Stronach Stable’s Awesome Feather, the unbeaten 2-year-old filly champion of 2010 and winner of the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (Grade I), sits atop 117 talented fillies on the roster of early nominees to compete for a record $1 million purse offered for the 137th running of the Kentucky Oaks on Friday, May 6 at Churchill Downs.
ZAZU (Tapit) had fallen to TURBULENT DESCENT (Congrats) in their two meetings prior to the February 5 Las Virgenes S. (G1) at Santa Anita, and finally managed to turn the tables in that one-mile affair when scoring by 1 1/4 lengths over her rival. On Saturday, the pair will face-off for a fourth time in the $250,000 Santa Anita Oaks (G1) while stretching back out to 1 1/16 miles.
Considering that Donna Eaton's GOLDEN SPRINGS (Pomeroy) had dropped her last eight since breaking her maiden for a $25,000 tag, she was ignored as the longest shot on the board at 42-1 in Sunday's $50,000 Island Fashion S. at Sunland Park. But the stretch-out to two turns produced a massive turnaround in form for the Joyce Salisbury trainee, who upset this prep for the March 27 Sunland Park Oaks and furnished an $86.40 win payout.
Shawnee Racing Stable's HARLAN'S RUBY (Harlan's Holiday) returned from a four-month layoff to win Saturday night's $50,000 Valdale S. at Turfway Park, setting her up for a run at the Bourbonette Oaks (G3) on March 26. Veteran rider Perry Ouzts was in the irons for trainer Ken McPeek.
"(The Bourbonette) has been our plan, if we were successful here," assistant trainer Michael Kleier said. "She has a lot of class and she's been in Florida training very forwardly, and she's had a lot of experience going long. We wanted to get a race on this track and feel confident about winning.
Trainer Ken McPeek, who saddled KATHMANBLU (Bluegrass Cat) to win Fair Grounds' Rachel Alexandra S. (G3) February 19 and ROGUE ROMANCE (Smarty Jones) to run third in the Risen Star S. (G2) on the same day, indicated Sunday morning that both the filly and the colt would be returning to New Orleans to run back in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) and the Louisiana Derby (G2), respectively, on March 26.
"Everything is fine with both of them," McPeek said Sunday morning from South Florida, "and we're planning on coming back with both of them."
E Paul Robsham Stables LLC's homebred R HEAT LIGHTNING (Trippi) scooted through on the rail in Saturday's $250,000 Davona Dale Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park and pulled away to be 7 1/4 lengths clear on the wire of the one-mile test. Sent off the 5-2 second choice in the nine-filly field, the Todd Pletcher trainee stopped the clock in 1:36 1/5 to return $7, $3.20 and $2.40 to her backers.
KATHMANBLU (Bluegrass Cat) was the big story over the past two weeks, but a couple of new shooters have popped up and could offer that one a real challenge come Kentucky Oaks Day. They'll have to move forward, but anything can happen in the two months leading up to the big day.
FLORIDA / DANCINGINHERDREAMS LOOKS TO REBOUND IN DAVONA DALE – John C. Oxley’s Dancinginherdreams suffered her first career defeat in her 2011 racing debut, but that has not deterred admirers who are expected to make the nearly white filly 3-year-old favorite in Saturday’s $250,000 Davona Dale (Grade (GII) at Florida’s Gulfstream Park.
HARLAN'S RUBY (Harlan's Holiday), the runner-up in the Alcibiades S. (G1) two starts back at Keeneland, will revert to Polytrack for her three-year-old debut in Saturday's $50,000 Valdale S. at Turfway Park. Only eighth when last seen in the November 5 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) on the dirt at Churchill Downs, the Ken McPeek trainee figures to enjoy the surface switch.
