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Sunday, August 12, 2012 - Page updated at 08:00 p.m.

Champagneandcaviar edges Exclusive Diva at Washington Oaks

By John B. Saul
Special to the Seattle Times

AUBURN — Champagneandcaviar led the $65,000 Washington Oaks for only two strides Saturday, but they were the last steps in the race and they put her in front of Exclusive Diva by a head.

It was the second stakes race in a row in which Champagneandcaviar denied Exclusive Diva the win, giving each of the 3-year-old fillies two wins in their division.

"The longer she goes, the better she gets," said Raymond Kwik, Champagneandcaviar's co-owner.

The Oaks was a half-furlong longer than the last race when these two horses met, and Champagneandcaviar covered 1-1/8 miles in 1 minute, 48.75 seconds.

The product of Van Nistelrooy out of Dance with Carson paid $14.80 for the win, a big drop from the $58.50 she returned in the Kent Handicap on July 15, but a sign many bettors still considered the last win a fluke. Exclusive Diva, the favorite ridden by Juan Gutierrez, paid $2.60 and $2.60. Our Eleanor, from Hastings Racecourse in Vancouver, B.C., ran third and paid $3.

Trainer Howard Belvoir said he was convinced he had a winner after the June 24 Irish Days Handicap when Champagneandcaviar came in third.

"She made three runs at the lead, and horses don't do that," he said. "I knew then that she was something."

Jockey Javier Matias said he felt confident that he could stay just behind the pace and that his horse would "give me everything she's got" at the end.

Kwik also seemed convinced, and after the race he raised the possibility with Belvoir of running the filly at Santa Anita in September in a win-and-you're-in race for the Breeder's Cup in November.

"That's a high step to take from this area, but she's been steadily improving," he said.

The B.C. Oaks at Hastings in September is also a possibility, and Kwik and Belvoir would likely have to choose between the two races.

"Like all trainers, I'll say, 'Let's see how the horse came out of this race first,' " Belvoir said.

Notes

• Matias and Belvoir both picked up their first win in the 33-year-old Washington Oaks.

• Champagneandcaviar has three wins, two seconds and two thirds in 11 starts and has $87,865 in career earnings.

• The second stakes of the weekend, the $65,000 Emerald Downs Derby, is the ninth race Sunday. The race is expected to be a three-way scramble for top sophomore honors between Makors Finale, D'honorable One and Italian Boy.

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