AGE OF HUMOR (post position 4, jockey Rajiv Maragh) – Twin Creek Farm’s Age of Humor drew post position No. 4 for Friday’s Kentucky Oaks, a spot that trainer Mike Maker was pleased with.
“She did fine,” Maker said.
Age of Humor will break to the outside of Quiet Temper, as she did in February’s Silverbulletday Stakes (GIII) at Fair Grounds, when she finished 10 lengths behind the top two finishers Jody Slew and Quiet Temper.
Maker also reported that Age of Humor galloped 1 3/8 miles Tuesday morning over a “sloppy” Trackside Training Center surface with regular exercise rider Marvin Jimenez up.
AILALEA (post position 12, jockey John Velazquez) – Exercise rider Patti Barry was aboard Starlight Partners’ Ailalea Tuesday morning at Churchill Downs, but the New York-based star jockey John Velazquez will be at the controls Friday when she goes postward in the 136th edition of the Kentucky Oaks.
Barry sent the Pulpit filly through a gallop of a mile and a quarter, along with a visit to the gate, following which trainer Todd Pletcher confirmed that Velazquez would ride his filly in the Run for the Lillies.
The issue of a rider for Ailalea had been up for grabs because of the situation surrounding another 3-year-old filly of Pletcher’s, Glencrest Farm’s Devil May Care. That one was being considered for a run in the Oaks, as well as a run in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby against the boys. There was further consideration to possibly enter Devil May Care in both races.
In the end, Pletcher chose to enter Devil May Care only in the Kentucky Derby, meaning Velazquez would ride her there and be available to ride Ailalea in the Oaks.
AMEN HALLELUJAH (post position 13, jockey Julien Leparoux) – IEAH Stables and Whizway Farms’ Amen Hallelujah jogged twice around the Churchill Downs track under Michelle Nevin on Tuesday morning.
“I wanted to gallop her, but it’s not a big deal that she didn’t gallop today,” said trainer Rick Dutrow, who made the change in plans because of the muddy track.
Amen Hallelujah, who won the Davona Dale Stakes (GII) before finishing second behind Devil May Care in the Bonnie Miss Stakes (GII) at Gulfstream Park in her most recent start, has never run a race on an “off” track, but her trainer expects her to perform well should the track come up muddy or sloppy Friday.
“She loves the grass; she won a big race on ‘poly;’ she’s run a big race on dirt. I don’t know why she won’t like the mud,” Dutrow said.
BEAUTICIAN (post position 6, jockey Alex Solis) – The cut on the left-hind leg of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) runner-up Beautician won’t be an issue in the Kentucky Oaks, trainer Ken McPeek said Tuesday morning. Beautician walked the shedrow Tuesday, as is the custom for all the barn’s horses on the day after a workout.
Beautician drilled a half-mile in :49.20 on Monday and emerged with a cut to the front of her left-hind leg.
“She did a little ‘speed cut’ on the left-hind, and she’s had a history of it her entire career,” McPeek said. “We think we have it figured out if we rearrange her shoes that she won’t catch her left-hind leg with her front-left foot when she runs. We’re changing the way she’s shod and that hopefully will take care of it.”
McPeek said that Beautician will be back on track, right on schedule, Wednesday morning. Later Tuesday, she drew post position six for the Kentucky Oaks and was installed as a 15-to-1 morning line proposition by track oddsmaker Mike Battaglia.
Jockey Alex Solis and trainer McPeek both will be in search of their first Kentucky Oaks victories in Friday’s feature.
BELLA DIAMANTE (post position 9, jockey Mike Smith) – Lone Star Stables’ Bella Diamante appeared on the track during the Derby and Oaks training session with Eddie Milligan Jr. aboard.
“I just backed her up to the seven-eighths pole and galloped her once around,” said Eddie Milligan Jr., brother of trainer Allen Milligan. “She felt great. She hit the ground really good. [She] handled the off going pretty well … really no complaints. Everything went well.”
Allen Milligan will arrive in town Thursday.
BLIND LUCK (post position 5, jockey Rafael Bejarano) – With trainer Jerry Hollendorfer in town to observe, three-time Grade I winner Blind Luck galloped 1 ½ miles Tuesday morning under exercise rider Archie Cross. The morning exercises also included trips to the starting gate to stand, and to the paddock.
Just a few hours later, Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia installed the heroine of the Oak Leaf, Hollywood Starlet and Las Virgenes Stakes as the strong 6-to-5 morning line favorite to win the $500,000-added Kentucky Oaks.
With Devil May Care’s connections opting to run their leading filly in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby 136 rather than the Oaks, the path to the lillies would appear easier for Blind Luck on paper.
“I don’t begrudge anyone wanting to a run a horse in the Derby,” Hollendorfer said. “But I never considered Blind Luck for the Derby. She’s been aimed for the Oaks all year and that never changed with me.”
