AGE OF HUMOR – Bluegrass Equine Center, Sky Chai Stable and Twin Creeks Farm’s Age of Humor schooled in the gate and galloped 1 ¼ miles Thursday morning with regular exercise rider Marvin Jiminez in the saddle and all was well with Aqueduct’s Busanda Stakes winner, according to trainer Mike Maker.
Age of Humor has not raced beyond 1 1/16 miles but Maker said he believes she will improve with added distance. Bred by the R.L. Reineman Stables of Russell Reineman -- breeder of 2002 Kentucky Derby winner War Emblem -- Age of Humor is by Reineman’s top stallion Distorted Humor, who sired 2003 Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide, out of Age of Silver, an unraced Silver Deputy mare. Silver Deputy sired 1999 Kentucky Oaks winner Silverbulletday.
AILALEA – The Todd Pletcher-trained daughter of Pulpit, Ailalea, had Patti Barry in the irons when she took advantage of the 8:30 a.m. “Derby/Oaks horses only” period following Churchill Downs’ renovation break. The pair covered about a mile and five-sixteenths on a lovely Kentucky morning.
The winner of Aqueduct’s Tempted Stakes (GIII) will have New York-based star jockey John Velazquez as her rider Friday for the nine-furlong Kentucky Oaks journey. They will break from post 12 in the 14-horse field and have been installed at 15-1 in the morning line for the “Run for the Lillies.”
AMEN HALLELUJAH – IEAH Stables and Whizway Farms’ Amen Hallelujah galloped once around the track under Michelle Nevin Thursday morning at Churchill Downs in preparation for a start in Friday’s Kentucky Oaks.
Trainer Rick Dutrow will send the Florida-bred filly to the track on race morning for a short breeze through the homestretch, a strategy he used with 2008 Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown on the morning of his Preakness victory.
Julien Leparoux will have the mount on the daughter of Montbrook.
BEAUTICIAN – Trainer Ken McPeek’s 3-year-old filly Beautician galloped 1 ¾ miles Thursday morning during the time reserved for Oaks and Derby starters. Afterward, the conditioner said he’s hoping that his role as matchmaker will be the recipe for success.
“I’m really excited about Alex Solis being on her for the Oaks,” McPeek said. “Solis has had a great touch with fillies his entire career, and he’s won three stakes on fillies for me recently. I think he can move Beautician up a notch, and that’s all she needs.”
Beautician has finished second four times in graded stakes company, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI), Spinaway (GI), Schuylerville (G2) and Honeybee (G3).
McPeek is one of seven trainers who has horses entered in this year’s Kentucky Derby and Oaks, joining Todd Pletcher, D. Wayne Lukas, John Sadler, Dale Romans, Rick Dutrow and Mike Maker.
BELLA DIAMANTE – Lone Star Stables’ Bella Diamante jogged during the Derby and Oaks training session with Eddie Milligan Jr., brother of trainer Allen Milligan, aboard.
“Everything went good,” Allen Milligan said. “She’s ready to go. She’s as good as she can get. This is the best she’s ever gone into a race for us. And it better be, because she’s really going to have to step up here. I just want a clean trip and no excuses.”
The name Bella Diamante (“beautiful diamond” in Italian) came from her breeder and co-owner Dr. Weldon Johnson Jr.
“He saw her as a baby and thought she was one of the prettiest horses he’d ever seen,” Eddie Milligan Jr. said.
The Oaks is the biggest race Allen Milligan has participated in to this point in his career, although he was at Churchill Downs as an assistant to Frank Brothers “for three of four years back in the late ’80’s.”
Allen Milligan’s first winner on his own came at Churchill Downs in 1988 with a horse named Victory Flyer.
Not far from the thoughts of both Milligan brothers as they prepare for the Oaks is their father, Eddie Milligan Sr., also a trainer, who died unexpectedly of a brain aneurysm Feb. 14 in Tyler, Texas, at age 66.
Asked if he was on their minds this week, Eddie Milligan Jr. replied, “Always.”
Allen Milligan said his sister will arrive Friday and the three siblings will make an emotional walk over to the paddock together.
“My mom passed away about 3 ½ years ago and now dad, so it’s just us three,” he said. “We’re all going to enjoy it and have a good time.”
BLIND LUCK – The Kentucky Oaks morning line favorite Blind Luck visited the paddock Thursday morning before galloping 1 ½ miles and also will school in the paddock during Thursday’s second race. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said Blind Luck simply will walk the shedrow Friday morning on the brink of her Oaks attempt.
