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Close Hatches, Emollient not the first to give Juddmonte rare double
In less than an hour Saturday, two three-year-old fillies owned by Juddmonte Farms and trained by Bill Mott won graded stakes and secured enough points to compete in the Kentucky Oaks on May 3 at Churchill Downs. The first was Close Hatches, who won the Grade 2 Gazelle at Aqueduct. The second was homebred Emollient, who captured Keeneland's Grade 1 Ashland by nine lengths.
"Sometimes when you have horses in two big races like that and the first one wins, you think, 'We've used up all of our luck there. That's the end of it,'" said Garrett O'Rourke, who manages Juddmonte's United States operation.
O'Rouke remembered another instance of similar Juddmonte success. In 1997, Ryafan won the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland and Yashmak took the Flower Bowl Invitational Handicap at Belmont Park within 15 minutes.
Close Hatches, who was reported to have emerged from her Gazelle victory in fine fettle, is now undefeated in three starts and earned 100 points for Saturday's victory in the new Kentucky Oaks qualifying system.
"I thought it was pretty impressive," assistant trainer Leana Willaford remarked on Close Hatches' duel with a game Princess of Sylmar before drawing off to win by 3 1/4 lengths.
"It was just her third start and she had to get in a little bit of a battle there after setting pretty good fractions. She ran great. I'm sure the Oaks would probably be on the radar; it seems that would be the natural progression. That's obviously something Bill and Garrett O'Rourke will have to decide. It seems like a logical choice as long as she comes out of the race good, and so far, she has. For the first day, she looks real good, she's happy, and she ate well."
Emollient, who was ridden by Mike Smith, scored in the Ashland victory a week after she was fifth behind Dreaming of Julia in the Gulfstream Park Oaks.
"As Mike said, when Bill makes a call like that, it's a well-thought process," O'Rouke noted. "There were so many right reasons to do it even though it was an unusual move for him. Obviously, you're not going to go against (Mott's plan). It worked out."
Mott's Keeneland assistant, Rodolphe Brisset, said Emollient was well the morning after the Ashland.
"She's fine. She ate well," he said. "She definitely deserves an easy week."
Emollient became the fifth Grade 1 winner at Keeneland for former Juddmonte stallion Empire Maker. The others are three Spinster winners -- Mushka (2009), Acoma (2010) and In Lingerie (2012) -- and 2007 Alcibiades victress Country Star.
In other Ashland news, Graham Motion assistant Dave Rock said Tuttipaesi and Kitten's Point came out of their respective second- and third-place finishes in the race fine and that future plans were undetermined, although the $150,000 Edgewood on grass at Churchill Downs May 3 was a possibility for one of the runners.
Sixth-place finisher Nipissing also exited the Ashland fine, according to trainer Rachel Halden.
"Take away the winner and she didn't get beat that far," Halden said of Nipissing, who was just 2 1/2 lengths behind Tuttipaesi.
Trainer Mark Casse reported that Spring Venture and Spring in the Air, eighth and ninth, respectively, were fine Sunday morning.
"Spring Venture did not get away well and she does not like having all those horses around her," Casse said. "She might run in something at Churchill Downs. We have no excuses for Spring in the Air. She will be pointed to the Woodbine Oaks (on June 9), but I am not sure how we are going to get there."
Jack Sisterson, assistant to trainer Doug O'Neill, said 12th-place finisher Redressthebalance "bled a little bit" and will get some time off.