BALTIMORE -- Vertical Oak, benefiting from a track that carried speed all afternoon, pressed a contested pace but then pulled clear through the lane to score a 3 3/4-length victory in the Grade 3, $150,000 Miss Preakness Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on Friday at Pimlico.
Vertical Oak ($15.60) was part of a three-way battle for the lead in the 13-horse field, but then put away pace rivals Our Majesty, the favorite, and My Miss Cliff and drew away. Her early rivals took the second and third spots, in that order, underscoring how important it was to be forwardly placed.
"She needs things to go her way to show her best," said her trainer, Steve Asmussen, who said Vertical Oak's quick start put her in position to be effective.
This was her second straight win, following the Purple Mountain at Oaklawn, in which she encountered early trouble and was defeated.
To prep for the Miss Preakness, Asmussen ran Vertical Oak at Prairie Meadows, where she cruised home on a sloppy track in the Goldfinch Stakes.
"The key was finding that race at Prairie Meadows, so she could remember what she's good at," Asmussen said.
Jose Ortiz rode Vertical Oak, teaming with Asmussen for their second stakes win on the card, following Terra Promessa in the DuPont for older females.
Vertical Oak completed six furlongs on the fast main track in 1:10.06, following fractions of 22.61 seconds for the opening quarter and 45.54 seconds for a half.
Vertical Oak, by Giant Oak, has now won four times in eight starts. This was her graded stakes debut. She has now earned more than $200,000 for owners Kirk and Judy Robison.
Pretty City Dancer was a late scratch when a shoe could not be repaired in the paddock.