Under a pitch-perfect ride by master tactician Frankie Dettori, Godolphin's KHAWLAH (Cape Cross [Ire]) struck the front while prohibitive favorite Mahbooba (Galileo [Ire]) was still awaiting room, and the Saeed bin Suroor filly proved more than capable of springing the upset in Thursday's $250,000 U.A.E. Oaks (UAE-G3). Staying on powerfully for the length of the stretch, Khawlah fended off the prolonged challenge of Mahbooba by 1 1/4 lengths in a stakes-record 1:58 2/5 for about 1 3/16 miles on Meydan's Tapeta.
Continuing a commitment to new Kentucky Oaks Day traditions established two years ago, Churchill Downs Racetrack, the home of the world-famous Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks, and Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, the world’s largest breast cancer organization, have renewed their partnership to raise funds to aid in breast cancer awareness and research through events on Friday, May 6 – the day prior to the famed “Run for the Roses.”
POMEROYS PISTOL (Pomeroy) handed DANCINGINHERDREAMS (Tapit) a first career loss when holding that rival by three parts of a length in the January 30 Forward Gal S. (G2), and on Saturday will attempt to prove that victory was no aberration when going in the $250,000 Davona Dale S. (G2) back at Gulfstream Park.
Looking to derail her chances will be the returning Dancinginherdreams, third-placer EVIL QUEEN (Hear No Evil) and fourth-place R HEAT LIGHTNING (Trippi), along with five newcomers.
This week's 2011 Dubai International Racing Carnival meeting will feature a seven-race, all Thoroughbred, card highlighted by the 10th running of the UAE Oaks (UAE-G3) on Thursday.
Five D Thoroughbreds and Wind River Stables' KATHMANBLU (Bluegrass Cat) was touted as the filly to beat in Saturday's $147,000 Rachel Alexandra S. (G3) at Fair Grounds, and didn't disappoint her numerous backers when pulling off the 1 1/4-length victory under jockey Julien Leparoux.
One of the unintended consequences of this weekend's soaking rainstorm forecast for Southern California is that Monday's $100,000 La Habra S. (G3) has the potential to develop into a prep for the Kentucky Oaks (G1). Scheduled for about 6 1/2 furlongs on the turf, the La Habra might have to be moved to the main track if the turf does not dry out sufficiently.
Seven three-year-old fillies will do battle in Saturday's $150,000 Rachel Alexandra S. (G3) at 1 1/16 miles, a tune-up for next month's Fair Grounds Oaks (G2). Renamed this season from the Silverbulletday to honor the 2009 Horse of the Year, the race is lead by Grade 2 vixen KATHMANBLU (Bluegrass Cat), who stole some of the colt Santiva's (Giant's Causeway) thunder at Churchill on November 27 with an 8 1/2-length romp in the Golden Rod.
Drs KK and Vilasini Devi Jayarman's homebred HOLY HEAVENS (Holy Bull) came three-wide into the stretch of Saturday's $75,000 Martha Washington S. at Oaklawn Park and pulled out a one-length victory on the wire. With Israel Ocampo aboard, the Benard Chatters pupil dueled late with leader Scarlet Mist (Pure Prize) and just got the best of that rival when completing the mile test on the fast dirt in 1:42 4/5.
Augustin Stable's DYNAMIC HOLIDAY (Harlan's Holiday) had to make her way through a full field in Saturday's $105,000 Florida Oaks at Tampa Bay Downs, which was being run on turf for the first time in the race's 28 year history, but veteran reinsman Ramon Dominguez never flinched as the bay lass split horses en route to a 1 3/4-length victory.
Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) champion Awesome Feather (Awesome of Course) is out of Kentucky Oaks (G1) consideration at this point with tendon issues. Her racing future was very much in doubt for a time, but recent news offers hope the talented bay could return to the track.
Nine sophomore fillies have been assembled for Saturday's $75,000 Martha Washington S. at Oaklawn Park, and a couple of top contenders, GRANDACIOUS (Grand Slam) and SUMMER SOIREE (War Front), will be seeking their first stakes victory in the one-mile event.