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Unlimited Budget heads FG Oaks weekend workers
Four of the last eight Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks winners have gone on to win the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks and Saturday's 45th renewal of the feminine equivalent of the Louisiana Derby once again promises that kind of quality.
A star-studded cast is waiting in the wings of the 1 1/16-mile contest, headed by unbeaten Unlimited Budget, who closed out her juvenile campaign with a 1 1/4-length win in Aqueduct's Grade 2 Demoiselle.
The Street Sense filly is sure to be the local Oaks favorite based on her 3 3/4-length score in Fair Grounds' Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra in her debut as a sophomore on February 23. The Todd Pletcher trainee recorded her third work on Sunday since that race when breezing a half-mile in :51 3/5 on the fast dirt at Palm Meadows Training Center.
Stakes heroine Promise Me More, trained by locally-based Wes Hawley, was second behind Unlimited Budget in the Rachel Alexandra and is set to try again Saturday. The More Than Ready filly covered four furlongs Saturday on Fair Grounds' fast main track in :50.
Blue Violet will do her best to turn the tables on the former pair in the Fair Grounds Oaks after finishing third in the Rachel Alexandra for trainer Larry Jones, who won last year's edition of the race as well as the Kentucky Oaks with Believe You Can.
Expected to join that trio in the starting gate is So Many Ways, a Tony Dutrow trainee who captured Saratoga's Grade 3 Schuylerville and Grade 1 Spinaway last summer and was the victim of a poor start in her only start as a sophomore, the Primal Force at Gulfstream Park earlier this month. The bay daughter of Sightseeing, who clocked a bullet four panels at Palm Meadows Sunday in :47, will try to make amends for that defeat on Saturday.
As of Sunday, Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott was also considering sending Flashy Gray to the Fair Grounds Oaks following her runner-up effort in Oaklawn's Grade 3 Honeybee three weeks ago on March 9. The Flashy Bull gray sped four furlongs in :47 2/5 to get the bullet at Payson Park on Saturday.
Sittin at the Bar, fifth in the Honeybee, is still under consideration for the race by trainer Brett Brinkman and also worked a half-mile Saturday, posting a time of :49 1/5 at the Evangeline Training Center. The Into Mischief filly racked up a pair of state-bred stakes wins at Fair Grounds in a similar turnaround in December.
Ante Up Annie, winner of the Sarah Lane's Oates at Fair Grounds and second in Delta Down's Azalea at last asking on March 7, is expected to return to the New Orleans venue for her second start this month. She was caught going four furlongs in :49 2/5 at the track on Friday.
Making her seasonal bow in the Fair Grounds Oaks will be the Bernie Flint-trained Seaneen Girl, who was triumphant in the Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill in her final start as a juvenile last fall. The Spring at Last miss was making her main track debut in the Golden Rod after competing on Woodbine's synthetic Polytrack in her prior five efforts. She breezed Thursday at Fair Grounds, posting five-eighths in 1:03.