For the first time in track history, Churchill Downs will start its 2011 Spring Meet and Kentucky Derby Week in prime time. The first day of Churchill Downs’ 39-day Spring Meet on Saturday, April 30 will take place at night under the lights with the first of 11 live races scheduled for 6 p.m. ET. The unique, first-time event is simply billed as “Opening Night.”
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.
Last week was pretty light in terms of Kentucky Oaks (G1) preps, but this weekend more than makes up for it. With the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), Bourbonette Oaks (G3) and Sunland Park Oaks all scheduled, the Oaks trail is heating up again.
The Santa Paula S., which was downgraded from Grade 3 status this year, featured a field of six fillies last Sunday and turned into yet another easy win for the up-and-coming MILDLY OFFENSIVE (Sharp Humor).
SOUTH (Arkansas, Louisiana) / INGLORIOUS FAVORED IN FAIR GROUNDS OAKS AS KATHMANBLU PASSES – Carl Moore Management LLC’s Inglorious made an unexpected transition from major contender to morning line favorite for Saturday’s$500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (Grade II) when the connections of Kathmanbludecided to pass on the New Orleans race in favor of Keeneland’s Grade I Central Bank Ashland Stakes for her final prep for the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (GI).
With the defection of Rachel Alexandra S. (G3) winner Kathmanblu (Bluegrass Cat) to the April 9 Ashland S. (G1), INGLORIOUS (Hennessy) has become the top draw for Saturday's $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (G2). The bay lass finished well in the Rachel Alexandra to take second and could return to the winner's circle in Saturday's 1 1/16-mile test over the New Orleans oval.
A field of 11 three-year-old fillies was entered on Wednesday for Saturday's $100,000 Bourbonette Oaks (G3), the highlight of the Spiral S. (G2) undercard at Turfway Park, and the winner just may earn a spot in the starting gate for the May 6 Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs.