Kentucky Oaks barn notes for Thursday:
ABEL TASMAN–China Horse Club and Clearsky Farms’ Santa Anita Oaks (GI) runner-up Abel Tasman galloped 1 1/2 miles under regular exercise rider Dana Barnes.
“It was a normal, right-before-the-race type of gallop,” said Jimmy Barnes, lead assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. “We’re very happy and looking good.”
The entire Baffert team has raved about Oaks favorite Paradise Woods, who beat them by nearly 12 lengths in the Santa Anita Oaks, but Barnes is hopeful that the addition of blinkers and a change in venue could help them rein in the budding super filly.
“We’re on a different racetrack and everyone’s had to ship so you never know,” Barnes said. “It’s an all new ballgame now coming to a new racetrack. A lot of it will depend on how the track is playing. If they back up we’ll be rolling, that’s for sure. I think she’s going to enjoy the long stretch.”
DADDYS LIL DARLING–Trainer Kenny McPeek was on hand early Thursday morning as Daddys Lil Darling galloped 1 ½ miles in the drizzling rain at 5:45, just one day away from the 143rd Kentucky Oaks.
“We hope there is speed in the race,” McPeek said. “She’s a filly that comes from off the pace. So, she’ll make her run late and hopefully it sets up for a closer.”
With the National Weather Service forecast calling for a 70 percent chance of showers on Oaks Day, McPeek isn’t too concerned.
“I only worry about things I can control,” McPeek said. “We’ll see what the day brings.”
Daddys Lil Darling won in the mud as a 2-year-old in Churchill Downs’ Pocahontas Stakes (GII) to kick off her road to the Kentucky Oaks.
EVER SO CLEVER–Clearview Stable LLC’s Fantasy Stakes (GIII) winner Ever So Clever completed her Kentucky Oaks preparations by galloping just over a mile under her regular exercise rider Angel Garcia a bit before 7 a.m. Thursday.
The Medaglia d’Oro filly, who drew the rail in the 14-horse field, was scheduled to school in the paddock along with her three Kentucky Derby bound stablemates Thursday afternoon depending on the weather.
FARRELL–Trainer Wayne Catalano was focused and quiet for his standards Thursday morning at Barn 30. His Kentucky Oaks (GI) runner Farrell, installed as the 5-1 third choice, went out at 7:15 for her last bit of exercise before Friday’s $1 million event. She jogged clockwise to the paddock gap, schooled in the paddock, then jogged the wrong way again from the paddock gap to complete a clockwise circuit of the Churchill Downs main track.
“We’re happy with her and how everything has gone,” Catalano said of the Coffeepot Stables homebred. “When we run her tomorrow, we’re going to find out where we stand when stacking up against the rest of them. So far, she has been great and we are happy to be involved with a filly like this. It’s not going to be easy. When you go in there, you are running against good horses. That’s how they got there—they’re good horses. I know Mr. (Richard) Mandella has a really nice filly (in race favorite Paradise Woods), but so do we. That’s what they line them up in the gates for.”
Touching on the passing of his brother two days ago and the compounded significance of a possible victory in the country’s premier race for fillies, Catalano became serious, if not somber.
“A win would mean a lot, obviously, especially to my family,” he said. “It’ll also mean a lot to the owners and breeders, Mr. Bob (Cummings) and Ms. Annette (Bacola), and my whole team. It’s a big thing. When you go to these races, you have been working hard for them, doing it every day your whole life.”
JORDAN’S HENNY–Gulfstream Park Oaks (GII) runner-up Jordan’s Henny went to the track at 7:15 and visited the starting gate before galloping 1 ½ miles under exercise rider Edgar Cano.
“We went earlier today to beat the rain,” trainer Mike Tomlinson said. “I just took her to the gate today. She went to the paddock yesterday and was cool as a cucumber. She was a little fidgety the first time we took her.”
Owned by Erv Woolsey and Ralph Kinder, Jordan’s Henny will not go to the track in the morning.
Joe Rocco Jr. has the mount on Jordan’s Henny and will break from post position five.
“I hope there is a big pace, a fast pace,” Tomlinson said. “She is so versatile, she can lay where you want to and the race could set up for a stalker.”
LOCKDOWN–Juddmonte Farms’ Lockdown completed her Kentucky Oaks preparations by galloping just over a mile under exercise rider Jo Lawson during the special 8:30 a.m. training session.
