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Kentucky Oaks Report
The Kentucky Oaks (G1) lost a starter on March 5 following TURBULENT DESCENT's (Congrats) victory over ZAZU (Tapit) in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1). However, it's not the loser who has bowed out. Turbulent Descent's connections indicated that she would bypass the first Friday in May and instead point for a summer campaign in New York. Her main goals at this point appear to be the June 11 Acorn S. (G1) and August 6 Test S. (G1).
Meanwhile, R Heat Lightning (Trippi) and Kathmanblu (Bluegrass Cat) are leading the division, but the rank and file are still trying to sort themselves out. Some minor stakes action the past two weeks might offer up a couple of starters for the Kentucky Oaks, and there were two well-bred maiden winners to further add to the disarray.
Alas, this weekend won't offer much opportunity for the ranks to get in order, as there are a pair of sprints scheduled. However, the next two weeks should see the Oaks field really begin to take shape with the running of the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) and Gulfstream Oaks (G2).
Despite her win in the Santa Anita Oaks, Turbulent Descent's connections have probably made the right choice for their filly. Santa Ysabel S. (G3) winner May Day Rose (Rockport Harbor) led the way in the race, closely tracked by A Z Warrior (Bernardini) just to her outside with Kilograeme (Graeme Hall) stalking in behind. Turbulent Descent and the late-running Zazu were biding their time in the back of the very short field. (Photo Courtesy of Benoit Photos)
The eventual winner was the first to make a move, angling out to circle three wide nearing the turn. Zazu followed, and the two began putting some distance between themselves and the rest of the field. Jockey David Flores stayed busy on Turbulent Descent the whole time, and the bay lass just held the fast-closing Zazu.
Though Turbulent Descent held by a neck on the wire, it was a rapidly diminishing neck. Zazu blew right on past under Joel Rosario and easily outdistanced her rival in the gallop out. The gray lass has steadily improved as the distances have gotten longer, and trainer John Sadler should have her primed and ready for the Kentucky Oaks. The conditioner has decided to pass on an April prep race for his charge and will train her right up to the big dance.
The 1 1/16-mile Santa Anita Oaks is just shy of the nine-furlong Kentucky Oaks, and many would consider Turbulent Descent's win more than justified her shot at the big prize. Trainer Mike Puype is not getting starry-eyed, though, and pretty much dashed any shot of the three-year-old showing up at Churchill in May.
"I basically told (the owners before the Santa Anita Oaks), I'm afraid after watching her work so brilliantly every time that this (distance) would be max for her," he said following the win. "She won the (1 1/16-mile) Starlet (G1), she won this, so to say she can't do it is not right, because she's done it. But let's face it; the video on her first two races were breathtaking. I know the company wasn't as strong as it is now, but look at how she cruised up into the turn (today) like a beast. She's a lot of horse going one turn."
One day later, Puype sealed the deal with this comment.
"I have no doubt that she will be better going shorter," he said. "She has a brilliant amount of acceleration, and is best going seven furlongs or a one-turn mile with a target to run behind."
Puype indicated he'll give the filly one more start before the Acorn, mentioning the about seven-furlong Beaumont S. (G2) over Keeneland's Polytrack on April 17 as one of the options he's considering.
JOYFUL VICTORY (Tapit) took Turbulent Descent's spot on my Top 10 with her stellar 8 3/4-length romp in the March 12 Honeybee S. (G3) at Oaklawn Park. Settled into midpack by jockey Mike Smith, the Larry Jones-trained filly was never far off the pace being set by RIGOLETTA (Concerto). The gray miss, who was equipped with blinkers for the first time, began closing the gap on the backstretch and circled the field leaving the backside to take command rounding the turn.
Joyful Victory extended her margin in the lane under a vigorous hand ride from Smith, who for some reason felt the need to go to the whip twice. It wasn't needed at all. The filly was easily the best of the field, and Smith finally put away the unnecessary equipment and proceeded to hand-ride her to the line.
"Mr. Jones told me he put the blinkers on because when she's by herself she's liable to do something. He told me to stay aware of that and of course I hit the front pretty early. I hit her twice just to make sure, but she was home by then," Smith justified his use of the whip after the race.
Joyful Victory will line up in the April 10 Fantasy S. (G2) next, with that serving as her final prep for the Kentucky Oaks.
HOLY HEAVENS (Holy Bull) was best of the rest in the Honeybee, and the Martha Washington S. winner might show up for a rematch in the Fantasy. DIXIE CITY (Dixie Union) finished another three lengths back in third, but the bay lass was returning off a more than three-month break in the race. As the winner of the nine-furlong Demoiselle S. (G2), she could continue to improve and be at her peak by the time the Oaks rolls around.
