Since 2000, only four runnings of the Kentucky Oaks (G1) have featured full 14-horse fields. In fact, Rachel Alexandra only faced six rivals in her record-setting Oaks victory in 2009. When the year opened, the 2011 edition of the "Run for the Lilies" appeared destined not to fill all the stalls on the first Friday in May.
Sunday's $300,000 Fantasy S. (G2) is far from a compelling wagering affair with only four betting interests, but the sporting aspect of the 1 1/16-mile test for three-year-old fillies at Oaklawn Park should still give hard-core players a reason to watch as the Kentucky Oaks (G1) prep pits Honeybee S. (G3) winner JOYFUL VICTORY (Tapit) against the blue-blooded stakes newcomer ARIENZA (Giant's Causeway).
MIDWEST (Illinois, Kentucky) / KATHMANBLU THE EARLY CHOICE IN ASHLAND – Five D Thoroughbreds and Wind River Stables’ Kathmanblu carries a three-race winning streak and the role of morning line favorite into Saturday’s 74th running of the $400,000 Central Bank Ashland Stakes (Grade I) at Keeneland.
KATHMANBLU (Bluegrass Cat) arrived at Keeneland on Wednesday afternoon from Florida, four days after turning in a bullet work at Gulfstream Park in preparation for Saturday's $400,000 Ashland (G1). A victory in the 1 1/16-mile stakes on Keeneland's Polytrack would give the filly her first Grade 1 score in front of a hometown crowd for her connections, a key factor in the decision to run her in the race.
Robert and Lawana Low's royally-bred ARIENZA (Giant's Causeway) now seems poised to take on the challenge of Sunday's Fantasy S. (G2), according to trainer Danny Peitz.
"It almost seems like we have to do it," Peitz said Thursday morning. "She's doing fine and I wouldn't do it if she wasn't, and with just a couple horses going, it seems like the right move."
The other newsmaker already lined up for the Fantasy is JOYFUL VICTORY (Tapit), an 8 3/4-length winner of the Honeybee S. (G3) at this track and 1 1/16-mile distance on March 12.
Grade 2 heroine KATHMANBLU (Bluegrass Cat) will seek to solidify her status as one of the favorites for the May 6 Kentucky Oaks (G1) when she lines up in the $400,000 Ashland S. (G1) on Saturday during Keeneland's opening weekend. The Kenny McPeek charge, who was last seen taking the Rachel Alexandra S. (G3) at Fair Grounds, will be making her synthetic Polytrack debut in the 1 1/16-mile test, but is a multiple stakes winner over the turf.
Keeneland racing secretary Ben Huffman is anticipating a field of eight three-year-old fillies for Saturday's 74th running of the Ashland, the first of the meet's four Grade 1 races.
Topping the list of probables is Five D Thoroughbreds and Wind River Stables' KATHMANBLU (Bluegrass Cat), a four-time stakes winner trained by Ken McPeek. Scheduled to arrive at Keeneland on Wednesday, Kathmanblu worked a bullet five furlongs in :59 on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
FLORIDA / PLETCHER’S R HEAT LIGHTNING HEADS GULFSTREAM PARK OAKS – Paul R. Robsham Stables’ R Heat Lightning was considered a major contender for the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) heading into Saturday’s $300,000 Gulfstream Oaks (GII), but her 8 ¼-length demolition of six rivals at Gulfstream Park could make her the filly to beat in America’s greatest race for 3-year-old fillies on Friday, May 6 race at Churchill Downs.
E. Paul Robsham Stable's homebred R HEAT LIGHTNING (Trippi) dominated Saturday's $300,000 Gulfstream Oaks (G2) under jockey John Velazquez, romping by 8 1/4 lengths under her own power to finish 1 1/8 miles on the fast Gulfstream dirt in 1:49 1/5.
Two candidates for next Saturday's 74th running of the $400,000 Ashland S. (G1) at Keeneland tuned up for the 1 1/16-mile contest with works on a cool Saturday morning at the Lexington, Kentucky, track.
WYOMIA (Vindication), with jockey Freddie Lenclud aboard, covered a half-mile in :47 4/5 while posting fractions of :11 3/5 and :24. The dark bay miss galloped out five furlongs in 1:01 1/5.
"It was a little quicker than I wanted, but it was OK," said trainer Curtis Garrison, who never has had a starter at Keeneland.
Some new shooters joined the Kentucky Oaks (G1) picture following last weekend's preps, and they did so in dazzling fashion. PLUM PRETTY (Medaglia d'Oro) and SUMMER SOIREE (War Front) never encountered a single threat in their picture perfect wins, while DAISY DEVINE (Kafwain) offered a slight upset in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2).
FLORIDA / PLETCHER’S R HEAT LIGHTNING HEADS GULFSTREAM PARK OAKS – The romp by Paul R. Robsham Stables’ R Heat Lightning in last month’s Davona Dale (Grade II) was one of the more dazzling efforts by a 3-year-old filly at Gulfstream Park this winter and made the Todd Pletcher-trained filly one of the favorites for next month’s 137th running of the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (GI) at Churchill Downs.
SUMMER SOIREE (War Front), who romped by 10 3/4 lengths in last Saturday's Bourbonette Oaks (G3) at Turfway Park, has been bought by Team Valor International and will be pointed to the May 6 Kentucky Oaks (G1), it was announced Thursday.
Brereton C. Jones, his son Bret Jones and the Wahoo Partners LLC sold the filly for an undisclosed sum.
R HEAT LIGHTNING (Trippi), a smashing 7 1/4-length winner of the February 26 Davona Dale S. (G2), tops a field of seven three-year-old fillies in Saturday's $300,000 Gulfstream Oaks (G2) at 1 1/8 miles. The Todd Pletcher pupil figures to be a strong favorite in her final tune-up for the Kentucky Oaks (G1) on May 6.
Robert and Lawana Low's regally-bred filly ARIENZA (Giant's Causeway) stamped herself a serious contender for the April 10 Fantasy S. (G2) with an impressive front-running victory in a one-mile allowance at Oaklawn Park on Sunday. The daughter of 2002 Horse of the Year and three-time Apple Blossom (G1) winner Azeri remained undefeated after two career starts, winning the 10TH race by 2 1/2 lengths over Hidatsa (Proud Citizen).
There could have been no double about who was best in Sunday's $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks, not after PLUM PRETTY (Medaglia d'Oro) asserted her dominance in the 1 1/16-mile test. All jockey Martin Garcia had to do was stay in the saddle as the bay lass drew off to a whopping 25-length victory as the 1-20 favorite.
Many were expecting Saturday's $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) to be the coming-out party for Rachel Alexandra S. (G3) runner-up Inglorious (Hennessy), but it was James M. Miller's DAISY DEVINE (Kafwain) who asserted her authority over the 1 1/16-mile contest.
Wahoo Partners LLC & Bret and Brereton C. Jones' SUMMER SOIREE (War Front) took the lead when the gates opened on Saturday's $100,000 Bourbonette Oaks (G3) at Turfway Park and never looked back en route to a dominating 10 3/4-length victory under Gabriel Saez. The bay filly was never challenged in the one-mile Polytrack test, posting splits of :24 4/5, :48 2/5, 1:12 3/5 and 1:25 2/5 before stopping the clock in 1:38 3/5 for trainer Larry Jones.