The American Oaks (formerly the American Oaks Invitational Stakes) is a Thoroughbred horse race run annually at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California, USA. It was originally run at Hollywood Park Racetrack in Inglewood, California), which closed in 2014. Previously held in early summer, in 2016 the race was rescheduled to December. Open to three-year-old fillies, it is contested at a distance of one and a quarter miles on turf.
|Grade 1 race|
|Location||Santa Anita Park|
Arcadia, California, USA
(relocated from the now closed Hollywood Park Racetrack
|Race type||Thoroughbred - Flat racing|
|Website||Santa Anita Park|
|Distance||1 1⁄4 miles (2,000 meters)|
|Qualification||Invitational, Fillies age Three|
|Weight||Northern Hemisphere Fillies 121 lbs / Southern Hemisphere Fillies 125 lbs|
Since its inception in 2002, it has striven to become a world class race by bringing in some of the best fillies from all over the world, currently offering a purse of US$300,000.
The American Oaks was first run as a Grade I event in 2004. It was not eligible for grading during the first two runnings.
The race was originally run at 1 1⁄4 miles but in 2016 was cut back to 1 1⁄8 miles to prevent runners from having to race down the Santa Anita hillside turf course and cross the dirt main track. It returned to 1 1⁄4 miles in 2017.
Most wins by a jockey:
Most wins by a trainer:
The inaugural running of the American Oaks ended with a disqualification, as Dublino was disqualified from first place to second after several incidents happened with Megahertz (GB) on the track.
After an inquiry, it was shown that Dublino had bumped Megahertz in the stretch drive, and then the whip of jockey Kent Desormeaux hit Megahertz twice in the face, making Megahertz end the race a half-length behind.
Following a win in the Matriarch Stakes with Dress To Thrill (IRE), Dermot Weld pushed for another win at Hollywood Park, as Dimitrova under David R. Flores drove to a win at the second running of the American Oaks, defeating Sand Springs.
With the race under new G1 status, the field of horses had a diversified mix, the most notable horse being Dance in the Mood (JPN), a descendant of famed racehorse Sunday Silence. However, the favorite came up short.
By trapping Dance in the Mood at the rail and staying outside, Ticker Tape (GB) then drove past Dance in the Mood, and securing the win.
Some people who have seen the race feel that Dance in the Mood's loss may have in part been her jockey's error in judgement. Her jockey, Yutaka Take did not seem aware of the location of the Hollywood Park turf course finish line, and made a move that was just a little bit too close to the finish line to result in victory.
Horse racing history was made on July 3, 2005, when Japanese-bred Cesario, a granddaughter of Sunday Silence, trounced the favored and previously undefeated Melhor Ainda, racing away with a sizable four-length margin of victory. Cesario became the first Japanese-bred and Japan-based racehorse in nearly a half-century to win a US stakes race (Hakuchikara won the Washington's Birthday Handicap at Santa Anita in 1959 upsetting US champion Round Table), and avenged the second-place finish of Japan's Dance in the Mood, the favorite in the 2004 edition of the race who lost to British-bred Ticker Tape by a length. Cesario's 2005 American Oaks win was big news in Japan, as Japanese media swarmed Cesario and her rider (famed Japanese jockey Yuichi Fukunaga) in the winner's circle as the Japanese flag waved over an American holiday weekend. Before the race, Japan TV broadcast a one-hour-long TV show live from Hollywood Park about Cesario and her run at the American Oaks. The race was then broadcast live in Japan, where it was already Monday. Prior to the American Oaks, Cesario had won the Japanese Oaks, also known as the Yushun Himba ().
Sent off as the third choice in a field of eight, Arindel Farms's Wait A While drew off to an impressive 4 1⁄2-length victory over 8-5 favorite Asahi Rising (JPN) and Arravale (CAN) in the invitational's fifth running. Trained by Eclipse Award winner Todd Pletcher, Wait A While was making just her second career start on the turf. Jockey Garrett Gomez stalked the early pace set by Attima (GB) and made a sweeping three-wide move around the second turn, clearing the field under mild left-handed urging. The connections had to wait several minutes for the race to be declared official after Alex Bisono, rider of Foxysox, alleged interference against Wait a While. Bisono claimed that Wait a While forced him to take up near the quarter-pole as the winner was making her sweeping move to the front of the pack. However, stewards disallowed it, saying Attima caused the traffic problem.
The dead-heat between Nereid and Cambina was the first in a Grade I at Hollywood Park since the Richard Mandella-trained pair of Beautiful Melody and Reluctant Guest finished on even terms in the Beverly Hills Handicap on June 30, 1990. It was also the first Grade I victory for both fillies.