Mark DeDomenico, John Carver and Jerry Hollendorfer’s Blind Luck, a three-time Grade I stakes winner, tops a stellar cast of 14 3-year-old fillies entered Tuesday for Friday’s 136th running of the $500,000 Kentucky Oaks (GI) at Churchill Downs.
The Oaks will be the centerpiece of a 12-race program beginning at 10:30 a.m. (EDT) that also features the Churchill Downs return of 2009 Kentucky Oaks winner Rachel Alexandra, who will face five rivals in the $400,000-added La Troienne (GII) earlier on the card. The Oaks, run on Churchill Downs’ traditional dirt course, will go as the 11th race Friday with a 5:45 p.m. post time. The race will be televised nationally on Bravo from 5-6 p.m.
Blind Luck, who is trained by Hollendorfer, comes into the Oaks off a 2 ½-length victory in the Fantasy (GII). Rafael Bejarano, who was aboard for the Fantasy triumph and also rode Blind Luck to victory on synthetic tracks in the Las Virgenes (GI) at Santa Anita and the Hollywood Starlet (GI) at Hollywood Park, has the call Friday. The daughter of Pollard’s Vision was made the 6-5 morning line favorite for America’s premiere race for 3-year-old fillies by Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia, will break from post position five. All fillies will carry 121 pounds.
The California-based Hollendorfer is seeking his third victory in the Oaks. His previous winners were Lite Light in 1991 and Pike Place Dancer in 1996.
Also seeking his third training victory in the Kentucky Oaks is Todd Pletcher, who will send out Starlight Partners’ Ailalea. Pletcher notched his first Oaks victory in 2004 with Ashado, who was owned in partnership by Starlight, and scored again in 2007 with Rags to Riches. John Velazquez, who rode Ashado to her Oaks victory, will ride Ailalea. The daughter of Pulpit will break from post position 12 and is listed at 15-1 on Battaglia’s morning line.
Seeking a record-tying fifth Oaks victory is Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. He will saddle Westrock Stables’ Tidal Pool, who will break from post position eight under Calvin Borel. Borel won last year’s Oaks on Rachel Alexandra by 20 ¼ lengths. Lukas’ previous Kentucky Oaks winners were Blush With Pride (1982), Lucky Lucky Lucky (1984), Open Mind (1989) and Seaside Attraction (1990). He is aiming to tie the record of five Oaks winners saddled by fellow Hall of Fame trainer Woody Stephens.
Tidal Pool, runner-up to Blind Luck in the Fantasy, is 8-1 on the morning line and co-second choice with Crisp and Amen Hallelujah.
Michael Talla’s Crisp, winner of the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks in her most recent start on March 6, is trained by John Sadler. She will break from post position seven under jockey Joel Rosario. IEAH Stables and Whizway Farms’ Amen Hallelujah, winner of the Santa Ynez (GII) and Davona Dale (GII) and runner-up to Kentucky Derby contender Devil May Care in the Bonnie Miss (GII), is trained is trained by Rick Dutrow and will be ridden by Eclipse Award winner Julien Leparoux. Amen Hallelujah will break from post position 13.
The field for the 136th Kentucky Oaks, from the rail out, is as follows: It’s Tea Time (Alan Garcia, 15-1), Jody Slew (Miguel Mena, 30-1), Quiet Temper (Robby Albarado, 10-1), Age of Humor (Rajiv Maragh, 30-1), Blind Luck (Rafael Bejarano, 6-5), Beautician (Alex Solis, 15-1), Crisp (Joel Rosario, 8-1), Tidal Pool (Calvin Borel, 8-1), Bella Diamante (Mike Smith, 30-1), Champagne d’Oro (Martin Garcia, 30-1), Evening Jewel (Kent Desormeaux, 10-1), Ailalea (John Velazquez, 15-1), Amen Hallelujah (Julien Leparoux, 8-1) and Joanie’s Catch (Paco Lopez, 30-1). All starters carry 121 pounds.
Stonecrest Farm’s Rachel Alexandra was the third consecutive winner of the Kentucky Oaks to be named that year’s champion 3-year-old filly, and the second in three years to defeat males in her next start in one of the classic Triple Crown races. Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith’s Rags to Riches won the 2007 Oaks and would go on to score an historic victory over eventual “Horse of the Year” Curlin and other males in the Belmont Stakes (GI), the third jewel of racing’s Triple Crown. She was the first filly in a century to win the 1 ½-mile “Test of the Champion.” Brereton C. Jones’ Proud Spell, a homebred daughter of Proud Citizen, won the Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old following her Oaks victory in 2008.
Other recent stars who won the Kentucky Oaks on their way to 3-year-old championship honors include Ashado (2004), Bird Town (’03), Farda Amiga (’02), Silverbulletday (’99), Open Mind (’89), and Tiffany Lass (’86). Fillies that failed to win the Oaks but went on to earn Eclipse Award championship honors at the conclusion of their 3-year-old seasons include Wait A While (3rd in 2006), Banshee Breeze (2nd in ’98), and Go for Wand (2nd in 1990).