Hot Springs, AR (SportsNetwork.com) - Odds-on favorite Close Hatches set the pace and powered through the stretch to win Friday's $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park.
Trained by Bill Mott and ridden by Joel Rosario, Close Hatches was sent off as the 7-10 favorite in the five-horse field of fillies and mares. Last year's race winner On Fire Baby was 7-2 in the betting.
Close Hatches broke sharply from the gate and took the lead as the field went under the wire for the first time in the 1 1/16-mile race. The 4-year-old filly was pressured by On Fire Baby and Rose to Gold.
The favorite continued on the lead even as On Fire Baby edged closer from the outside. Close Hatches repelled the challenge from last year's Apple Blossom champ and went on to post a 1 1/4-length victory.
On Fire Baby was followed by Stanwyck, Let Faith Arise and Rose to Gold.
The time for the Apple Blossom was 1:42.75 on a fast track.
Owned by Juddmonte Farms, Close Hatches notched her second straight win to begin the year and pocketed $360,000. The filly has earned $1,847,300 with seven wins in 10 lifetime starts.
The 4-year-old began the season last month by leading all the way to win Oaklawn's Azeri Stakes. She was second to Beholder in last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff and registered wins in the Gazelle, Mother Goose and Cotillion Stakes. Close Hatches also was second last year in the Acorn Stakes.
Close Hatches paid $3.40, $2.40 and $2.10. On Fire Baby returned $3.20 and $2.60, Stanwyck paid $3.00 to show.