By Tom LaMarra

J. Kirk and Judy Robison’s Vertical Oak ran her record to two-for-two at Pimlico Race Course May 18 with an impressive victory in the $100,000 Skipat Stakes, the first of 25 races in the 2018 MATCH Series.

Trained by Steve Asmussen, Vertical Oak last year won the grade III Miss Preakness Stakes, a six-furlong event for 3-year-old fillies at Pimlico, by 3 3/4 lengths. In the Skipat, for fillies and mares at six furlongs, her winning margin was 1 1/2 lengths on a track rated sloppy.

Vertical Oak wins the Skipat Stakes May 18 at Pimlico Race Course/Jim McCue photo

“She’s a nice filly,” Asmussen said of the 4-year-old Kentucky-bred filly Giant Oak. “The draw was great for her and so was the result. She won the Miss Preakness here last year and this was the target. We hope she has a very good year. And now she’ll likely head to New York.”

The field for the Skipat was reduced from eight to five because of scratches on a very wet afternoon at Pimlico. Vertical Oak broke from the outside post and sat just off Ms Locust Point through a half-mile, moved to challenge for and take the lead in the stretch, and hold off a rallying Startwithsilver. Ms Locust Point, who shared favoritism with Vertical Oak, held for third.

Vertical Oak, now a six-time winner in 15 starts, paid $4.60 to win and covered the distance in a solid 1:10.35.

“I had a pretty good trip,” winning rider Ricardo Santana Jr. said. “She did everything right and responded when I asked her. I had won on her before (at Saratoga Race Course and Churchill Downs), but this is my first stakes win with her. She’s a nice filly.”

Vertical Oak earned 10 MATCH Series points in the Filly & Mare Sprint–Dirt Division for her victory. Startwithsilver collected 7 points, followed by Ms Locust Point (5), Toby Girl (3) and Luckyallmylife (2). The next race in the division is the $75,000 Regret Stakes at Monmouth Park June 17.

Race replay of the Skipat Stakes via