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Two fillies likely to be among the top betting choices for the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (GI) -- E. Paul Robsham’s R Heat Lightning, winner of the Gulfstream Oaks (GII) and the likely Kentucky Oaks favorite, and Five D Thoroughbreds and Wind River Stables’ Golden Rod (GII) and Rachel Alexandra (GIII) winner Kathmanblu – braved a steady rain and sloppy track conditions just after the track maintenance break for Saturday workouts at Churchill Downs.
In keeping with the twists and turns of the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail this spring, Saturday's $200,000 Lexington S. (G3) at Keeneland served up another upset, as Ken and Sarah Ramsey's homebred DERBY KITTEN (Kitten's Joy) surged past the entire field to win going away by 1 1/2 lengths. Making his first start on a synthetic surface, the turf colt produced a strong stretch kick for Julien Leparoux and returned $20.40, $6.60 and $3.60 at odds of 9-1.
With a furlong to go in Saturday's $150,000 Jerome S. (G2) at Aqueduct, ADIOS CHARLIE (Indian Charlie) looked destined to fill the runner-up slot as Justin Phillip (First Samurai) had made a sweeping move to the lead off the turn and forged ahead by a length. No sooner had that thought crossed the minds of most objective observers than Justin Phillip began to shorten stride despite being under strong urging from Ramon Dominguez.
A strong five-furlong work over a sloppy Churchill Downs track by Michael Lauffer and W.D. Cubbedge’s Shackleford on Saturday reinforced trainer Dale Romans’ belief that his colt is a strong contender to win the 137th running of the $2 million guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) on Saturday, May 7.
All Romans has to do is find a way to get the 3-year-old son of Forestry into the Derby 137 starting gate.
Trainer Jeff Bonde wasted little time in getting a serious training move at Churchill Downs into Edward Brown Jr., Victor Flores and Henry Hernandez’s Kentucky Derby 137 (Grade I) contender and Sunland Park Derby (GIII) winner Twice the Appeal.
The prospect of an overflow field for the 137th and richest running of the Kentucky Oaks (G1) appeared more likely on Friday when the names of Fleur De Lis Stable's SUAVE VOIR FAIRE (Suave) and Palides Investment's ROYAL DELTA (Empire Maker) were added to the list of possible contenders.
Suave Voir Faire breezed five furlongs in 1:02 1/5 on Friday at Highpointe Training Center in LaGrange, Kentucky, and trainer Daniel "Speedy" Smithwick Jr., who is among the co-owners of the dark bay, said she would likely be entered in the Oaks.
Since 2000, only four winners of the Kentucky Oaks (G1) were not named champion three-year-old filly. That puts the odds squarely on the side of this year's winner to be honored with an Eclipse at the end of the year, but first the race needs to be run. Just two weeks remain until we find out who will be crowned Queen of the Lilies.
The final prep for the Kentucky Oaks was run last Sunday, if one can even call it a prep. No one in the about seven-furlong Beaumont S. (G2) is expected to line up in the nine-furlong Oaks, but I'll give a brief recap of the race anyway.
The Arkansas Derby (G1) and Blue Grass (G1) continued the upset trend on this year's Kentucky Derby Trail with a pair of longshot winners, ARCHARCHARCH (Arch) and BRILLIANT SPEED (Dynaformer), respectively. But the outcomes left us with a decidedly different feel upon each race's impact on the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Archarcharch and runner-up NEHRO (Mineshaft) moved into serious win consideration. Put these two colts in your Derby top 5 with confidence.
Fountain of Youth S. (G2) hero SOLDAT (War Front) continued preparations for the Kentucky Derby (G1) in two weeks by drilling five furlongs in :59 over the fast dirt at Palm Meadows Training Center on Thursday.
"He went very well, looked great," said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who watched his pupil gallop out six furlongs in 1:12 3/5. "He's always worked well down here and that's why we went back to the dirt (after finishing second in the November 6 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf [G2]). He's been working well since December and January."
Jess Stonestreet Jackson, a pioneering architect of the ascendant American wine industry, and more recently famed as the owner of Horses of the Year Curlin and Rachel Alexandra, died Thursday at his Geyserville, California, home after a long and courageous battle with cancer. He was 81.
The proprietor of Kendall-Jackson winery, Jackson campaigned his horses under the banner of Stonestreet Stables. Those silks are due to be carried by former Kentucky Derby (G1) hopeful ASTROLOGY (A.P. Indy) in Saturday's Jerome H. (G2) at Aqueduct.