Oak Bluffs surges in Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup

OakBluffs.6-2-18.ESH_GRANTVILLE, Pa. – Two weeks ago, Oak Bluffs slogged his way to a third-place finish in the Jim McKay Turf Sprint, the first leg of the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships turf sprint division, over a soft course at Pimlico. On Saturday at Penn National, he got a firm course, which he prefers, and was more explosive in winning the $200,000 Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup.

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Oak Bluffs has now won six races since being claimed by Mary Eppler for $5,000 in May 2016. He was the only horse from the McKay to run back on short rest in the Governor’s Cup, and now is the point leader in his division of the Match Series.

His win keeps Eppler’s hot streak going. Last week she won the $100,000 Salvator Mile at Monmouth with Page McKenney.

“We’re going to stay with the MATCH Series,” Eppler said of Oak Bluffs.

The third leg of the five-race series is the $200,000 Parx Dash on July 7. That race, like the Governor’s Cup, is five furlongs.

“He’s better at a little longer distance, 5 1/2 furlongs or six furlongs,” Eppler said.

Jockey Paco Lopez saved ground off the pace with Oak Bluff in the Governor’s Cup. He angled out for the stretch run, overtook front-running Pool Winner and then held off late-running Dubini by three-quarters of a length.

Oak Bluffs paid $6.80 in the 10-horse field. He was timed in 56.10 over firm turf.

Morticia back on the beam

Morticia scored her first win of the season in the inaugural running of the $100,000 Penn Ladies Dash at Penn National on Saturday.

Jockey Jose Lezcano, who has now won six races on Morticia, asked only as much as he needed from her and eased up late in the five-furlong turf sprint, winning by a length. Morticia was timed in 56.35 seconds over firm turf.

The Penn Ladies Dash was the fourth start of the season for Morticia, who went 6 for 8 last season at 3, while winning stakes at Gulfstream Park, Keeneland, Belmont Park, and Saratoga.

Trainer Rusty Arnold was pleased to get the daughter of Twirling Candy back in the winner’s circle. She had finished second twice and third once in her first three starts of the season at Gulfstream, Keeneland, and Churchill.

“The year didn’t get off the way we wanted, but she’s run well every time,” Arnold said. “Her races were good, they just weren’t winning races and I’m glad to see her get back on track.”

For much of the Penn Ladies Dash, it was a two-horse affair. Just Talkin set the pace on a short lead with Morticia to her inside. When Lezcano asked entering the stretch, Morticia took over.

“She went on to win very easy,” Lezcano said

Rocky Policy, a 20-1 longshot, came running late to beat Just Talkin for second by a length

Arnold had a few anxious moments prior to the race when Morticia popped a shoe off.

“She was in the barn playing around and she kicked the wall,” Arnold said. “She’s a little difficult. And she knocked a shoe off.

“I can’t say enough about the paddock blacksmith. He came down and got the shoe back on her.”

The paddock blacksmith at Penn National is Roger Imes.

Morticia is now 7 for 13 in her career.

Arnold said she could run next in the $200,000 Career Stakes at Saratoga, a 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint on July 23.

The Penn Ladies Dash was the second leg of the fillies and mares turf sprint division of the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships.

“The MATCH series is a really good idea,” Arnold said. “We’d like to support it. It’s a possibility.”

The next leg of the MATCH Series is the $100,000 Turf Amazon, a five-furlong turf sprint at Parx on July 7.