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Kentucky Oaks Monday update

Courtesy Churchill Downs
SHAPING UP: THE KENTUCKY OAKS–Likely starters in the 143rd running of the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) to be run for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on Friday, May 5:
Abel Tasman (Mike Smith)
Daddys Lil Darling (Julien Leparoux)
Ever So Clever (Luis Contreras)
Farrell (Channing Hill)
Jordan’s Henny (Joe Rocco Jr.)
Lockdown (Jose Ortiz)
Miss Sky Warrior (Paco Lopez)
Mopotism (Mario Gutierrez)
Paradise Woods (Flavien Prat)
Sailor’s Valentine (Corey Lanerie)
Salty (Joel Rosario)
Tequilita (Luis Saez)
Vexatious (Kent Desormeaux)
Wicked Lick (Brian Hernandez Jr.)
Next up in order of preference: Torrent (TBA), Summer Luck (TBA).

ABEL TASMAN–China Horse Club and Clearsky Farms’ Abel Tasman, winner of the Starlet (Grade I) at 2 and runner-up in last month’s Santa Anita Oaks (GI), jogged back to the finish line before galloping 1 1/4 miles Monday morning under regular exercise rider Dana Barnes.
“She felt really good,” Barnes said. “She was looking around, busy checking out all the people and the new place. It seems like every day she gets a little better, a little happier. She’s a really nice filly and I just love her.”
Last time out the daughter of Quality Road closed from last to finish a clear second in the Santa Anita Oaks but still crossed the finish line nearly 12 lengths behind the surprisingly dominant winner, Paradise Woods.
“She’s going to lay a little closer this time,” Barnes said of Abel Tasman. “She’s a little fresher and this long stretch suits her much better than Santa Anita.”
DADDYS LIL DARLING–Ashland (GI) runner-up Daddys Lil Darling jogged at Keenleand Monday morning for trainer Kenny McPeek.
The filly is scheduled to arrive at McPeek’s Churchill Downs Barn 7 early Monday afternoon.
EVER SO CLEVER–Clearview Stable LLC’s Ever So Clever had an easy day Monday walking the shedrow, one day after working a half mile in :49.80.
Trainer Steve Asmussen reported that the filly came out of her work well and would return to the track Tuesday.
FARRELL–Coffeepot Stables’ homebred multiple GII-winning 3-year-old filly Farrell left Barn 30 at 8:35 a.m. and galloped two miles with three-time Breeders’ Cup-winning trainer Wayne Catalano observing. The daughter of Malibu Moon first jogged with the pony, ridden by Sara Tittle, before breaking off under exercise rider Antonio Ramos.
In the Kentucky Oaks (GI), Farrell will put her four-stakes—all two-turn events — winning streak on the line. She has been ridden in all seven of her starts by Catalano’s son-in-law, jockey Channing Hill. Usually staying in the clear and to the outside in her races, she will be up against an expected large field Friday, where such a tactic may or may not be an option. As a result, post position may become a key component to her success or failure.
Since breaking her maiden in her second start, the half-sister to GI winners J.B.’s Thunder and Carpe Diem has raced between horses only twice, including in November’s $80,000 Rags to Riches, in which she finished third, chasing and defeating subsequent GI winner and Kentucky Oaks competitor Sailor’s Valentine by two lengths into fourth. She lost by 1 1/2 lengths that day to the highly regarded filly Lovely Bernardette, who she would soundly defeat one race later in the Golden Rod (GII). Both stakes were at Churchill Downs.
Her only other effort in which she raced between horses for any extended period of time was in her least impressive of three stakes victories this year, a 2 3/4-length tally in Fair Grounds’ $150,000 Silverbulletday on Jan. 21.
