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Wilkes looking for more punch from Champagne Anyone

Wilkes looking for more punch from Champagne Anyone

Filly faded to fourth in CCA Oaks; tackles Grade I Alabama on Saturday
Wilkes looking for more punch from Champagne Anyone
Champagne Anyone goes for a gallop at Churchill Downs n April. She's entered in Saturday's Alabama at Saratoga.
Photographer: Erica Miller

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Champagne Anyone didn't exactly pop the cork in the Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga Race Course on July 21.

She was sitting in second behind favorite Guarana, but when the real running started in the homestretch, she fell back to fourth in the five-horse field, and settled for that, 7 3/4 lengths behind Guarana.

Trainer Ian Wilkes said he should take the blame for that one, but expects Champagne Anyone to have a better shot in the mile-and-a-quarter Grade I Alabama on Saturday. She's 10-1 on the morning line in a field of nine with two clear top contenders, 8-5 Dunbar Road and 5-2 Point of Honor.

The undefeated Guarana will sit this one out and wait for a shorter distance in the Cotillion at Parx on Sept. 21.

"She's thrived since then [CCA Oaks]," Wilkes said Thursday afternoon. "The race helped me. I trained her a little more aggressively for this race, and she's thriving, she's putting on weight and is a different filly now, compared to that first race."

Whether that's enough to beat the likes of Dunbar Road and Point of Honor remains to be seen, but Wilkes said the added distance, at which none of the Alabama fillies has run, shouldn't be a problem.

Champagne Anyone will break from the No. 4 post under Chris Landeros, who has ridden all nine of her career starts, which include a victory in the Grade II Gulfstream Park Oaks on March 30.

"It [distance] is a big question," Wilkes said. "I feel good about it. I don't have a problem, I don't think, going a mile and a quarter. As long as I do my job, I'll be fine.

"The post position is not going to make a difference. I'll leave it to Chris. Last time, we knew there was no speed, except for I thought that Chad's filly [the Chad Brown-trained Guarana] would go. Because Jose [Ortiz] was on the favorite, and with Irad [Ortiz] sitting on the other side, the two brothers dictate the whole turn. So we took the initiative, and Chris rode a perfect race, but I just didn't have enough horse for him."

The 31-year-old Kentucky-based Landeros is Wilkes' son-in-law and has been getting much of his business from him at this meet, his first as a regular rider in town for the duration, as opposed to past years, when he shipped in from Kentucky on a spot basis.

Landeros has won just four of 50 starts (8%) and not only lost on his one big horse, Champagne Anyone, but also suffered a tough disqualification on Aug. 4 aboard Crystalle, who won at 41-1, but was taken down and placed third after a steward's inquiry and claims of foul by both Ortiz brothers, who had finished second and third.

"He's unfortunate with the DQ last week," Wilkes said. "That was a little controversial with that one, but that's racing. We all go through them. It'll make him a better rider.

"You always come wanting to pick up better horses. You can't put all your eggs in one basket, and I don't think he's feeling any pressure that 'This is the horse,' or 'This one's going to make or break me.' No. If he does that, that's a mistake on his part."

Before the CCA Oaks, Champagne Anyone, a bay daughter of 2007 Kentucky Derby and Travers winner Street Sense, finished fourth to Serengeti Empress in the Grade I Kentucky Oaks.

Wilkes said he liked the way Champagne Anyone made up ground on the front-runners in deep stretch, but getting shuffled back in traffic coming out of the first turn left her too far behind to have a chance.

She found herself in the opposite scenario in the CCA Oaks, tracking Guarana by a half-length in the early stages, but came up a little empty when she needed another gear at the end.

"I didn't do a good enough job. She needed a race," Wilkes said. "I thought I had her ready, and the filly made a nice move on the turn. I thought she was going to be right there, but then she just came up a little leg-weary. I just didn't have her right.

"I'll leave it to him [Landeros]. You've got to play the break. She's got enough tactical speed, so she can be where she wants to be. Enjoy the race. That's what he's got to do."

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.

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