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Liz O'Connell Headshot

St. John's River Is Eying the Alabama

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Her groom calls her Princess. Her farm family calls her River (Queen). Some call her Di. Most of us call her St. John's River. After a determined victory in the G2 Delaware Oaks on July 9, 3-year old St. John's River has brought her game to the Saratoga Race Course where she will prep for the G1 Alabama Stakes run on August 20, 2011, over 1¼ miles on the dirt.

Breeder, owner and leading cheerleader Dede McGehee reports that River has settled in along with her groom, Deb. "As a 3-year old, she is maturing and getting wiser," advises McGehee who will be up from Kentucky to see her filly over the weekend. Trainer Andrew Leggio, Jr. arrives earlier.

McGehee's Heaven Trees Farm in Lexington, KY, has been a reliable producer of quality horses for the commercial market; including G1 winners Panty Raid (a full sister to St. John's River) and Imperial Gesture, and G3 winner Monashee. The farm also raised the young Rachel Alexandra, and still takes care of her dam Lotta Kim, who foaled a Medaglia D'Oro full sister to Rachel Alexandra this year.

By the time River was foaled in 2008, McGehee knew she was a keeper and planned to race her as her own. Alluding to River's strong personality, McGehee makes the point that the goal is to keep the filly happy. She willingly admits to being keyed up and emotional when River runs, and credits "Andy" Leggio for his calming influence.

McGehee's plan has worked out well. St. John's River's been on the board for all six of her races. In May, she overcame an awkward start to come within a neck of catching Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty. In her most recent race, the Delaware Oaks, St. John's River made an impressive run and nipped leader Strike the Moon to win by a head. The filly has earned $500,070 in six outings.

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