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Kathmanblu, R Heat Lightning Work In Sloppy Going
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.
The Todd Pletcher-trained R Heat Lightning breezed four furlongs in: 49.80 under exercise rider Hector Ramos. Fractional splits for the work were :12.40, :24.80 and :37.20 and the daughter of Trippi galloped out five furlongs over the sloppy footing in 1:03.40.
“I thought she handled it pretty well,” Pletcher said. “She looked a little unsure when she first went off, she was kind of pricking her ears and looking at it (the track) a little bit. But once she settled in, she went fine and I thought her gallop-out was particularly good.
“You’re always a little concerned when you go out in conditions like that, but I think Churchill is one of the few places where you can kind of feel OK about it. It seems to handle bad weather well.”
Kathmanblu worked five furlongs in 1:02.80 in a move trainer Ken McPeek as a “maintenance work.” Exercise rider Will Aldana was in the saddle as the daughter of Bluegrass Cat worked in company with 4-year-old male stablemate Noble’s Promise, who ran fifth behind Super Saver in last year’s Kentucky Derby and is scheduled to compete on Kentucky Derby Day in the $300,000-added Churchill Downs Presented by Navistar (GII).
Fractional times for the move over the sloppy surface were :13.20, :25.40, :37.40 and :49.80. Noble’s Promise, who worked on the outside of Kathmanblu, was a neck in front of the Oaks contender at the finish.
“We just wanted her to stretch out,” McPeek said. “Noble’s Promise needed a work mate and she needed to do something over it, and it was good. We let him gallop out because he hadn’t run in four or five months.
Kathmanblu is coming off a third-place finish behind Lilacs and Lace as the favorite in Keeneland’s Central Bank Ashland (GI), which was run over the Lexington track’s synthetic Polytrack course. McPeek’s filly endured a wide journey during most of that 1 1/16-mile race.
“We ran the best filly in the Ashland, but that’s just the way the ball bounced,” McPeek said.
OAKS 137 NOTES – Trainer Benard Chatters had hoped to work Martha Washington winner Holy Heavens on Saturday, but decided to wait on that move because of the weather. Chatters hopes the daughter of Holy Bull can work on Sunday. … Trainer J. Larry Jones arrived in Louisville to oversee the Oaks preparations by Fox Hill Farm’s Joyful Victory, an easy winner this year in Oaklawn’s Fantasy (GII) and Honeybee (GIII). Jones, who won the 2008 Oaks with Brereton Jones’ Proud Spell, said Joyful Victory would work on Monday. … Fantasy runner-up Arienza came out of a Friday work well, according to trainer Dan Peitz. The daughter of European champion Giant’s Causeway out of 2002 U.S. Horse of the Year Azeri breezed four furlongs over a fast track in :49.40. Peitz said the Kentucky Oaks remains an option for his filly, but the $100,000 Eight Belles Presented by ACS, A Xerox Company (GIII) could be a more likely spot for Arienza’s fourth career start. … Dede McGehee’s Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) runner-up St. John’s River galloped over Saturday’s sloppy going. Trainer Andrew Leggio Jr. said the daughter of Include would work on Thursday and would be ridden in the Oaks by Rosie Napravnik. … Peachtree Stable’s Plum Pretty, a 25-length winner of the Sunland Oaks, galloped after the break for trainer Bob Baffert.