OCEANPORT – For those in trainer Todd Pletcher’s camp, the feeling entering Sunday’s Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks at Monmouth Park was that it was a two-horse race between Shahama and the Brad Cox-trained Juju’s Map.
Turns out it was a one-horse race.
Shahama stuck to the flanks of Juju’s Map for the first six furlongs of the mile-and-a-sixteenth feature for 3-year-old fillies and then powered away in the stretch for a two-and-a-half-length victory in the 98th edition of the $250,000 Monmouth Oaks, according to a press release.
After trying to hold the lead against Shahama, Juju’s Map – the only Grade 1 winner in the field – finished a tiring third, three-quarters of a length behind the late running Shotgun Hottie.
The winning time was 1:41.54.
“We thought Brad Cox’s horse would be on the lead and we would be sitting second and that’s just how it played out,” said Anthony Sciametta, who handles Pletcher’s division at Monmouth Park.
“She’s been training in New York and shipped down for this Saturday afternoon and did well and was well behaved. I know everyone who is around her likes her. She has a lot of class, as you can tell.
“I thought it was a two-horse race. You don’t like to say that, but we thought it was between Juju’s Map and us. Shahama was really good today.”
Ridden by Jorge A. Vargas Jr., Shahama was let go as the 17-10 second choice in the field of five for her third start in the United States.
After making her first four career starts at Meydan Racetrack in Dubai, she was sixth in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks and second in the Grade 2 Mother Goose in her last start.
The daughter of Munnings-Private Feeling by Belong to Me, owned by KHK Racing, now has five wins and a second from seven career starts.
“It was kind of a two-horse race. No disrespect to the others, but Shahama and Juju’s Map were the classiest horses going in,” said Vargas. “I put my horse right on Juju’s Map early. I was traveling good the whole time and I kept her just outside because Todd told me she doesn’t like kickback from the dirt. She has a pretty face. She doesn’t want to get that dirty.”
Juju’s Map, the 9-10 favorite, set early fractions 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 it up with her. Paco Lopez (aboard (JuJu’s Map) tried to do the same, but didn’t have as much horse as I did,” said Vargas. “By the three-eighths pole I was in front and it was over.”
For Vargas, it marked his first graded stakes win since the Grade 3 Salvator Mile aboard Pirates Punch on Sept. 20, 2020.
Shahama paid $5.40 to win.