Family Tree solid in Grade II Indiana Oaks

Family Tree proved that she was worthy of her race favorite status in the 21st running of the Grade II $200,000-added Indiana Oaks Saturday, July 16 at Indiana Grand. The three-year-old filly earned her second straight win against graded stakes company with Jockey Julien Leparoux aboard for the one and one-sixteenth mile event on the dirt.

Starting from post seven, Family Tree was among the early horses that had intentions of being on the lead, but after traveling between horses headed to the first turn, Leparoux backed Family Tree off and placed her behind pacesetters Sweet Legacy and Corey Lanerie followed by Emmzy and Rafael Bejarano. The chestnut daughter of Smart Strike was among the pack of eight fillies that were only separated by five lengths at the halfway point.

Family Tree waited patiently through fractions of :24.37, :49.88, and 1:14.62 before being urged for a move. Around the final turn, Family Tree kicked into an accelerated gear and began to pass horses. By the time she was at the top of the stretch, she only had Emmzy to catch.

In the stretch, Family Tree eventually got the best of her final rival and moved into the lead, winning the race by three lengths over Emmzy. Mines and Magic and Robby Albarado maintained positioning for third.

“With the post we had, there was some speed in the race but we had a good post, so we sat right next to it,” explained Leparoux on his trip with Family Tree. “We didn’t want to be too far from Baffert (Emmzy). We got a great trip, but with that post we were expecting it, and she won very easily today. All the way around I could do whatever I wanted.”

Family Tree is owned by Mary and Gary West and trained by Wayne Catalano. She earned her second win in a row and her third in the past four starts. She increased her career bankroll to more than $400,000 with her win in the Indiana Oaks.

“Let me tell you something, the way she (Family Tree) looked and was acting in the stall, and the way she came back and worked — just galloping she went in 47 (for a half-mile) no problem,” said Catalano. “You don’t want to do too much coming back in two weeks, but that’s how she was. So the way she trained and everything, she looked so good – bright eyed, eating good, training good – if you don’t go now,  I mean, when do you do it?”

Family Tree was a winner in the Grade III Iowa Oaks at Prairie Meadows June 30. Now, she adds the Grade II status to her credentials from the Indiana Oaks. The Wests are very pleased with their filly. “I would think they’d be looking for a Grade I somewhere,” said Catalano. “But we’ll see. We’ll talk to Bennie (Glass, the Wests’ racing manager) and the Wests (Gary and Mary West). So far they’ve been right. I stepped up to the plate and took a chance, everybody is like, ‘sometimes you’ve got to do it.’ To be honest with you, it was my idea – now that she won (laughed Catalano).”

Julien Leparoux has a lot to celebrate after winning the Grade II Oaks aboard Family Tree Saturday, July 16. (Photo by Dean Gillette)

Julien Leparoux has a lot to celebrate after winning the Grade II Oaks aboard Family Tree Saturday, July 16. (Photo by Dean Gillette)

Family Tree paid $4.80, $3.00 and $2.60 as the race favorite. She is now three for five in 2016. Final time for the one and one-sixteenth mile event was 1:44.46.