“The Rags to Riches was kind of weird in how it unfolded,” Hill said. “I ended up chasing and probably going too fast with her and that’s what did it. That was probably more of a problem than the trip itself and I wound up feeling a little better when Sailor’s Valentine came back and won a GI this year. That was actually the first time I thought Farrell could be special because she had to run so fast that day and still didn’t give up and finished strong. In the Golden Rod, she started to figure it out and breezed terrifically before the race. She punched clear that day and kept running. If she runs her Golden Rod race on Friday, I think she could gallop.
“As far as the post, with a filly like her, I am not super concerned,” Hill continued. “I’d like an outside trip for simplicity’s sake. I don’t want to get creative or change anything, but I won’t shy away from an inside spot. I’d like to have the stalking trip I’ve been fortunate to have a couple times this year and getting one of the three inside posts obviously isn’t ideal because I might have to use her more than I’d like. If I could choose, I would say post seven or eight with the speed inside me would be great. In a perfect world, that’s the trip I want. Four out of the last five Oaks winners have had sit-and-pounce trips. I’d like the exact trip of Cathryn Sophia last year and I think she’s fast enough to do it.”
Hill’s only other mount in the Kentucky Oaks was the Catalano-trained Aurelia’s Belle, who finished ninth of 13 behind Untapable in 2014. This year, he also picked up his first Kentucky Derby (GI) mount in Fast and Accurate.
“Farrell likes to eye them up, overpower them, and stroll home,” Hill said. “She sometimes gets to looking around, but she never comes off the bridle and I’ve never really had to ask her. That’s why we galloped her out after the wire of the Fair Grounds Oaks.”
JORDAN’S HENNY–Erv Woolsey and Ralph Kinder’s Jordan’s Henny jogged a mile and galloped a mile after the morning renovation break with exercise rider Edgar Cano aboard for trainer Mike Tomlinson.
Tomlinson, who turned 63 Monday and received an early present Saturday night when both of his starters won, watched his Davona Dale (GII) runner-up perform her morning activity over a track labeled as “good” following overnight rain.
Jordan’s Henny finished fifth in the Pocahontas (GII) at Churchill Downs last fall in her only start on an “off” track. Rain is predicted in the Louisville area Thursday and a chance of showers exists for Friday afternoon that could set up “off” conditions.
“That was only her third start,” Tomlinson said of the Pocahontas. “I don’t think it will matter to her. She has matured physically after a little break she got after she broke her maiden at Gulfstream Park (on Dec. 18).
“She grew up physically and mentally and she always runs her race and tries.”
Joe Rocco, who rode both of Tomlinson’s winners Saturday night, has the Oaks mount on Jordan’s Henny.
LOCKDOWN–The Juddmonte Farms homebred Lockdown schooled in the paddock before galloping “about a mile and three-eighths,” according to Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.
“It was pretty straightforward,” Mott said, adding that she’s never had any paddock or gate issues in any of her races. “Same as yesterday.”
Lockdown is likely to have a blowout through the stretch Tuesday during the Oaks and Derby training session.
MISS SKY WARRIOR–Streaking multiple GII-winning filly Miss Sky Warrior left Barn 43 at 8:30 a.m. and galloped a strong 1 ½ miles Monday. With trainer Kelly Breen on the lead pony, the homebred Arlene’s Sun Star Stable-owned daughter of First Samurai was ridden by exercise rider Aurelio Gomez.
“Everything went well today,” Breen said. “She’s great. It was a nice gallop.”
Jockey Paco Lopez, who has been a vital part of Breen’s operation and success for a good portion of the past decade, will have the mount on the last-out Gazelle (GII) winner. The two have been together for all six of her starts, including five consecutive victories heading into Friday’s Kentucky Oaks (GI).
“I like for riders to get to know the horses if they’re going to want to ride them,” Breen said. “You can have top-notch riders who know how to win, but if they don’t know your horse, they sometimes won’t mesh well. Paco had made comments in the past about how instrumental a horse like (retired trainee) Pants On Fire was for him when it comes to winning big races and getting to the next level and then the other day he won a graded stakes at Keeneland on a Godolphin horse. He’s a top rider, a young rider, and has guts and confidence. He’s a good part of what we have and I’m always happy to have him on our horses.