One who will not bee seen again in the Fantasy, though, is the pacesetting Rigoletta. The Dan Hendricks charge came in sixth under the wire of the Honeybee and exited the race with a tendon injury. While not life threatening, her connections have decided to retire the sophomore and breed her sometime this spring.
Rigoletta was making her dirt debut in the Honeybee following a fifth in the grassy La Habra S. (G3) to start the year. She did her best work on the synthetics in California, breaking her maiden at Del Mar, finishing third in the Darley Debutante (G1) and then capturing the Oak Leaf S. (G1) during the Oak Tree meet at Hollywood Park. The bay lass will head to the breeding shed with a 6-2-0-1, $184,070, career record.
Fair Grounds hosted the Mardi Gras S. on March 8, and STREET STORM (Stormy Atlantic) gutted out the neck victory for trainer Steve Margolis. Tracking in fourth while running three wide down the backstretch, the gray lass continued her wide trip around the turn and into the lane. The yellow-blinkered miss was put under a drive by jockey Jesse Campbell and just got the best of Aide (Arch) on the wire.
Street Storm entered the race when it was scheduled to go off at about 7 1/2 furlongs on the turf, but Margolis decided to give her another shot on dirt when the race was switched to the main track and extended to a mile and 70 yards. She finished third in the Letellier Memorial S. in December, and proved her capabilities on the dirt once again in the Mardi Gras.
The stretch out in distance appeared to aid the closer, and she would be a viable candidate for the Fair Grounds Oaks. Margolis has already mentioned sending Silverbulletday S. third Little Miss Holly (Maria's Mon) and last-out optional claiming winner Switching Gears (Tapit) to that race, but neither one of those has been able to break 90 in regards to BRIS Speed ratings during their careers. Street Storm posted a 92 Speed figure for breaking her maiden last year and was awarded a 91 for the Mardi Gras. She appears to be the best choice for the Fair Grounds Oaks.
WYOMIA (Vindication) and DEVILISH LADY (Sweetsouthernsaint) put on a nice show in the March 12 Suncoast S. at Tampa Bay Downs. While the former settled near the back of the 10-filly field, Devilish Lady stayed in close attendance to the pace. Devilish Lady took first shot at the leaders, beginning her run three wide on the turn, while Wyomia was stuck down on the rail. Local jockey Frederic Lenclud angled Wyomia off the inside and sent her wide, and the pair took off after Devilish Lady, who had gained command entering the stretch.
Lenclud switched Wyomia back toward the rail, and the dark bay lass just caught Devilish Lady on the wire to earn her second stakes triumph. Victorious in last year's Mazarine S. (Can-G3) at Woodbine, the three-year-old was making her dirt and seasonal bow in the Suncoast after ending 2010 with a sixth-place run in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G2). She clearly proved her ability on the main track in the race, though co-owner Edward Seltzer wasn't entirely convinced.
"It's funny -- she's bred for grass, but her grass races have been full of trouble, so we don't know how that works," he said. "We were concerned that she wouldn't handle the dirt, and she didn't look like she was at the beginning. She looked like she leveled off at the end. I'm not sure that she loves it, but she handled it, so we'll see what happens from here."
Seltzer went on to mention that Wyomia is nominated to the April 9 Ashland S. (G1) over Keeneland's Polytrack, as well as the Kentucky Oaks, so there's still hope the talented filly could continue on the Oaks Trail.
Devilish Lady may not have won, but the dark bay did successfully stretch out in the mile-and-40-yard Suncoast. Winner of the Gasparilla S. and Sandpiper S. while sprinting earlier in the meet, she would be a good candidate for the Gulfstream Oaks.
Two days after the Suncoast, DELIGHTFUL MARY (Limehouse) made her return to competition at the Ocala Training Center on Monday during the 22nd annual OBS Day of Champions. Runner-up to Wyomia in the Mazarine, the Mark Casse pupil did better than her fellow Woodbine shipper on Breeders' Cup day when third in the Juvenile Fillies (G1).
She scored in the OBS Championship (Filly Division) S. after comfortably stalking a pedestrian pace while wide in third. Delightful Mary came under a ride from Shaun Bridgmohan nearing the turn of the 1 1/16-mile test, and appeared out of it as the dueling leaders hit the stretch. Suddenly, Delightful Mary hit her best stride and pulled out the three-quarter length victory.
Casse said following the race that Delightful Mary will show up next in the Ashland at Keeneland. That will give her two synthetic starts to enter the Oaks with, which normally I'd really be down on. However, the sophomore filly already proved her capability on dirt, and more importantly Churchill Downs' dirt, in the Breeders' Cup. The Ashland should finish tightening the screws for the main event.