The First Defense filly broke her maiden by more than three lengths on a track rated “good” at Aqueduct last December, so the chance of an off track Friday was not a concern to her Hall Fame trainer Bill Mott.
“It’s not a worry with this horse,” Mott said. “It’s more of a concern with my turf horses. Churchill is usually a good track even when it’s wet.”
Mott is scheduled to run horses in four turf stakes between Friday and Saturday. He has Bernadiva in the Edgewood Stakes (GIII) Friday and on Saturday he has entered Harmonize in the Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile (GII), Good Samaritan in the American Turf Stakes (GII) and Ballagh Rocks in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI).
MISS SKY WARRIOR–Arlene’s Sun Star Stable’s Miss Sky Warrior went out early from Barn 43 to avoid the skies opening on Thursday morning. Heading out just past 6 o’clock, the Kelly Breen-trained daughter of First Samurai appears to be flying slightly under the radar in a race filled with talent, including a trio of Grade I winners. The streaking filly, who is looking for her sixth consecutive victory and fifth consecutive graded stakes, galloped a mile under Aurelio Gomez.
“I don’t make the odds, the public does, and I can’t change anything, I just get my horse as ready as I can to run and lead them over there,” Breen said. “I can’t change the draw or whether they’ll like the mud or anything else. I’m just trying to do what I can do and hope she reacts in the right way to do what we are trying to do. We’re trying to help her win.”
Appearing to progress with each successive victory, the tall dark bay filly put an exclamation point on her preparation last out in the Gazelle (GII), defeating fellow Kentucky Oaks runner Lockdown by 13 lengths. She is the lone filly in the field with a victory—two, actually—at the nine-furlong distance. She also has more graded stakes victories—four—than any of her competitors.
“She’s matured a little bit and she’s still getting better,” Breen said. “She and (jockey) Paco (Lopez) make a great team and she can relax on a loose rein and not go too fast. I think if someone wants to zing out and go for the lead, I think she can rate reasonably. I hope with 100,000 people screaming as she’s going into the gate, that she’s as composed as she is now.”
MOPOTISM–The Uncle Mo filly Mopotism got to work early Thursday morning, just a day ahead of her date with destiny and 13 other 3-year-old fillies in the 143rd Kentucky Oaks (GI).
Exercise rider Amir Cedeno went trackside with the Doug O’Neill-trained filly at 7 a.m., getting ahead of the threat of rain later in the morning in Louisville. Rider and horse toured nine furlongs around the Churchill oval and Mopotism earned a thumbs up for her efforts.
Mario Gutierrez will ride Mopotism in the Oaks and they’ll break from post position three.
PARADISE WOODS–The racy Union Rags filly went about her business with zest Thursday morning, heading out from Barn 42 at 7:30 with exercise rider/assistant trainer Alex Bisono aboard and trainer Richard Mandella a most interested observer.
The bay, winner of the Santa Anita Oaks (GI) by nearly 12 lengths on April 8 and a sharp looker and worker in the mornings since, went 12 furlongs in her Thursday exercise, just a day before taking on many of the best 3-year-old fillies in the land in the 143rd edition of the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (GI).
Though she only has raced three times and will be taking on several well-seasoned rivals, Paradise Woods’ efforts thus far led Churchill Downs linemaker Mike Battaglia to make her the 5/2 favorite in the 14-horse field. She’ll break from post four and be handled by her regular guy, the West Coast-based Frenchman Flavien Prat.
Mandella and Bisono both agreed their filly was and is doing famously since coming to Kentucky and are hopeful of a big effort Friday.
The Hall of Fame trainer has used some of his extra time in the Bluegrass State to go visit one of his all-time favorites, the recently retired multiple champion Beholder, who was a much-troubled second in the 2013 Kentucky Oaks.
Mandella reported that the four-time Eclipse Award winner is looking large and lovely, in foal to the high-ranking sire Uncle Mo.
“I told them I’d love to train the foal,” he said. “If it’s a colt, I’ll even paint his stall blue.”
SAILOR’S VALENTINE–Semaphore Racing LLC and Homewrecker Racing LLC’s Sailor’s Valentine routinely continues to impress in the mornings at Churchill Downs for trainer Eddie Kenneally. The Grade I-winning Kentucky Oaks (GI) runner schooled well Wednesday afternoon and then jogged and galloped Thursday morning under Kelly Wheeler.
On Friday, the Ashland (GI) winner will break from post position eight in the $1 million race.
