Her Smile is a filly that came into the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) game a little late and lacks the buzz factor that has surrounded some of the other contenders in the Run for the Lilies.
But after talking with her owner, celebrity chef Bobby Flay, on Churchill's busy backstretch May 5, it appears she has just as good of a shot as any of the 12 other horses in this deep and talented Oaks field.
Flay, who privately purchased the Virginia-bred daughter of Include from William Backer and sent her to the barn of Todd Pletcher just two weeks prior to the Oaks, explained why his filly deserves more than just a passing glance.
“Todd says so far she’s been push-button in terms of getting her to do what he wants,” said Flay of Her Smile, who was second to Hot Summer in the April 9 Comely Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct.
“He worked her once (four furlongs in :50 2/5 at Churchill May 1), and she skipped over the slop very well… they weren’t trying to go :47 with her, obviously. Todd hasn’t had a lot of time with her, but so far he likes what he sees and he thinks she’ll just keep improving going forward.”
Her Smile has a record of 3-2-1 in seven races, including a victory in the 2010 Donna Freyer Stakes at Philadelphia’s Parx Racing, and earnings of $126,360. She has $30,000 in graded stakes earnings. Her Smile previously was trained by Leigh Delacour.
“Todd said she’s very professional with a good mind on her,” Flay continued. “She doesn’t get rattled. I watched her go out on the track this morning with all the Derby and Oaks horses and she just stood there, waited, turned to get on the track, and didn’t get rattled at all. There was no drama, which is what you’re looking for. Right now, I’m just counting the minutes (until the Oaks).”
Flay is additionally confident in Her Smile’s position in the starting gate, as well the abilities of her jockey, Garrett Gomez.
“We got a great draw—we got the seven hole,” he said. “Looking at our competition, Larry Jones (trainer of morning line favorite Joyful Victory) got the one hole. He says he doesn’t care, but I’d rather have seven hole. The Medaglia d’Oro horse (Plum Pretty) is on the outside…so we can’t use the draw at all as an excuse. It’s just going to be all on her and racing luck.
“Garret Gomez fits her with his style; he’ll try and save some ground. He’s got some of the best hands out there. Hopefully we’ll see a repeat of what happened with More Than Real (won the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, gr. IIT, for Flay). We’re hoping for lightning to strike twice.”
Her Smile, eating her breakfast the morning of May 5 at Todd Pletcher's barn 34