GI CCA Oaks winner Maracuja (Honor Code), who arrived at Oaklawn Park New Year's Day, is expected to target the Apr. 23 GI Apple Blossom S., according to trainer Rob Atras. Based primarily in New York, Atras will be represented by a small string of runners at Oaklawn for the first time this winter.
“It's kind of the first time I've kind of really, officially, opened up a second string,” Atras said. “Obviously, in the summer we have to split our string up in Saratoga and Belmont, but this is the first time I've had a string out of state.”
Maracuja made seven starts in 2021, including a second in the GIII Gazelle S. in April at Aqueduct before besting Eclipse favorite Malathaat (Curlin) in the CCA Oaks. She also ran seventh in the GI Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs and later concluded her sophomore campaign with a fourth-place finish in the Sept. 25 GI Cotillion S. at Parx.
“It could be the [GII] Azeri [S. Mar. 12] or it could be something else,” said Atras of the 4-year-old's next start. “I'm not exactly sure yet. We're just going to kind of see how things go. She got a real light breeze before she left, so we're kind of just starting up with her. She had a few months off at the farm in Kentucky. She had been galloping here in New York for a month, with a light breeze, and so we're just kind of starting to get her back going again. So, we don't have an exact time frame with her yet.”
Atras, who currently has 45 horses training in New York with an additional five at Oaklawn, indicated he may send a couple of more to the Hot Springs oval and could be “a little bit active” at the claim box. Jesse Sauder, an exercise rider who recently received his assistant trainer's license, will oversee Atras's Arkansas division.
“Last year, I got a few horses out of Arkansas that came up here and we did well with them,” Atras said. “I had a few ideas. One was to, potentially, claim some horses to bring back to New York and another idea was to send a filly that won the Oaks, CCA Oaks, Maracuja, down and have her train down there and then, hopefully, run a couple of times. As things came together, I had a couple of horses that I didn't really have spots for up here, or I had trouble getting them in the right spot, so it kind of worked out well to send them down there.”