OCEANPORT – For those in trainer Todd Pletcher’s camp, Sunday’s Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks at Monmouth Park felt like it was a two-horse race between Shahama and the Brad Cox-trained Juju Card.
It turned out that it was a one-horse race.
Shahama held on to the flanks of Juju’s card for the first six furlongs of the 3-year-old filly’s sixteenth-mile stakes before pulling away down the stretch to claim a two-and-a-half-length victory in the 98th edition of the $250,000 Monmouth Oaks, according to a press release release.
After trying to hold onto the lead against Shahama, Juju’s Map – the area’s only Grade 1 winner – finished a tiring third, three-quarters of a length behind the late Shotgun Hottie.
The winning time is 1:41.54.
“We thought Brad Cox’s horse was going to be in the lead and we were going to sit second, and that’s exactly how it worked out,” said Anthony Shametta, who runs Pletcher’s division at Monmouth Park.
“She trained in New York and went out on Saturday afternoon and showed well and behaved well. I know everyone around her likes her. As you can tell, she has a lot of class.
“I thought it was a two-horse race. You don’t like to say it, but we thought it was between us and Carta Juju. Shahama was very good today.”
Ridden by Jorge A. Vargas Jr., Shahama was sent off as the 17-10 second choice in a field of five for her third start in the United States.
After making her first four career starts at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, she was sixth in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks and second in the Grade 2 Mother Goose in her last start.
The KHK Racing-owned daughter of Munnings-Private Feeling by Belong to Me now has five wins and one second from seven career starts.
“It was a kind of two-horse race. No disrespect to the others, but Shahama and Carta Juju were the coolest horses to compete,” Vargas said. “I put my horse on the Juju map early. I traveled well the whole time and kept her outside because Todd told me she didn’t like kicking around in the dirt. She has a beautiful face. She doesn’t want to get dirty like that.”
Juju Card, the 9-10 favorite, set early stakes of :24.67, :48.71 and 1:11.68 through three-quarters of a mile but could not shake Shahama.
“At the half-mile pole I picked him up with her. Paco Lopez (aboard (JuJu’s Map) tried to do the same thing, but he didn’t have as much horse as I did,” Vargas said. “I was three-eighths ahead and it was over.”
It was Vargas’ first graded stakes win since the Grade 3 Salvator Mile aboard Pirates Punch on September 20, 2020.
Shahama paid $5.40 to win.