“Everything is going well,” Kenneally said. “She schooled really well yesterday. Today she jogged three-quarters of a mile and then galloped a mile and a half. I think we’re all set.”
Based in Barn 31, the gray daughter of Mizzen Mast is Kenneally and Homewrecker’s second team-up in the Kentucky Oaks, having finished third across the wire in 2006 with subsequent Eclipse finalist Bushfire before she was disqualified to sixth for interference. Also an Ashland winner, Bushfire would go on to win six of 13 starts and three Grade I events.
SALTY/SUMMER LUCK–Highly regarded Kentucky Oaks contender Salty galloped 1 ½ miles Thursday morning at 8:30 with Janelle Castonguay aboard for trainer Mark Casse.
“She doesn’t have a lot of speed so I’m not worried with post position 14,” Casse said. “Hopefully she settles into the first turn and has a good target to run at.”
Salty is listed as 6-1 on the morning line with her last victory coming in a closing effort in the April 1 Gulfstream Park Oaks (GII).
Summer Luck, on the also eligible list, galloped 1 ½ miles Thursday morning with Froylan Garcia aboard.
TEQUILITA–Dorothy Alexander Matz’s Tequilita was given two miles of light exercise under exercise rider Jo Robinson for the second morning in a row at Churchill Downs Thursday.
“She jogged and cantered backward,” trainer Michael Matz said. “She’s plenty fit enough. We just need her to stay settled.”
The homebred daughter of Union Rags captured the Forward Gal (GII) and finished second in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (GII) in her two most recent starts.
“She has some class to her, there’s no doubt about that,” Matz said. “Now it’s just a matter of if she’s good enough.”
VEXATIOUS–Calumet Farm’s Vexatious galloped her usual 1 ½ miles under exercise rider Freddy Quevero toward the end of training hours, according to Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale.
Drysdale, 69, is seeking a second Oaks win 37 years after taking the lillies in 1980 with future Hall of Fame filly Bold ’n Determined.
“We were concerned about the distance but I had Eddie Delahoussaye riding and that makes a difference,” Drysdale said. “She was a miler but she was even able to win the CCA Oaks (then run at 1 1/2 miles). She was so courageous.”
Added Drysdale: “We won the Oaks and Genuine Risk won the Derby. Then we were giving her weight in the Maskette and we beat her and then he (LeRoy Jolley, trainer of Genuine Risk) wouldn’t run against us again because he knew she’d beat her again. We gave her four pounds and beat her legitimately.
“I knew she’d come down here to run in the Spinster (at Keeneland), so we came down as well to run in the Spinster against her and he ducked us. We needed to beat her one more time (to earn championship filly honors).”
Although Bold ‘n Determined won six Grade 1 events that year, Genuine Risk took the Eclipse Award on the basis of her Kentucky Derby win, seconds in the Preakness and Belmont, and a win against older mares in the Ruffian.
WICKED LICK–With owner and breeder Lee Mauberret looking on, Wicked Lick galloped a mile and a half after the renovation break with exercise rider Leo Garcia up for trainer Brendan Walsh.
Wicked Lick, the first horse bred by Mauberret, comes into the Oaks off a runner-up finish to Farrell in the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) on April 1.
“She is doing well and is in as good a form as she can be,” said Walsh, noting that Wicked Lick would train in the morning. “I just hope she runs her race. There are a lot of nice fillies in there. I hope she gets a good trip as I am sure everybody else does.”
Brian Hernandez Jr. has the mount.
KENTUCKY OAKS FIELD
The field for the Longines Kentucky Oaks with jockey and morning-line odds from the rail out, is: Ever So Clever (Luis Contreras, 20-1), Lockdown (Jose Ortiz, 20-1), Mopotism (Mario Gutierrez, 20-1), Paradise Woods (Flavien Prat, 5-2), Jordan’s Henny (Joe Rocco, 30-1), Vexatious (Kent Desormeaux, 20-1), Farrell (Channing Hill, 5-1), Sailor’s Valentine (Corey Lanerie, 30-1), Wicked Lick (Brian Hernandez Jr., 30-1), Miss Sky Warrior (Paco Lopez, 9-2), Tequilita (Luis Saez, 20-1), Daddys Lil Darling (Julien Leparoux, 20-1), Abel Tasman (Mike Smith, 5-1) and Salty (Joel Rosario, 6-1). Also-Eligible: Summer Luck (Javier Castellano, 30-1). All starters will carry 121 pounds.