AVA K. (Dixie Union) moved her line to a perfect three-for-three in the March 11 Proud Puppy S. at Aqueduct. Taking command from the start, the bay miss led every step of the way en route to a three-length score under Ramon Dominguez. Her rider offered a few taps of the whip in the lane, but Ava K. still appeared to get the job done pretty easily. She broke her maiden at Aqueduct and captured an allowance by a total of 12 3/4 lengths while sprinting six furlongs, and successfully stretched out here to a mile and 70 yards.
Although she's only competed against New York-breds so far, Ava K. looks an excellent candidate for the April 9 Comely S. (G3) going a mile.
By this point maiden winners are playing catch-up, but two well-bred fillies recently captured their initial starts and deserve a mention. First up on March 6, in the 10TH race at Oaklawn Park, a daughter of Horse of the Year Azeri (Jade Hunter) made her career debut going six furlongs. ARIENZA (Giant's Causeway) was under a good hold and racing wide while battling for the lead on the backside, then gradually made her way to the front under her own power. She began pulling away in the lane after being shown the whip, and galloped out well ahead of the rest of the field.
The Kentucky Oaks is probably not in the works for the chestnut lass. Instead, trainer Dan Peitz could saddle her for the March 26 Prima Donna S. back at Oaklawn.
On Sunday at Gulfstream Park, PRECIOUS SOUL (Distorted Humor) got her racing career underway with a 2 1/2-length, front-running score in the 9TH race under Edgar Prado. The Allen Jerkens trainee scooted up between horses to take over on the backstretch and never looked back in the six-furlong contest. Prado shook the reins and showed her the whip, and Precious Soul easily pulled away in the lane.
Precious Soul is a half-sister to Society Selection (Coronado's Quest), who triumphed in the Alabama S. (G1), Frizette S. (G1) and Test S. (G1) while running second in the Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1), Beldame S. (G1), Ruffian H. (G1), Ogden Phipps H. (G1) and Acorn S. (G1) during her career. Jerkens said the three-year-old miss would be given some time to recover from her initial race, so she's one to keep an eye on for the summer events.
Seven fillies will line up in the six-furlong Cicada S. (G3) on Saturday, and though the race may not provide any new contenders for the Kentucky Oaks it will give FULL MOON BLUES (Petionville) the opportunity to turn the tables on COAX LIBERTY (Successful Appeal). Full Moon Blues captured the Tempted S. (G3) and ran fourth in the Demoiselle to close out her juvenile campaign. She reappeared on February 12 in the Dearly Precious S. and just missed second on that occasion by a head. The dark bay runner was two lengths behind Coax Liberty, who earned her first stakes win in the Dearly Precious and is looking to add a graded score to her resume in the Cicada.
Some new shooters add some flavor to the race. The unbeaten DREAM (Malibu Moon) broke her maiden at Delaware Park last summer and opened her three-year-old season last out posting a six-length victory against optional claiming company at Laurel Park. IN STEP (Unbridled's Song) ships up from Gulfstream Park having taken her career bow by a half-length on February 20, while ROMAN TREASURE (Roman Ruler) will make the trip to a familiar starting gate after capturing her first race over Aqueduct's inner dirt on February 27.
QUANTUM MISS (Smoke Glacken), who dominated by 16 lengths in the Blue Mountain S. prior to running fifth in the Old Hat S. (G3), and Dearly Precious fifth-placer WILD ABOUT SONNY (Officer) complete the Cicada field.
On Sunday, eight runners will take their place in the starting gate at Santa Anita for the 6 1/2-furlong Santa Paula S. A Grade 3 last year, the newly downgraded test features CALIFORNIA NECTAR (Stormy Atlantic) returning to the sprint distances she seems to prefer. Fifth last out in the Las Virgenes S. (G1), the Doug O'Neill pupil captured the Santa Ynez S. (G2) and California Breeders' Champion S. while going seven furlongs.
Maiden winner MILDLY OFFENSIVE (Sharp Humor) appears to have the best chance at upsetting California Nectar. The Carla Gaines trainee captured her initial start over the track on February 19, scoring by 4 1/4 lengths, and earned a 98 Speed rating.
DAWNIE MACHO (Macho Uno) is the only other stakes winner in the field, but the Sadler charge appears to have a lost a step since her Landaluce S. victory last summer. JOE JA (Ministers Wild Cat) and JUSTENUFAPPEAL (Exchange Rate) ran second in the Arizona Oaks and Golden Gate Debutante S., respectively, and will try to add more black-type credit to their records in the Santa Paula.
TIZ THE ROUTE (Tiznow) was eased in the Las Virgenes last out but might be a top-three prospect while returning to the 6 1/2-furlong distance over which she broke her maiden. Debut maiden winner HOUT BAY (Harlan's Holiday) will face winners for the first time in this spot.
1. R Heat Lightning
4. Joyful Victory
7. Pomeroys Pistol
9. Delightful Mary
10. It's Tricky