhatuneed (Lemoyne Svendsen) finished in second, and Albion was a good third, just a neck farther back.
"She raced her heart out and it was a heck of a mile," finished a totally overjoyed and proud Kennedy.
Live racing resumes at Cal Expo on Friday (February 17) & Saturday (February 18) at 6:00 p.m. (PST). On every live card, Cal Expo offers free parking & free admission after 4:30 p.m. On Friday, Cal Expo offers Happy Hour from 4:00-7:00 p.m. on which Beer; Well Drinks & Wine are offered at $4 each, while a Burger with fries is offered at $5.
Cal Expo currently offers a reduced 15 percent takeout rate on all Pick 4’s (Thursday/Friday nights in partnership with the USTA Strategic Wagering Committee). This Friday & Saturday night, all Late Pick 4’s will come with a $10,000-guaranteed pool. Additionally, there will be a 0% takeout on successful Late Pick 4 tickets made at Cal Expo or at Twinspires.com.
In addition to both Pick 4’s at Cal Expo continuing to offer a reduced 15 percent takeout rate, beginning February 24, the Late Pick 4’s on Friday and Saturday will come with an increased $15,000-guaranteed gross pool.
Also starting that weekend, the Friday Late Pick 4 will offer a 0% takeout on all winning wagers made on track or at Twinspires.com, while the Saturday Late Pick 4 will be broadcast on TVG.