Daddys Lil Darling gains first Grade 1 in American Oaks

Report: USA, Saturday
Santa Anita: American Oaks (Grade 1) | 1m2f | turf | 3yo fillies

A severe case of stage fright may have cost Daddys Lil Darling (Kenny McPeek/Mike Smith) her chance in the Oaks at Epsom earlier this year, but she gained compensation at Santa Anita on Saturday when claiming the Grade 1 American Oaks.

Kenny McPeek and his filly had gained plenty of fans in the build-up to the Epsom Classic, but she had to be withdrawn after bolting to the start, having been spooked by the thunderstorm that hit the track minutes before the off.

In far more benign conditions in California there were no such problems, as Mike Smith stalked the pace in third before taking up the lead coming off the final bend.

Madam Dancealot emerged as a big danger on the outside, but Daddys Lil Darling kept finding in front for a half-length success to record a first Grade 1 triumph.

"We've been a bit of a bridesmaid all year," McPeek told the Blood-horse. "She was second in the Kentucky Oaks, second in the Ashland, but it was one of those things.

"What are you going to do but keep trying? It was a bit frustrating because she was always competitive but didn't have things go her way. But she's a special filly and you just have to keep trying with those kinds."