Trainer Anthony Margotta Jr. and jockey Antonio Gallardo know that much more went into Hopeful Growth's upset victory Aug. 1 in the $212,000 Monmouth Oaks (G3) at Monmouth Park than just a perfect trip.
Two starts ago, Margotta took the blinkers off the filly to get her to relax in a race at Tampa Bay Downs in which Gallardo rode her. Last time out, the veteran conditioner sent her two turns for the first time, resulting in a fifth in the July 4 Delaware Oaks (G3).
Both learning experiences, they agreed, keyed a four-length victory at odds of 11-1 in the 1 1/16-mile Monmouth Oaks.
Hopeful Growth found clearance in midstretch and proved to be much the best in the field of nine 3-year-old fillies. The final time was 1:45.63 on a fast track.
"I had good position the whole way," Gallardo said. "I was close to the leaders. I had (Lucrezia) in front of me with Project Whiskey with her and (Princess Cadey) was just outside us. I just waited to get clear. I was able to do that before the quarter pole. I knew she had a lot left and she responded."
Delaware Oaks winner Project Whiskey held for second, 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Eve of War.
"I had a really good trip," Gallardo said. "I know this filly. I won with her in Tampa. Anthony told me that day, 'Try to teach her. I don't want her to be a filly that just goes to the lead. I don't care if you lose, just teach her.'
"That's what happened in Tampa. She learned, and she still won. I was able to put her behind horses that day, and she learned very fast. When I put her in the clear that race, she took off. That lesson paid off today. She's a good horse, and now she knows how to relax and sit behind horses. That's why she won this."
"Her last race was the first time she ran around two turns," Margotta said. "We were hoping to hit the board there, but typically a horse going two turns for the first time in our program may need a race around two turns the first time. This was our bull's-eye target. I took the blinkers off her last two races so she would learn a little. I put them back on (today) so she would focus more after she learned a little bit.
"The Delaware Oaks was a race we needed to get in before this one for the two-turn experience and to learn. I loved the trip (today). She was patient on the rail. That's what we have been teaching her to do, and it paid off."
Owned by St. Elias Stable, Hopeful Growth returned $25.60 to win. The daughter of Tapiture out of the Rock Hard Ten mare Maiden America has a 3-1-0 line from five starts and picked up 50 points on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks.
"She's bred to go long and she has trained that way the whole time, so I knew she would go longer," Margotta said. "She has always wanted to stretch out."