Hollendorfer has two Oaks wins on his resume, Lite Light (1991) and Pike Place Dancer (1996), and stands a major chance to add a third. It’s a race that he’s grown fond of over the years.
“I’ve won it twice, but you never get tired of adding the Kentucky Oaks to your resume” he said. “It’s hard to compare horses over the years. Pike Place Dancer was so much of a bigger horse than the other two, Lite Light and Blind Luck. I’d say Blind Luck has a lot of the same style as Lite Light.”
Does the trainer think Blind Luck is his best Oaks chance ever?
“You can’t say that,” he said laughing. “Because we’ve already won the other two! I’ll take two known wins over a morning line favorite any day you offer it.”
CHAMPAGNE D’ORO – Southern Equine’s Champagne d’Oro was once again on the track as soon as it opened at 5:45 a.m. Thursday. Trainer Eric Guillot has joked that the reason he goes so early, as opposed to during the Derby and Oaks training session, is so that nobody will see what he’s up to. The real reason, though, is far more practical. With Champagne d’Oro his only horse at Churchill Downs, the trainer has no help of his own to rely on and doesn’t want to be at the track after training hours end tending to his filly.
The attractive Medaglia d’Oro filly jogged one mile and galloped one mile under exercise rider Froylan Garcia.
Later in the morning, Champagne d’Oro was brought out of her stall to show off for some visitors and elicited glowing compliments from onlookers for her good looks and exceptionally dappled coat.
Guillot believes his filly will be a factor in the Oaks. In the Fair Grounds Oaks (a race that the past two Kentucky Oaks winners prepped in), Champagne d’Oro led into the final furlong before yielding to Quiet Temper, but did not quit and held on for second, only a half-length behind the winner. Despite just one maiden win to her credit, Guillot said the filly is bound for bigger and better accomplishments.
Regarding her pedigree, Guillot said: “She’s got a Grade I-placed mom (Champagne Glow) and a stakes-placed sister and the second dam (Champagne Ginny) was a graded stakes-placed horse that produced (Grade I winner) Grand Canyon, so her mom’s a half to Grand Canyon.”
Guillot picked Champagne d’Oro out of Keeneland’s September 2008 Yearling Sale, where she was purchased for $210,000.
“I picked her out because of her demeanor,” Guillot said. “She came out and started walking and had her neck lowered and her ears pricked. I told Mike (Moreno, owner, Southern Equine Stables), man, if she’s good up front I’m going to buy this filly.”
CRISP – Michael Talla’s Crisp, winner of the Santa Anita Oaks (GI) in her most recent effort, went trackside at 6:10 a.m. Thursday for a good gallop of a mile and one half under exercise rider Lupillo Alferez.
Trackside in the viewing stand next to the six-furlong gap known as the “Lukas gap” because of its proximity to the Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas’ barn on the Churchill Downs backstretch, were Crisp’s trainer, John Sadler, and owner, Michael Talla.
“We’ve got to beat Jerry’s filly (Blind Luck, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer and listed as the 6-5 morning line favorite),” Sadler said. “She’s tough. But I think all three California fillies in the race (Blind Luck, Crisp and Evening Jewel) could run well. Both of the other two have shipped out (of California) and won stakes this year and I’d hope we could, too.”
Blind Luck captured Oaklawn Park’s Fantasy Stakes (GII) on April 2 and Evening Jewel scored by a neck in Keeneland’s Central Bank Ashland Stakes (GI) the following day.
Sadler indicated that he would put Crisp on the racetrack early Friday morning for a one-mile jog.
“Just a little something to take the edge off,” Sadler said. “She won’t be racing until late in the afternoon and if they have to wait in the barn all day they get too antsy.”
EVENING JEWEL – The Ashland Stakes (GI) winner Evening Jewel showed more composure and cooperation Friday morning as trainer Jim Cassidy put her through a 1 ¾ miles gallop on the eve of the Kentucky Oaks. After arriving in Kentucky on Tuesday, Evening Jewel was quite fresh upon her local unveiling Wednesday morning. The tone softened Thursday noticeably.
“She was much more settled today, which I expected,” Cassidy said. “There were no anxious moments.
“I feel very confident. Everything has gone better than I had hoped and we’ll see how she schools in the second race today. That will make up my mind whether I train her tomorrow or walk her. If she’s too keen in the paddock today and I think I need to take the edge of her tomorrow, we’ll train. If she’s calm today in the paddock, we’ll just walk tomorrow and be ready to go.”
Evening Jewel will be ridden by Kent Desormeaux, who guided her to a wire-to-wire victory at Keeneland last time out.
“She was the only speed in the Ashland,” Cassidy said. “I don’t want her fresh on the front end Friday.”
