Isn’t she lovely? Key of Life takes Purple Martin

Key of Life, under Isaac Castillo, wins the $150,000 Purple Martin Stakes Saturday at Oaklawn. - Photo courtesy of Coady Photography
Key of Life, under Isaac Castillo, wins the $150,000 Purple Martin Stakes Saturday at Oaklawn. - Photo courtesy of Coady Photography

It was just another day in paradise at the races for Brad Henry Cox, like so many lately and likely to come for the trainer.

Five days from his 43rd birthday, Cox won important races in two jurisdictions Saturday, both at tracks where he keeps a winter base.

The Cox-trained Key of Life, her name found in a Stevie Wonder album title nearly 50 years old, notched her second stakes victory in smart fashion in the $150,000 Purple Martin at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort. A fall stakes winner at Keeneland in her trainer's home state, Mo Town's daughter broke sharply and sped clear of rivals including a local stakes winner seeking her fourth victory and second stakes of the meeting and two fillies trained by Hall of Famers.

Socially Selective, a Saratoga debut winner by open lengths for Bill Mott, could not match strides with the winner when the opportunity arose in upper stretch. Isaac Castillo's mount responded and crossed the wire 3 1/4 lengths in front after a fast-rated six furlongs in 1:09.90, the track upgraded from good after monsoon-like conditions prompted cancellation of the last two races Friday.

"I just played the break," said Castillo, delivering a right-handed stroke in the stretch after giving Key of Life a breather. "This filly is so fast out of the gate. So, I was able to make the lead."

Socially Selective, with David Cabrera riding, got a weight break from the winner and two other rivals but needed a late kick to hold the place by 1 1/2 lengths. Klassy Bridgette, the 8-5 favorite, bidding to become the meet's first four-time winner, took the show spot by a length and a quarter with Francisco Arrieta up for trainer Chris Hartman.

Topsy, in the same colors and with similar horses to Steve Asmussen-trained champion and Oaklawn stakes winner Mitole, was fourth off two Fair Grounds victories.

The victory was worth $94,575 to Hot Springs horseman Staton Flurry, who paid $250,000 for the winner at Ocala Breeders' Sales in Florida and races her in partnership with Gregory Hoffman. Paying $7, $3.40 and $2.80 as 5-2 third choice, Key of Life is 4-0-3 lifetime for $391,475.

Flurry and mom Dorothy own rental properties in the city and a parking lot across from Oaklawn. He was more than eager to throw out the filly's third-place finish in Klassy Bridgette's $150,000 Dixie Belle victory Feb. 11.

"She got pinned on the rail; the track last out was muddy. Everything was coming from off the pace that day," Flurry said. "It was the perfect storm of bad luck.

"She's just a nice filly. I'm excited to see what the rest of the year holds. Hopefully, we can get a graded race or two with her and keep on rolling with the flow."

So, too, wishes Cox, whose Grade 3 Razorback Handicap runner-up West Will Power won the Grade 2 New Orleans Classic on the Louisiana Derby undercard Saturday at Fair Grounds. Jace's Road ran third and Instant Coffee was unplaced in the Grade 2 $1 million feature, won by the Todd Pletcher-trained Kingsbarns under Flavien Prat. Not to worry, Cox's bench for the May 6 classic is several players deep, to use a basketball expression.

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