(First Defence x Rising Tornado, by Storm Cat)
- Trainer: Bill Mott (Cigar, To Honor and Serve, Drosselmeyer)
- Jockey: Joel Rosario
- Owned by: Juddmonte Farms
- Record: 3:3-0-0
- Earnings: $201,300
- Best speed figures: 88 Beyer, 103 Equibase
Background: One of the more recent hype fillies for the Oaks came out of seemingly nowhere after racing lightly (and successfully) leading up to her dynamite G2 win in the Gazelle (II). Improving with each start, is Close Hatches the newest major success story for the Juddmonte empire, who won the Oaks in 2001 with Flute?
Prep Schedule: 3-for-3 in her career, Close Hatches won for fun in her debut race at 7 furlongs at Aqueduct, winning by 7 lengths while closing into a rapid pace. 2 months later, she sealed the deal in an allowance race while stretching out to 1 1/16 miles, urged by Rosario to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Kimberly Jean (an outrun 4th later on in the Gulfstream Oaks won by Dreaming of Julia in smashing fashion). In her most recent start, she stretched out successfully to the Oaks distance of 9 furlongs to win the Gazelle (II) in a wire-to-wire effort over the previously undefeated Princess of Sylmar.
Pedigree: New sire First Defence is a Juddmonte resident stallion finding some success with his first foal crop (grass runner Dundonnell included) after a G1-winning career as a sprinter. He is the product of your basic American strategy for success being by hot speed sire Unbridled’s Song and out of Honest Lady, a daughter of Seattle Slew who is also a half to Belmont/Wood Memorial winner Empire Maker. Close Hatches’ dam is Rising Tornado, a Storm Cat daughter linebred to the familiar Secretariat-Sir Gaylord dynasty. Close Hatches features 2 traces each to Northern Dancer and Mr. Prospector in the first 5 generations.
Estimated TrueNicks Rating: A++ Variant 17.74
Running Style: Adaptable
Pros: A horse I really liked naturally because of my past success with Mott-Juddmonte ties, Close Hatches looks to be keen with her third start off a two-month layoff and is already strong at the Oaks distance. She can win closing as well as setting the pace, so she can likely adapt to whatever Beholder, Dreaming of Julia, and others throw at her.
Cons: Other fillies in the field have had better winning speed figures than her, so she will really have to be better than ever to win. She will also be tested in a very talented Oaks field, as she ran to the nines last out largely unopposed on the front end.
Final Word: Bill Mott? YES! Juddmonte silks? YES MORE! A talented filly named in the spirit of her mother’s name (When a tornado comes, you CLOSE/BATTEN DOWN THE HATCHES!)? AWW YEAH! It’s no wonder why I was drawn to Close Hatches, especially after experiencing a bit of bettors’ glee when I got a couple real nice prices last year on Mott-Juddmonte couplings. Close Hatches, although a pick among the wiseguys, should get a little better of a price than three or four others right when she should be ready to peak.