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Plum Pretty Holds Off St. John's River
Peachtree Stable’s Plum Pretty, ridden by Martin Garcia, took command in the middle of the far turn and then held off a late charge along the rail from St. John’s River to win the 137th running of the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) by a neck before the third-largest Oaks Day crowd of 110,122 on Friday afternoon at Churchill Downs.
Plum Pretty, who entered the Oaks off a 25-length victory in the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks on March 27, is trained by Bob Baffert, who also won the Oaks in 1999 with Silverbulletday.
The victory puts Baffert in position to become the third trainer to win the Kentucky Oaks and Derby in the same year and the first since Ben Jones accomplished the feat in 1952. Baffert will send out Midnight Interlude in Saturday’s $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands.
Summer Soiree, ridden by Gabriel Saez, opened a clear lead early and led the field of 13 through fractions of :23.65, :46.99 and 1:11.25 with Plum Pretty in closest pursuit. St. John’s River, ridden by Rosie Napravnik who was seeking to become the first female rider to win the Oaks, broke from the outside post position and immediately ducked down the rail where they stayed in the early running.
On the far turn, Garcia sent Plum Pretty after Summer Soiree and immediately took charge. Then Napravnik sent St. John’s River through an opening on the rail and just failed to catch Plum Pretty.
Plum Pretty, a Pennsylvania-bred daughter of Medaglia d’Oro out of the A.P. Indy mare Liszy, ran the 1 1/8 miles on a fast main track in 1:49.50. The victory was worth $570,400 and increased Plum Pretty’s earnings to $761,200 with a record of 5-3-0-2.
Jones, who accomplished the Oaks-Derby double in 1952 with Real Delight and Hill Gail, respectively, also had the double in 1949 with Wistful and Ponder. H.J. Thompson was the first to accomplish the feat in 1933 with Barn Swallow and Brokers Tip.
Plum Pretty returned $14.60, $7 and $4.60. St. John’s River paid $13.20 and $7.20 in finishing 2 ½ lengths ahead of Zazu and Joel Rosario, who paid $4 to show.
It was a half-length back to favored Joyful Victory, who was followed in order by Bouquet Booth, Kathmanblu, Daisy Devine, Street Storm, Suave Voir Faire, Summer Soiree, Her Smile, Lilacs and Lace and Holy Heavens.
KENTUCKY OAKS JOCKEY QUOTES
MARTIN GARCIA (Plum Pretty) – “Great trip. Great filly. I couldn’t have asked for more.”
ROSIE NAPRAVNIK (St. John’s River) -- “To me she felt like she was standing good, but she must not have been square because it was just an awkward step first out. Not having that good break, I decided to angle over and see what we could do from there. We got such a perfect trip down on the rail. She’s a very, very talented filly.
“It’s so exciting; I’m so happy to be here; I’m so lucky.
“Down the lane I’m thinking my first Grade I, I’m thinking a million dollars, I’m thinking Kentucky Oaks, I’m thinking Girl Power in the Oaks. It was such a disappointing loss, but you can’t take anything away from the filly. She ran so well.”
JOEL ROSARIO (Zazu) – “For the most part, it was a good trip. She sped up on me on the first turn. But she wasn’t bothered by the kickback and she tried hard. She ran well at the finish and it was a good race for her.”
MIKE SMITH (Joyful Victory) – “I would have liked to have been on the outside. It would have helped her because she is a big ol' filly. She likes to get her legs stretched out and I wasn't able to do that. My hats off to the winner but I had a decent trip from the one hole. I tried to kick on and she did for a couple of jumps but she didn't stay on. It was tight early on though. I would have had to really fight and bang around to try and get out early but I thought I would waste too much energy doing that. I rode her with confidence, had her clear going for home but just didn't have enough horse.”
JOHN VELAZQUEZ (Bouquet Booth) – “She got me excited about the three-eighths pole like we might get it all. I was thinking, ‘here we go!’ But from the eighth pole to the wire she just flattened out on me. She ran a great race.”
JULIEN LEPAROUX (Kathmanblu) – “I got a very good trip. She was relaxed. When I found a spot to go through, she didn’t give me her run.”
