Santa Anita Oaks, Ashland, and Gazelle among final key preps for Kentucky Oaks

Apr 03, 2019 Vance Hanson/

Bellafina, widely considered the current favorite for the Kentucky Oaks (G1), has her final tune-up for that May 4 event on Saturday in the $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks (G1).

The 1 1/16-mile event is one of three Road to the Kentucky Oaks series preps that will take place on Saturday across the country, the others being the $500,000 Ashland (G1) at Keeneland over 1 1/16 miles and the $300,000 Gazelle (G2) at Aqueduct over 1 1/8 miles. Oaks qualifying points of 100-40-20-10 will be distributed to the top four finishers in each race.

A multiple Grade 1 winner last year before a surprising but excusable fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) when she was determined to be in season, Bellafina was a facile winner of the seven-furlong Santa Yez (G2) in early January, but a much narrower scorer of the one-mile Las Virgenes two months ago when setting a pressured pace.

Trainer Bob Baffert will provide the chief opposition. Starlet (G1) winner Chasing Yesterday, a half-sister to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, enters off a popular win in the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks in which she started as the 1-20 favorite. Baffert also saddles Flor de La Mar, a daughter of Tiznow who on debut in January before disappointing in an allowance as an odds-on choice.

Stirred and Slewgoodtobetrue, both of whom were unplaced in their only prior stakes attempts, complete the short field.

The Ashland features a rematch of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies one-two Jaywalk and Restless Rider. Voted champion of the division after the Breeders' Cup score, Jaywalk was a stunning disappointment in last month's Davona Dale (G2) at Gulfstream when she weakened to fourth as the 1-5 favorite.

Restless Rider, who won the Alcibiades (G1) over the Ashland track and trip in October, was also upset at odds-on when last seen in the Golden Rod (G2) at Churchill on Thanksgiving weekend. The gray by Distorted Humor has been in steady training for Kenny McPeek all winter at Gulfstream.

Feedback stretches out beyond seven furlongs for the first time after winning the Forward Gal (G3) in early February for Chad Brown. She also won her debut at Saratoga last August.

Chocolate Kisses stands to benefit if the pace is fast, as was the case in last month's Honeybee (G3) at Oaklawn when she made up a 12-length deficit to win by one length. Others of note in the Ashland are Bell's the One, who is unbeaten from four starts including a pair of stakes at Fair Grounds, and Lady Kate, second in the $100,000 Suncoast at Tampa Bay Downs in her second career start.

The Gazelle has a similarly short field of six. Positive Spirit, who dominated the track-and-distance Demoiselle (G2) in November, looks to rebound from a poor showing in the February 16 Rachel Alexandra (G2) at Fair Grounds.

Also in the lineup are Espresso Shot, winner of the $250,000 Busher; Always Shopping, who landed the $100,000 Busanda in early February; and California-based allowance winner Proud Emma.

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