“He’s been there in her training and they get along very well,” Breen continued. “Even more than other horses, he’s been there for her. Her regular exercise rider couldn’t be there to breeze her in Florida, so Paco did a lot of her breezes, which is something you don’t usually do with jockeys. Exercise riders often are heavier and have more control of the horses. I had to have a lot of faith in Paco to breeze her.”
Breen also touched on tactics for his speedy 3-year-old, who likely will have to fight for the lead with anticipated race favorite, Santa Anita Oaks (GI) winner Paradise Woods.
“It’s hard to do much handicapping until the PPs and post positions come out, but at the same time you have a speed rider on a speed horse,” he said. “Her general nature is to be up close, anyway, so that’s likely what will happen.”
MOPOTISM–The Uncle Mo filly Mopotism, earmarked for this Friday’s Kentucky Oaks (GI), was en route to the Bluegrass State after boarding a flight out of Ontario Airport outside Los Angeles early Monday morning. The bay filly will join a string of seven other Doug O’Neill-trained runners at Barn 41 on the Churchill Downs backside who are candidates for a series of stakes presented at the track during the upcoming week.
Mopotism will be one of the more seasoned runners in the nine-furlong Oaks with seven starts already under her belt. She’s a two-time winner, including a small stakes at Sunland Park, as well as being stakes-placed twice in graded offerings in Southern California.
Mario Gutierrez, who has ridden Mopotism in five of her seven starts, once again has the call for the $1 million Run for the Lillies.
Mopotism is owned by the Canadian-turned-Californian Paul Reddam. It was the trio of Reddam-O’Neill-Gutierrez who almost pulled off an Oaks triumph last year, though in the end they had to settle for second with Land Over Sea behind Cathryn Sophia.
PARADISE WOODS–Alex Bisono, assistant trainer to Hall of Famer Richard Mandella, was on the scene early Monday morning on the Churchill Downs backstretch making sure arrangements for the stable’s Oaks filly, Paradise Woods, as well as their stakes horse Bal A Bali (BRZ), were in good order at Barn 42.  The former jockey also doubles as an exercise rider for the Southern California-based Mandella outfit and will handle those duties during the week in Louisville.
“Had a good flight out (from Los Angeles) and just getting ready for the horses,” Bisono said.
The Mandella duo was among a dozen or so four-legged athletes who boarded a jet at Ontario Airport outside L.A. early Monday morning bound for Kentucky. They were expected to arrive by van from the Louisville International Airport to Churchill around 1:30 p.m.
Paradise Woods, heroine of the Santa Anita Oaks (GI) in romping fashion April 8, will be ridden by the Frenchman-now-riding-in-California Flavian Prat in Friday’s run for the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (GI).
SAILOR’S VALENTINE–Semaphore Racing LLC and Homewrecker Racing LLC’s Sailor’s Valentine left Barn 31 of trainer Eddie Kenneally at 8:30 a.m. Monday and galloped 1 1/2 miles around the Churchill Downs main track with her conditioner watching on horseback. Exercise rider Kelly Wheeler was aboard the gray filly.
The daughter of Mizzen Mast exits a victory in the Ashland (GI) on April 8 at Keeneland, a course over which she owns a pair of wins from six career starts. Previous to the Ashland, she wintered in Florida and made two starts, on Jan. 7 and March 12, to kick off her 3-year-old season. As a juvenile, she made two starts at Churchill Downs, finishing fourth and second in one-turn events.
“It was a huge step up in company to run in a race like the Ashland coming out of a turf allowance, but we were thrilled with the way she worked and handled Keeneland once she got up to Kentucky from Florida,” Kenneally said. “She seemed to find a new lease on life. She had a phenomenal work before the race that was quick, but she did it really easily. That, along with the race coming up a little light, was why we thought she would run well in the Ashland.