JAMES GRAHAM (Daisy Devine) – “It was a perfect trip. No excuse. I had everything my way, but she didn’t take off and finish off.”
SHAUN BRIDGMOHAN (Street Storm) -- “I went around there fine. My horse wasn’t handling all that kickback so she dropped herself even further back than I wanted her, but she came at the end and picked up some pieces. I thought she ran as hard as she could.”
MIGUEL MENA (Suave Voir Faire) – “I had a good trip I just didn't have enough horse to get the job done.”
GABRIEL SAEZ (Summer Soiree) – “She got bumped at the start and it made her run off. I just tried not to fight her and get her to relax. I think when we put her on turf it will make the difference.”
GARRETT GOMEZ (Her Smile) – “We got to the first turn and she acted like she didn’t know it was coming and what to do. It was a big jump up for her with the distance and class, but she’s a very talented filly. She hasn’t been with (trainer) Todd (Pletcher) very long, but she has a future.”
JAVIER CASTELLANO (Lilacs and Lace) – “I had a perfect trip. That’s where she wants to be, trying to catch a speed horse. She gave me her run, but unfortunately she didn’t handle the track at all. I’m looking forward to her running on the turf.”
KENT DESORMEAUX (Holy Heavens) – “I tried to take her through a hole and she got stopped. I checked her up and took care of her from there.”
KENTUCKY OAKS TRAINER QUOTES
BOB BAFFERT (Plum Pretty) – “That was awesome. We hoped she'd run like that. She thought she was at Sunland Park.”
ROBERT WRIGHT, ASSISTANT TO ANDY LEGGIO (St. John’s River) – “She had a bit of a bad break. She lost a few steps and it probably cost her the race. She ran her eyeballs out like she does every time. She ran a huge race, just ran out of ground.”
JOHN SADLER (Zazu) – “It was a good strong race for her and we’re pleased. She didn’t have the best of trips. That first turn got jammed up pretty good with that big field. But she kept on and she was finishing well at the finish. That was very encouraging. All in all, we’re very proud of her.”
LARRY JONES (Joyful Victory) – “Mike (Smith) said she was kind of cramped up down in there on the rail when he really wanted to get that old long stride of hers start going. We don’t have any major excuse that we see right now. We just didn’t win the race. There were three horses that got there faster than we did.”
STEVE MARGOLIS (Bouquet Booth/Street Storm) – “We are very happy with her (Bouquet Booth’s) performance. Johnny V (Velazquez) came back and said we had a big shot and she gave us a big thrill with a very respectable performance. The other filly (Street Storm), maybe we had her in a little too tough, but she was last early and passed a few horses and outran her odds.”
ANDREW MCKEEVER (Daisy Devine) – “Just flattened out. I thought she was in a perfect position the whole way through the race, everything was perfect, and she just didn't pick it up."
SPEEDY SMITHWICK (Suave Voir Faire) – “I was a little disappointed she didn’t finish a little better. But on paper she wasn’t supposed to beat too many. She took a funny step around the three-eighths pole and was all over the place in the lane running sideways. But she came back OK and looks to fight another day.”
MIKE MCCARTHY, ASSISTANT TO TODD PLETCHER (Her Smile) – “We took our best shot here. We’ve only had her here for the last eight or nine days. You can only do so much with that. But she didn’t have any trouble and she didn’t appear to have any excuses.”
GRAHAM MOTION (Summer Soiree) – “Obviously, it was disappointing. I think when she got bumped coming out of the gate I kind of knew we were in trouble because that was sure to make her very aggressive. That’s kind of what happened. My hope was that he could kind of sneak away from there and keep her relaxed, but it wasn’t to be.
The bump was enough to get her very on the muscle. I think Gabriel felt like he had her, but when she got bumped he was in trouble.”
BENARD CHATTERS (Holy Heavens) – “I think she was making a good move but at the top of the lane she got taken wide and that pretty much was the race. She made a valiant effort, though, and she'll come back and fight again next time, but I was pleased with the run she was making and right at the top of the lane you could see she got drifted wide and that's a terrible place for that to happen."