Cross said Monday that Blind Luck took some time to get a hold of the track, but beamed Tuesday after coming back to the barn.
“She took to today’s track like a duck to water,” Cross said. “The track was squishy today and she loved it. Yesterday it was half sealed, half opened and had a different feel to it.”
Hollendorfer aims for a third career Oaks score, following successes by Lite Light in 1991 and Pike Place Dancer in 1996. Jockey Rafael Bejarano has the Oaks mount on Blind Luck as he seeks his first win in the race. Bejarano was widely criticized in Blind Luck’s only loss this year, a troubled third in the Santa Anita Oaks (GI).
“The one thing about Bejarano, you can bet he won’t make the same mistake twice,” Hollendorfer said.
Regarding post position five, Hollendorfer said, “I think that post is good. I was talking to Rafael this morning and we thought from the five on out to the 10 would be OK for us, so he’s happy with that.
“He’s ridden this filly a lot of times so he knows this filly well and he knows the track and he’s a very good rider so you couldn’t ask for much more than that.
“She’s been training well. She went through the mud pretty nice this morning and it didn’t look like it bothered her at all.”
CHAMPAGNE D’ORO (post position 10, jockey Martin Garcia) – Southern Equine’s Champagne d’Oro made it into the Kentucky Oaks field, just as trainer Eric Guillot said she would.
“I told everybody I had some insight,” Guillot said. “I know things. I’m like Sixth Sense.”
Champagne d’Oro drew post position No. 10 for the Oaks, further out than Guillot would have liked.
“I can’t get a good draw,” the trainer said. “I’ll just have to out-train them all, like I always do.”
Tongue-in-cheek boastfulness is a regular part of the Guillot persona. Earlier in the morning Guillot attempted in vain to position Champagne d’Oro, who broke her maiden in February and has yet to win a race beyond one mile, as the filly to beat.
“The rumor I’m hearing is that Todd Pletcher’s scared to run against ‘Champagne’ and that’s why he’s entering Devil May Care in the Derby,” Guillot said. “And I don’t blame him. This is for all the marbles and you don’t want to face one that Guillot trains.”
A number of question marks dog Champagne d’Oro coming into the Oaks, but Guillot said he is at least confident that he’s done everything he can to have the Medaglia d’Oro filly at her best.
Said Guillot: “Is she a mile-and-an-eighth horse? I don’t know. She needed that race, obviously, first-time routing this year. Is she doing wonderful? You can’t get a horse to do any better. She looks great, she hollers for her feed, she hollers for her walk in the afternoon. She’s training like a boogie bear.”
Champagne d’Oro came onto the track as soon as it opened Tuesday under exercise rider Froylan Garcia.
“We went one and one at 5:45, like clockwork. Jogged one, galloped one, pulled me around the shedrow,” Guillot said. “We’ll school tomorrow during the fifth race. Everything I can control is controlled. Everything that I can’t control is out of my hands.”
CRISP (post position 7, jockey Joel Rosario) – It was an early go – 6:15 – Tuesday morning for Michael Talla’s Crisp as she continued her preparations for Friday’s $500,000 Kentucky Oaks. Trainer John Sadler had planned a post-renovation-break exercise for the 3-year-old daughter of El Corredor, but a funky weather report, raindrops falling and a chance to catch a “smooth” track early meant that Plan B kicked in.
Exercise rider Lupillo Alferez took advantage of the situation to gallop his filly approximately a mile and one half before returning to Barn 42 on the Churchill Downs backstretch.
Crisp, who won the Santa Anita Oaks (GI) on March 6 in her most recent start, will be ridden Friday by Joel Rosario, one of California’s current riding stars and a favorite of Sadler’s.
“He’s just good,” the trainer said. “An instinctual rider who knows how to win.”
EVENING JEWEL (post position 11, jockey Kent Desormeaux) – After a cross-country flight from Ontario, Calif., Kentucky Oaks contender Evening Jewel walked off the van at Churchill Downs at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday. Trainer James Cassidy was there to greet his Central Bank Ashland Stakes (GI) winner and reported all was well.
“She travels well and looks just fine,” Cassidy said upon her arrival. “We’ll gallop her the next few days leading up to the race, beginning tomorrow morning.”
The California-to-Kentucky flight was the second for Evening Jewel in the past month. In April she invaded Lexington’s Keeneland Racecourse before returning home to California for her Oaks preparations.
Evening Jewel drew post 11 for the Kentucky Oaks, and has been installed at 10-to-1 odds in the morning line. Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux, a three-time Kentucky Derby winner, will aim to register his first Kentucky Oaks victory on Friday.
“I’m not unhappy with it (the 11 hole),” Cassidy said. “Of course we would have liked to have been inside a little bit. This forces us to sit back, which is what I wanted to do anyway. We certainly didn’t want to be on the lead.
