Tonalist’s Shape Rebounds to Earn Fourth Stakes Victory

Despite a seventh-place finish by Tonalist’s Shape in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks in March, trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. never lost faith in his 3-year-old filly’s ability to handle two turns.
Friday, Tonalist’s Shape showed why with an authoritative 3 3/4-length victory in the $75,000 Hollywood Wildcat Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

The victory was the sixth in seven starts, fourth in a blacktype even, for Tonalist’s Shape, a daughter of Tonalist owned by Slam Dunk Racing, Legacy Ranch, and Doug Branham. Mike Recio’s Rockbridge Bloodstock brokered the deal for Branham’s share.

Racing a joint third outside Pleasant Orb for the opening five furlongs, Tonalist’s Shape, under Irad Ortiz Jr., made a decisive three-wide move approaching the five-sixteenths pole to go by pacesetting Cheermeister and Dream Marie. With some encouragement from Ortiz in upper stretch, Tonalist’s Shape ran away from Pleasant Orb, who yielded late and lost second by a half-length to a resurgent Dream Marie.

Pleasant Orb, who was steadied by Joe Bravo entering the far turn, finished third by 6 1/4 lengths over Up in Smoke, who suffered her first career defeat. Vigilante’s Way and Cheermeister completed the order of finish. Money Never Sleeps and Wanderlust scratched.

Tonalist’s Shape won her first five starts, including Grade 3 Forward Gal and Grade 2 Davona Dale. She finished seventh in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks, 11 3/4 lengths behind Swiss Skydiver, who validated her front-running score that day by winning the Grade 3 Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn on May 1. Joseph felt Tonalist’s Shape was compromised by a slow pace and wide trip in the Gulfstream Park Oaks and felt her victories in one-mile races were her best and that an additional furlong or turn would not be problematic.

Friday, Tonalist’s Shape covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.57 over a wet track labeled good and returned $3 as the favorite.

“That race, if she doesn’t win, you’re totally off line on why you ran her,” Joseph said afterward. “I think she answered everything today as far as showing she could handle two turns. The track dried out where it was almost fast but it answered another variable, her handling a track with some moisture in it.”

The Kentucky Oaks on Sept. 4 at Churchill Downs is the goal for Tonalist’s Shape. Joseph said he would be fine with running her just once more between now and then and mentioned the Grade 1 Ashland as a possibility, should Keeneland run a meet in July as is being discussed.

-edited from

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