Chocolate Martini Prepares for Oaks

Co-owner Amanda DaBruzzo with Chocolate Martini.

A longshot filly is making waves and overcoming odds

Story by Graham Pilotte

Photos by Hayley Amos

The drama and glamour of horse racing doesn’t just occur on Derby Day. What goes on behind the scenes – how horses are chosen for these races and what makes a winner – is part of that magic. Between an unusual name and an unexpected rise to the Kentucky Oaks, three-year-old filly Chocolate Martini and her team have a story that’s worth following.

At the time her team spotted her, she was young and inexperienced but showed great potential. “She just progressed so quickly,” says Amanda DaBruzzo, co-owner of Chocolate Martini and partner at Double Door Racing. “It’s been surreal. We claimed her in February and won a race with her 12 days later – we knew we had really found a special filly. It’s a pinch-worthy, Cinderella ride for sure.”

Tom Amoss, trainer for Chocolate Martini and Double Door Racing, remembers seeing the Thoroughbred for the first time. “A lot of races are claiming races, which means that horses can be bought out of those races,” he explains. “As a trainer, you’re always looking for a horse. But with Chocolate Martini, we liked a lot of things about her.”

“She’s 17 hands, which is really tall and imposing for a filly,” DaBruzzo explains. “She’s got this amazing stride and covers a lot of ground. She’s so fun to watch in that aspect. She’s so graceful and beautiful, but she comes down the lane and attacks. She’s a special filly to watch run.”

At the time they saw her, though, the filly didn’t have glamorous victories to her name. In fact, she was purchased for just $25,000. “Looking back,” Amoss says, “we were very lucky to catch her at a time that she was really maturing as a racehorse. Oftentimes, at the beginning of a horse’s career, there’s a lot of development. I thought she had more to come.” DaBruzzo agrees with him. “Horses are so young at the time that you’re really guessing what they’ll grow into,” she says. “But she was improving and working good numbers.”

Trainer Tom Amoss with Chocolate Martini.

“We brought her back in an ambitious spot,” Amoss says. “I went into the racing office and said, ‘Please don’t laugh at me, but I want to nominate this horse to the Fair Grounds Oaks.’ It’s Louisiana’s most prestigious race for young fillies. And she won it.”

Despite drawing the widest post position and competing against stakes-quality horses for the first time, Chocolate Martini proved herself and came out on top. “She’s been a long shot in both of her races, but she’s won great,” Amoss proudly says of Chocolate Martini’s past wins. To demonstrate how much of  a long shot she’s been, he explains further: “If you’d taken $2 and bet on her in that first race and then reinvested your winnings in the Fair Grounds Oaks, you’d have more than $840 now.” Now, she’s at the top of the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard. “We’re very proud of her,” Amoss says, “and we’re looking forward to the Kentucky Oaks.”

The world will be watching Chocolate Martini, Amoss acknowledged: “The enthusiasm that surrounds the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby is not only generated at the track, but all over the city. It’s everywhere you go. Whether you’re at the track or having a drink with friends, it’s about one thing and one thing only – horse racing. And we’re talking about a worldwide crowd.”

“It’s special for me because I think that’s the one weekend a year where everybody is paying attention to American racing,” DaBruzzo says. “It’s a small community, and there aren’t a lot of women. But everybody talks about Derby, and people stop to watch the races. We have the eyes of the nation on horse racing, which is really special. It truly is the greatest two minutes in sports.” VT