Plum Pretty, who won the Kentucky Oaks last May, shook off a poor start and cruised to victory in the $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap on Friday at Oaklawn Park.
Twelve Twenty Two, ridden by Calvin Borel, set the early pace, covering the first quarter-mile in 23.89 and first half in 47.54, but Plum Pretty pulled even by the half-mile mark. The filly, trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Rafael Bejarano, brushed aside a spirited charge from Absinthe Minded to pull away for a 21/4-length victory in the 11⁄16-mile Grade I race.
Despite breaking a step slow out of the gate, Baffert was pleased with the effort from Plum Pretty, who went off as the 3-5 favorite, in her first race of the year.
"She has been working really well, and she ran like she's been working," Baffert said. "I had some anxious moments at the start. Once she got into gear, she just dragged (Bejarano) around there."
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The Apple Blossom featured a field of only five horses after 2011 winner and 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace pulled out after she was assigned the top weight of 123 pounds.
Plum Pretty finished with a time of 1:42.64 and returned $3, $2.80 and $2.10. Absinthe Minded was second and paid $3.80 and $2.20, followed by Tiz Miz Sue in third at $2.10.
Saturday Baffert has the top two entrants in the Arkansas Derby, a prep race for the Kentucky Derby. Bodemeister is the 9-5 favorite. Secret Circle, who will be ridden by Bejarano, was 5-2 in the morning line.