HOT SPRINGS -- The winner responded well to bad weather and a rain-soaked racetrack.
Kueber Racing's Coach dug in with a quarter-mile left, passed the 8-5 favorite Miss Bigly, and pulled away to win the $150,000 1-mile Pippin Stakes for fillies and mares 4 years old and up in 1:37.58 over a sloppy track before an estimated crowd of 7,500 at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort on Saturday.
Coach, 10 5-1-2, was ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr. and trained by Brad Cox.
Cox said he believed it was the best race of Coach's career.
"[It was] from a visual standpoint," he said. "We'll see where the numbers come back and probably turn her toward the Bayakoa."
Oaklawn's Grade III $250,000 1 1/16th-mile Bayakoa Stakes is scheduled for Feb. 5.
Coach, the 9-5 second-choice in the field of seven, finished 3 lengths in front of second-place Miss Bigly, ridden by Martin Garcia and trained by Phil D'Amato. W W Fitzy finished third at 9-1, 4 3/4 lengths behind Coach and 1 1/4 lengths ahead of fourth-place Breeze Rider.
Santana also rode Coach's previous start, an optional-claiming win at 1 1/16th-miles over a muddy track at Oaklawn on Dec. 17.
As a light, cold rain fell, Coach, a 4-year-old daughter of Commissioner, led the field through the opening quarter-mile in 23.44 and the half in 47.60.
"Based on paper, I thought there would be a little more speed [and] maybe we could track a few," Cox said. "That's why [jockeys] get paid what they do. Once the gate opens, it's in their hands. Obviously, it worked out."
Itsallinthenotes, ridden by Kelsi Carr at 27-1, was 1 length back in second through the quarter, a half length in front of Miss Bigly. She was within 1 1/2 lengths of the lead through the half but faded to sixth, 13 1/2 lengths behind the winner.
"She was really into the race, and I thought we had her a good position, but the horses in this race were very good," Harr said.
As they began the final turn, Miss Bigly, a 6-year-old daughter of Gemologist, put a head in front of Coach and appeared full of momentum, but the eventual winner remained close and led by a head as they turned into the stretch.
"I had a really good position and was right behind the speed and that's where she likes it," Garcia said. "She ran her race."
Meanwhile, Flying P Stable's W W Fitzy, ridden by David Cohen and trained by Robertino Diodoro, came from sixth through the first half mile to contention with a rush down the stretch.
Coach took command over the final 110 yards and left Miss Bigly to hold off the late run of W W Fitzy.
"I had a good trip," Santana said. "I was really happy when the filly jumped really quick. She was much the best today."
D'Amato said he was satisfied with efforts from his mare and rider. He also sounded impressed by Coach.
"I thought Martin did a good job of putting her in the right position and made the right move," D'Amato said. "I just think we got outrun today. It's going to happen, but I thought the other filly was best. We had a good trip and no excuses."
Coach cost her owner Rick Kueber $65,000 and responded to win her first three starts as a two-year-old, including the 1 1/16th-mile Rags to Riches Overnight Stakes at Churchill Downs on Oct. 25, 2020.
She had respective finishes in Oaklawn's 1-mile Martha Washington Stakes and 1 1/16th-mile Grade III Honeybee and Fantasy Stakes of second, fifth, and third last season to qualify for the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill.
After a ninth-place Oaks finish, Coach was given more than seven months off before she returned for consecutive wins on off-tracks at Oaklawn.
"The last time when she won, the track was almost like this," Santana said. "She looked like she liked it a lot."
Cox said Coach displayed versatility.
"This obviously worked out," Cox said. "It's good when you can have a horse that can sit off a lead or if you have enough horse to get the early lead and get it a good position. It really gives you another dimension."