The 1 ¼-mile American Oaks holds the distinction of being not only the final race on Santa Anita Park’s Opening Day, but the last Grade 1 race on the North American racing calendar for 2021.

Going Global-American Oaks
Going Global and Flavien Prat, seen here winning the Goldikova Stakes, bring a 6-for-7 US streak into the final Grade 1 race of 2021: Sunday’s American Oaks at Santa Anita. The filly is the 9/5 morning-line favorite. (Image: Benoit Photo)

And the favorite for that final North American Grade 1 for 2021 is – Irish-bred Going Global?

When you parse the records, Going Global is a natural favorite, even as the American Oaks moves off the Santa Anita turf. Santa Anita moved all six of its turf races off the grass after Mother Nature dumped nearly five inches of rain over the last three days.

As of now, the only scratch from the American Oaks, the finale on the 11-race Opening Day card, is Eddie’s New Dream. That leaves 10 sophomore fillies competing for the $300,000 purse.

Going Global roams to 6-for-7 record in US

Nine of which have Going Global to contend with. The Phil D’Amato-trained 9/5 favorite comes in riding a two-race winning streak. She took the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks Aug. 21 and the Grade 2 Goldikova Stakes Nov. 6. Those scores followed a second in the Grade 2 San Clemente July 24.

Since coming to D’Amato’s barn last winter, that San Clemente runner-up marks Going Global’s only winner’s circle miss. She is 6-for-7 in the US, adding wins in three Grade 3s: the Sweet Life, Providencia and Honeymoon. Those sandwiched around the Listed China Doll stakes – all at Santa Anita.

Going Global had no trouble over 1 1/8 miles, winning three of those stakes at that distance. While she’s primarily a turf runner, Going Global’s last four workouts were on dirt. She’s run strong in each of them, most notably a 59.6-second five-furlong work that was third of 25 at that distance Dec. 12.

Can Fluffy Socks wrap Brown in another American Oaks?

So who can keep pace with D’Amato’s formidable filly? The list starts with Chad Brown’s Eastern invader Fluffy Socks (3/1). The cute-named filly comes in off a victory in the Grade 2 Sands Point Stakes at Belmont Park Oct. 16. Like Going Global, this is Fluffy Socks’ first 10-furlong excursion in her 10-race career – all of which came on turf.

Fluffy Socks is 4-3-1 in those 10 starts. Prominent among those is that third, which came in the Del Mar Oaks to Going Global and 6/1 Closing Remarks, who is also entered in the American Oaks. That 1 ¾-length loss brought Fluffy Socks her only triple-digit Equibase Speed Figure: a 100

Brown, who won two of the last three American Oaks, shipped her to Santa Anita earlier this month. Fluffy Socks arrived in time to clock two four-furlong workouts. The last of those, a 47.6-second outing Dec. 19, was fifth of 69 at that distance that day.

Closing Remarks has seen plenty of Going Global

Speaking of Closing Remarks, she returns to California after finishing a dismal sixth in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland. She’s familiar with Going Global, having finished second behind her in both the China Doll and Providencia. Both came by less than a length and represent half of Closing Remarks’ four runner-up finishes in seven 2021 starts.

The Carla Gaines-trained, Cal-bred hasn’t won a race since her first 2021 start: the Cal Cup Oaks at Santa Anita Jan. 16.

One other horse bears mention: Irish-bred Nicest (8/1). Since joining Michael McCarthy’s barn, Nicest finished third in the Grade 3 Red Carpet Handicap at Del Mar and fourth in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup. That Red Carpet loss came by less than a length over 1 3/8 miles, lending credence to the fact Nicest won’t have an issue with 1 ¾ miles.

Grade 1 American Oaks/Santa Anita Park

Morning Line (Jockey/Trainer)

  1. Fluffy Socks, 3/1 (Mike Smith/Chad Brown)
  2. Core Values, 30/1 (Abel Cedillo/Vicki Oliver)
  3. Closing Remarks, 6/1 (Joe Bravo/Carla Gaines)
  4. Nicest, 8/1 (John Velazquez/Michael McCarthy)
  5. Going Global, 9/5 (Flavien Prat/Phil D’Amato)
  6. Charges Dropped, 20/1 (Kent Desormeaux/Michael McCarthy)
  7. Burgoo Alley, 6/1 (Umberto Rispoli/Phil D’Amato)
  8. Ivy League, 20/1 (Kyle Frey/Richard Mandella)
  9. Queen Goddess, 8/1 (Juan Hernandez/Michael McCarthy)
  10. Single Soul, 12/1 (Jose Ortiz/Michael McCarthy)

Nicest is the strongest of McCarthy’s four candidates in the race, set for an approximate 4:20 p.m. PT start.