“The only reason we were on the lead in the Ashland was there was no speed in there.”
IT’S TEA TIME (post position 1, jockey Alan Garcia) – Alex Campbell Jr.’s It’s Tea Time galloped a mile and a half through a steady downpour after the renovation break under exercise rider Ronan Quinn.
“She had an excellent morning,” trainer Rusty Arnold said as It’s Tea Time cooled out back at Barn 28. “I was going to take her to the gate today, but with all the rain I decided to wait until tomorrow when it should be better.”
Runner-up in the Central Bank Ashland Stakes (GI) in her stakes debut on April 3 at Keeneland, It’s Tea Time will be ridden in the Oaks by Alan Garcia.
Tuesday’s activity marked the second day on the track at Churchill Downs for It’s Tea Time who shipped to Churchill Downs on Sunday. She has gone out both days at 8:30 after the renovation break during the 15-minute window exclusively for Kentucky Oaks and Derby runners.
“I think that is a great idea,” Arnold said. “There is a lot less traffic and it makes it much easier to keep track of your horse.”
It’s Tea Time drew post one for the Oaks, which was bad news for Arnold.
“I’ll take anything but the one,” Arnold said before the draw. “The one hole is a tough thing for a young horse. They are going to be looking at things they likely will never see again. I don’t think any trainer in the Oaks or Derby would want the one hole.”
JOANIE’S CATCH (post position 14, jockey Paco Lopez) – Rose Family Stable’s Joanie’s Catch walked the shedrow at Churchill Downs on Tuesday morning after arriving by van from her Calder Race Course base.
The daughter of First Tour, who has finished first, second or third in 16 of 18 starts, will break from the far-outside No. 14 post position under jockey Paco Lopez.
“We didn’t get the best post position, but we’ll handle it,” trainer Barry Rose said. “If I were going for the early lead, I’d be really upset, but we’re not. For us, it’s just a matter of getting good position into the turn. Paco will have to deal with it.”
JODY SLEW (post position 2, jockey Miguel Mena) – Martin Racing Stable and Dan Morgan’s Jody Slew galloped 1 ½ miles during the Derby and Oaks training session with Eddie Corerra in the saddle.
“Everything’s good but this weather, man,” said Dennis “Peaches” Geier, assistant to trainer Bret Calhoun. “She’ll do the same thing tomorrow and she’ll school tomorrow.”
After winning the first two legs of Fair Grounds’ series of three major stakes races for 3-year-old fillies, Jody Slew finished seventh in the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) won by Quiet Temper. About 10 days before that race, Jody Slew was cast in her stall and suffered bruising (“up high on the inside of her rear end,” Calhoun said at the time) that forced her to miss a scheduled work. Since then, according to Geier, there have been no signs of any residual problems.
“She’s back to her old self, believe me,” Geier said. “She’s definitely back to her old self. I know I’m prejudiced but I think she’s going to run good.”
QUIET TEMPER (post position 3, jockey Robby Albarado) – Two-time graded stakes winner Quiet Temper galloped 1 ½ miles Tuesday morning under Javier Tapia as she continued her Kentucky Oaks preparations. She made her morning appearance
along with stablemate and Kentucky Derby hopeful Paddy O’Prado, giving trainer Dale Romans a potent one-two punch.
Romans is among seven trainers likely to have starters in both the Oaks and Derby this week. He joins Mike Maker, D. Wayne Lukas, John Sadler, Ken McPeek, Rick Dutrow and Todd Pletcher. Note that no trainer has won both of Churchill Downs’ spring centerpieces in the same year since Ben Jones swept the two in 1952 with Real Delight and Hill Gail.
Quiet Temper drew post three in Tuesday morning’s traditional pill-pull for the Kentucky Oaks.
“I didn’t want to be right on the rail and I didn’t want to be way on the outside so I think it’s a good spot for us,” Romans said. “Robby (Albarado) doesn’t take a backseat to anybody so he knows his way around there.”
Albarado will have the mount once again in the Kentucky Oaks. He’s been aboard for all three of the filly’s victories, including the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) and Delta Princess (GIII).
SEEKING THE TITLE – Charles Fipke’s Seeking the Title entered the Oaks but was excluded because of insufficient graded stakes earnings. Fifteen fillies were entered but the field was limited to the 14 entries with the most graded stakes earnings.
TIDAL POOL (post position 8, jockey Calvin Borel) – Westrock Stables’ Tidal Pool, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, walked Tuesday, the morning after she had a two-furlong blowout Monday morning.
Tidal Pool, a daughter of Yankee Gentlemen, was third in the Tiffany Lass and second to Blind Luck in the Fantasy (GII) at Oaklawn Park this season.
Blind Luck is the 6-5 morning-line favorite in the Oaks.