IT’S TEA TIME – Alex Campbell Jr.’s It’s Tea Time completed her preparations for Friday’s Oaks with a 1 ½-mile gallop after the renovation break with exercise Ronin Quinn up.
“She’ll walk in the morning,” trainer Rusty Arnold said. “She’s done. She schooled in the paddock yesterday and was excellent, even though it will be totally different Friday. She galloped well this morning.”
It’s Tea Time is the least experienced of the 14 Oaks starters with only three career starts. Also, she is the only Oaks starter not to have raced as a 2-year-old.
Is Arnold surprised to be sitting a day away from putting the Dynaformer filly in the Kentucky Oaks starting gate?
“Absolutely. Everything had to go well,” Arnold said. “If she hadn’t run as well as she did in the Ashland (a fast-closing second to Oaks rival Evening Jewel), we would not be having this conversation. We would be looking at a grass stake the middle of next month at Arlington Park.
“She ran well enough to tempt me and then the way she came out of the race also tempted me. She is a big, strong filly and we are going to take our shot.”
Alan Garcia, who has ridden It’s Tea Time in her past two starts, has the mount Friday. It’s Tea Time will break from post position one.
JOANIE’S CATCH – Rose Family Stable’s Joanie’s Catch galloped 1 ½ miles at Churchill Thursday to the satisfaction of Calder Race Course-based trainer Barry Rose.
The homebred daughter of First Tour has finished first, second or third in 16 of 18 starts, only finishing off the board in a two-furlong sprint in her debut and the Susan’s Girl Stakes in her eighth start because of sudden problems in the starting gate.
“We took the blinkers off and spent a month every day at the starting gate,” Rose said. “We figured it out. Now she doesn’t have a problem. You’ll notice she’ll go into the gate with a blanket on her back.”
Paco Lopez will have the mount aboard Joanie’s Catch.
JODY SLEW – Martin Racing Stable and Dan Morgan’s Jody Slew “backed up the chute and galloped about a mile-and-a-quarter” during the Derby and Oaks training session with Eddie Corerra in the saddle, according to trainer Bret Calhoun.
“It was very uneventful, just like we wanted it,” Calhoun added.
Jody Slew’s regular rider Miguel Mena will be in the saddle once again for the Oaks. The 23-year-old Peruvian-born jockey has been aboard for all three of Jody Slew’s starts since the filly was transferred to Calhoun’s barn after the Churchill Downs fall meet.
“Miguel’s done a great job with her and he understands her style,” Calhoun said. “He just kind of lets her run her race and finds her a spot and she thrives on that. She likes to sit back and make one run on them. Miguel’s style’s a little bit that way. He’s a patient rider and suits her very well.”
Mena earned major props after his ride aboard Jody Slew in February’s Silverbulletday Stakes (GIII) at Fair Grounds. With a quarter-mile to run Quiet Temper was cruising alone on an easy seven-length lead. Not one to panic, Mena continued to let Jody Slew run her race and in the final furlong, as Quiet Temper started to get late, Jody Slew came on with a monstrous rush seemingly out of nowhere. None of the other fillies made up ground on Quiet Temper and the top two seemed to be running in their own private race. Jody Slew and Quiet Temper hit the wire together 10 lengths ahead of the third-place finisher, Age of Humor, and Mena got the nod by a nose.
“I still didn’t think we won it,” Calhoun said this week, recalling perhaps the most thrilling finish of the Fair Grounds season. “I was thrilled that she ran well but was disappointed to get beat. For her to have gotten up was unbelievable.”
QUIET TEMPER – Co-fifth choice in the morning line for Friday’s Kentucky Oaks, Quiet Temper galloped 1 ½ miles Thursday as trainer Dale Romans watched from the clocker’s stand. With her major preparations complete, the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) winner now awaits her date with destiny.
“She galloped good and is doing good,” Romans said.
Quiet Temper improved in all three stakes tries this winter-spring at Fair Grounds and has shown a versatile running style, which could be important in a big field of 14.
“You just want a place to run when the rider calls upon your horse, that’s all you can ask for,” Romans said.
Jockey Robby Albarado has guided Quiet Temper to all three of her lifetime wins to date and will be back on board in the Oaks.
TIDAL POOL – Westrock Stables’ Tidal Pool, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, jogged a mile and five-eighths Thursday morning.
The daughter of Yankee Gentleman drew post eight in the field of 14, is 8-1 on the morning line and will be ridden by Calvin Borel, who won the race last year with Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra. Borel rode the filly to her second-place finish in the Fantasy Stakes (GII) at Oaklawn Park on April 2.