Observers expecting the 34th edition of the Grade III, $200,000 Florida Oaks to be one of the best in race history weren’t disappointed.
After favorite La Coronel wrested the lead from Compelled in deep stretch, New York-bred 3-year-old filly Fifty Five flew by both of them in the final strides to post a neck victory from La Coronel. Compelled was another half-length back, followed by Dynatail.
Fifty Fiver’s time of 1:41.60 for the mile-and-a-sixteenth on turf was a stakes record, bettering the mark of 1:41.89 set in 2013 by Tapicat.
“She’s a heartthrob, because she always comes from behind like that,” said John Crowe, who bred and owns Fifty Five with his wife Sandy under their Empire Equines banner.
“When (jockey Jose Ortiz) took her back early, I thought ‘She’s done this before,’ ” said Sandy Crowe. “But when they turned for home, I said ‘Get her moving, get her moving.’ ”
Ortiz, as he so often does, responded with skill and cool, rallying Fifty Five for her third victory in five starts and first stakes triumph.
“The trainer (Thomas M. Bush) just told me to keep patient and when you ask her, she is going to give you a big run,” Ortiz said. “I just tried to follow (La Coronel) because I knew she was going to be tough, and as soon as we passed the eighth pole, I knew we had a decent chance to win.”
Fifty Five is by Get Stormy out of the Crowes’ mare Soave, who died earlier this year.
“The fractions (22.83 for the quarter-mile and 46.90 for the half, set by runaway leader Like a Hurricane) helped us quite a bit, but she did move up on the backside with the rest of the field and was in pretty good shape,” Bush said. “It’s a terrific feeling. She just won a graded stakes and has improved every time we’ve run her, and you can’t ask more from a horse than that.”