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Kentucky Oaks Report

| Brisnet Editorial | 04/22/2011 #
  • Joyful Victory will take trainer Larry Jones back to the Kentucky Oaks (Oaklanw Park/Coady Photography)

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.

Following the Beaumont I'll give a brief analysis of the first five in my Top 10 list. Next week, the bottom five and any other contender will be profiled.

Kentucky

TURBULENT DESCENT (Congrats) has proven to be no slouch at routes, taking the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) and Hollywood Starlet S. (G1) while going 1 1/16 miles. However, trainer Mike Puype always contended his charge was better around one-turn distances and the bay lass put the exclamation point on that with an easy five-length score in the Beaumont at Keeneland.

Turbulent Descent broke well from the gate and settled about four wide outside horses down the backstretch as Gran Lioness (Lion Heart) took command. That one set the pace through the opening half-mile while tracked by Honey Chile (Invisible Ink) just to her outside. Jockey David Flores had Turbulent Descent loping along while still wide, and the bay dynamo took off after the leader under her own power nearing the turn.

Ranging up to the outside of Honey Chile in the lane, Turbulent Descent kicked it into gear in midstretch. She drew off under mild encouragement from Flores, which was mostly to keep her mind on the business as hand, and even jumped a break in the rail shadow, but was five lengths clear on the wire.

Even before the Beaumont, Puype had said the Kentucky Oaks was not in the plans. Instead, a New York campaign has been mapped out for Turbulent Descent. She's expected to show up next for the Acorn S. (G1) on Belmont Stakes Day, June 11, followed by the Test S. (G1) at Saratoga on August 6.

Honey Chile ran well in defeat, brushing with Gran Lioness in the stretch but holding second by a half-length over Cicada S. (G3) runner-up Coax Liberty (Successful Appeal).

Analysis

JOYFUL VICTORY (Tapit) -- The gray filly will enter the Oaks having dominated both of her sophomore races, the Fantasy S. (G2) and Honeybee S. (G3), by a combined 15 3/5 lengths. She's earned one of the best BRIS Speed number thus far this year, garnering a 111 figure for her Honeybee score, and has shown major progression from her juvenile season when posting a second in the Frizette S. (G1) and fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1). Having trainer Larry Jones on her side can only help Joyful Victory's chances, and her pedigree indicates going nine furlongs for the first time in the Oaks shouldn't be a problem.

R HEAT LIGHTNING (Trippi) -- Trainer Todd Pletcher has captured two Oaks thus far in his distinguished career with Rags to Riches and Ashado, and will look to add yet another to his resume with this bay pupil. The filly has romped in her past two races, scoring by 8 1/4 lengths in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) and 7 1/4 lengths in the Davona Dale S. (G2), following an uninspiring fourth-place run in her sophomore bow, the Forward Gal S. (G2). Already a Grade 1 winner after taking the Spinaway S. (G1) at Saratoga, she led in the Juvenile Fillies before being caught by the winner and forced to settle for second. R Heat Lightning has earned consecutive triple-digit Speed figures for her wins this year, and already boasts a victory at nine furlongs in the Gulfstream Park Oaks. While one may argue that she loves Gulfstream's track and won't be able to reproduce those efforts under the Twin Spires, this daughter of sprinting parents has more than proven her ability to handle two-turn distances.

ZAZU (Tapit) -- Yet another gray daughter of Tapit, Zazu has finished worse than second only once in her career, with that coming as a fifth in last year's Hollywood Starlet S. (G1). She began her racing career on the synthetics in California, but her capability on dirt was confirmed with a 1 1/4-length victory in the Las Virgenes S. (G1) at Santa Anita. Though she ran second in the 8 1/2-furlong Santa Anita Oaks (G1) last out, the miss was rallying late and easily drew off from the winner on the gallop out while in the center of the track. Her Speed ratings don't compare with the top two, but hold their own against other contenders in the field. The John Sadler charge could come charging in the stretch to offer yet another exciting stretch duel following last year's Blind Luck-Evening Jewel match-up.

PLUM PRETTY (Medaglia d'Oro) -- The Bob Baffert filly's sire produced 2009 Horse of the Year and Kentucky Oaks queen Rachel Alexandra in his very first crop, and a good number of his best runners have proven to be female. Plum Pretty didn't show much in her first three starts, but really turned a corner last out in the Sunland Park Oaks, romping by 25 lengths. Some may contend she didn't face much in the 1 1/16 race, but her 102 Speed rating puts her on equal footing with my top two. The biggest concern with her is that she didn't already peak in the Sunland Park Oaks and a bounce awaits her on the first Friday in May.

SUMMER SOIREE (War Front) -- The bay miss would have given horseman Jones a second shot in the Kentucky Oaks following her dominating 10 3/4-length triumph in the Bourbonette Oaks (G3) at Turfway Park. However, Team Valor was so impressed with her win that they purchased the filly and transferred her to trainer Graham Motion. She's already joined her new barn at Keeneland, where she's been preparing for her May engagement on the synthetic Polytrack. Her final prep came on Turfway's Polytrack and now she's training up to the Oaks on the all-weather, but the synthetic conditions can be discounted in Summer Soiree's case. The lass romped by 9 3/4 lengths on Oaklawn Park's dirt prior to the Bourbonette Oaks and broke her maiden last year at Delaware Park by 6 1/4 lengths. When she wins, she does so in a big way, but like Plum Pretty may have already run her best race this spring. Also, her Oaklawn victory was the first time Summer Soiree has been able to break a 90 in Speed ratings.

Top 10

1.   Joyful Victory
2.   R Heat Lightning
3.   Zazu
4.   Plum Pretty
5.   Summer Soiree
6.   Kathmanblu
7.   Daisy Devine
8.   Lilacs and Lace
9.   Arienza
10. Holy Heavens

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