- Road to the Kentucky Derby
- Racing & Wagering
Kentucky Oaks prospective field swells to 16
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.
Smithwick's filly finished a distant third to Oaks contender Summer Soiree (War Front) in the Bourbonette Oaks (G3) on Turfway Park's Polytrack last out. She also has to her credit a third-place finish to Oaks hopeful Kathmanblu (Bluegrass Cat) in Churchill Downs' Golden Rod (G2) last year, along with a pair of good allowance runs over the winter at Fair Grounds.
Suave Voir Faire finished a length behind eventual Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) winner and Kentucky Oaks contender Daisy Devine (Kafwain) in a mile and 40 yard event on December 30, and then ran third to Switching Gears (Tapit) and eventual Fair Grounds Oaks runner-up and Kentucky Oaks hopeful St. John's River (Include) in a race at a mile and 70 yards on February 25.
"She wants to go a little more ground than she's been," Smithwick said. "We went to the Fair Grounds and she kind of got sick on us, and I think she's only now just getting right."
Smithwick, the son of late Hall of Fame steeplechase trainer Daniel "Mikey" Smithwick, said the $100,000 Edgewood S. is a back-up race for Suave Voir Faire. That Kentucky Derby Day race for three-year-old fillies is run at 1 1/16 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course. Right now, though, the Kentucky Oaks is the top priority for Smithwick and his Fleur De Lis partners.
"It's going to be fun," he said. "We're all local Kentuckians and we're right here in our own backyards, and we might get to run for a million dollars."
Regardless of what happens with Suave Voir Faire in the Kentucky Oaks, Smithwick is happy simply to have the opportunity to participate in the event. He has fully recovered from injuries suffered in a frightening accident last fall on the basement steps of his suburban Louisville home.
He was heading downstairs just before bed on November 15 to place wet clothes in a dryer, but hit his head on a low ceiling above the steps and took a dangerous tumble. Smithwick broke his neck and fractured his skull in the mishap, and was hospitalized until almost Christmas.
"I'm completely healed up -- I went to my last doctor's appointment here today," Smithwick said by telephone on Friday. "I'm good to go."
Given her backup option in the Edgewood, Smithwick said Suave Voir Faire could work on the grass over the next two weeks. Turf works at Churchill Downs are scheduled to begin on April 26.
Meanwhile, Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott confirmed by telephone to Churchill Downs officials that Royal Delta was "possible" for a run in the Kentucky Oaks. The dark bay miss won a 1 1/16-mile allowance race over Keeneland's Polytrack on April 15 for her second win in three career starts.
"She'll go either in the Oaks or the (May 20) Black-Eyed Susan ([G2] at Pimlico)," Mott said.
Royal Delta, who is is stabled at Keeneland, launched her career in impressive style with a 12-length romp in a one-mile maiden race on October 30 at Belmont Park. She did not race again until she finished a disappointing ninth to Wyomia (Vindication) in the $75,000 Suncoast S. on March 12 at Tampa Bay Downs. She was a three-length winner in her return to competition last week.
With the addition of Suave Voir Faire and Royal Delta to the list of prospective starters in the Oaks, there are 16 fillies listed as "likely" or "possible." The 1 1/8-mile Oaks is limited to 14 starters, with preference to those with highest earnings in graded stakes.
Fillies listed as "likely" for Oaks 137 (with graded stakes earnings totals) include: R HEAT LIGHTNING (Trippi) ($910,000), JOYFUL VICTORY (Tapit) ($345,000), KATHMANBLU ($328,525), DAISY DEVINE ($300,000), LILACS AND LACE (Flower Alley) ($244,750), ZAZU (Tapit) ($238,185), ST. JOHN'S RIVER ($100,000), HOLY HEAVENS (Holy Bull) ($55,000) and PLUM PRETTY (Medaglia d'Oro) ($48,000).
Listed as "possible" for the race are: BOUQUET BOOTH (Flower Alley) ($326,000), DELIGHTFUL MARY (Limehouse) ($244,501), ARIENZA (Giant's Causeway) ($60,000), SUMMER SOIREE ($58,900) and Suave Voir Faire ($25,552).
Possible Oaks starters with no graded earnings are Royal Delta and STREET STORM (Stormy Atlantic).