“Everything has been positive since she ran,” Kenneally continued. “She’s held her weight. Her appetite and mind are as good as ever and she’s moving as soundly as a horse can move. Hopefully she’ll continue to improve. Based on the numbers, she needs to improve to get a piece of the action, but we believe she is.
“The biggest factor is knowing what to do and when not to do too much with these young horses in the day-to-day training,” he concluded. “You need to know your horses and it helps if you pay attention to their normal good behavior and know what that looks like. Keeping that is key when it comes to feeding, training, and preparing for races like this.”
SALTY–Gary Barber, Baccari Racing Stable LLC, and Chester Prince’s Salty galloped 1 ½ miles Monday morning under E.J. Bowler for trainer Mark Casse.
“She had nothing go her way in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (GII) and still won impressively,” Casse said. “I think they have to beat us.”
SUMMER LUCK–Currently No. 16 on the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard, Summer Luck galloped at 8:30 Monday morning with Froylan Garcia aboard for trainer Mark Casse.
TEQUILITA–Dorothy Alexander Matz’s Tequilita galloped a mile under exercise rider Jo Robinson Monday morning at Churchill Downs in preparation for a start in Friday’s Kentucky Oaks (G1).
“She’s doing fine. She worked nicely the other day. I think she’s plenty fit enough,” said trainer Michael Matz, who sent his wife’s homebred filly to the Churchill track last Friday for a half-mile breeze in :48.
After winning the seven-furlong Forward Gal (GII) at Gulfstream Park in her 2017 debut Feb. 4, Tequilita closed from fifth to finish second behind Oaks contender Salty in the 1 1/16-mile Gulfstream Park Oaks (GII) April 1.
“It was the first time she went around two turns, and it might have been a bit my fault,” Matz said. “I told Luis (Saez) to wait until the head of the stretch before he moved on her. He said ‘Salty went by me so fast, I didn’t have time to catch her.’
“But I think Salty is a very good horse. It was our filly’s first time around two turns, and she was running at the end. We wanted to see if she could handle two turns, and I thought she did.”
TORRENT–Westrock Stable LLC’s Torrent, sitting at No. 15 on the Oaks leaderboard, walked the shedrow at trainer Ron Moquett’s barn a day after breezing a half-mile in :47.60.
VEXATIOUS–Calumet Farm’s Vexatious galloped 1 1/2 miles at 9:30 a.m. under exercise rider Freddy Quevero.
“Everything’s fine,” Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale said.
The Giant’s Causeway filly typically takes to the track incognito at the end of training hours, without the pink saddle towel that makes Oaks contenders easy to identify. Drysdale referred to his preference for hiding in plain sight as a “superstition” that dates back to prior visits with his two Oaks winners, Bold ’n Determined (1980) and Princess Rooney (1983), as well as 2000 Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, among others. Those successes all came well before the introduction of custom, race-specific saddle towels and the special Oaks and Derby training session.
WICKED LICK–Lee Mauberret’s homebred Wicked Lick galloped a little less than a mile under exercise rider Leo Garcia over a “good” track after the morning renovation break.
Trainer Brendan Walsh said the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) runner-up likely would go a mile and a quarter Tuesday and may stand in the gate.
Walsh said he would not be concerned if the track for Friday’s Oaks happened to turn up less than fast.
“I don’t think it would be an issue for her,” Walsh said of Wicked Lick, who was second in the Silverbulletday at Fair Grounds in her only off-track start. “I think it might bother some others.”
Brian Hernandez Jr., who has ridden Wicked Lick in six of her eight starts, has the Oaks mount.
KNOWN ARRIVAL SCHEDULES
WEDNESDAY (BY PLANE FROM CALIFORNIA)–Finest City (Ian Kruljac, Barn 24); Ritzy A.P. (Dan Blacker, 9); Union Strike (Mick Ruis, Barn 24).
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