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.
R Heat Lightning will attempt to build on that effort on Saturday when she faces six rivals in the $300,000 Gulfstream Oaks (GII). The Gulfstream race will be her first at the Kentucky Oaks distance of 1 1/8 miles.
“I think it’s a question mark until she does it,” Pletcher told the Daily Racing Form. “She shows up every time – she will try hard. … The key will be how well she settles the first part.”
Regular pilot John Velazquez will be the saddle as the 3-year-old daughter of Trippi, who is the only graded stakes winner in the field and will break from post five. Pletcher’s filly was the runner-up to unbeaten 2-year-old filly champion Awesome Feather in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) in early November at Churchill Downs. Her juvenile campaign also included a win in Saratoga’s Spinaway (GI). She will carry 122 pounds and concede from four to six pounds to her Gulfstream Oaks rivals.
Primary opposition could come from Darley Stable’s unbeaten It’s Tricky, whose victory in the Busher Stakes at Aqueduct makes her the only other stakes winner in the field. All three wins by Kiaran McLaughlin-trained daughter of Mineshaft have come over the course at New York’s Aqueduct. She will be ridden by Alan Garcia.
Other contenders include the James Jerkens-trained Triune, who finished behind unbeaten Dynamic Holiday on turf in fourth and third place finishes, respectively, in Gulfstream’s Herecomesthebride (GIII) and the Tropical Park Oaks at Calder; Kindersley, a Michael Matz trained daughter of Bernardini who is coming off an impressive one-mile maiden win; and Beso Grande and Island School, the 1-3 finishers in a recent one-mile allowance race over the Gulfstream Park surface.
MIDWEST (Illinois, Kentucky) / TEAM VALOR PURCHASES SUMMER SOIREE, WILL BID FOR KENTUCKY OAKS – Team Valor International, hot on the Kentucky Derby trail with Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (GIII) winner Animal Kingdom, now has a contender for the Kentucky Oaks following this week’s purchase of Summer Soiree, the runaway winner of last week’s Bourbonette Oaks (GIII) at Turfway Park.
Team Valor International CEO Barry Irwin issued a press release to announce the purchase of the daughter of hot sire War Front from former Kentucky Gov. Brereton Jones, his son Bret Jones and Wahoo Partners. The purchase price was not disclosed
Summer Soiree, who was saddled by Kentucky Oaks-winning trainer J. Larry Jones in her 10 ¾-length romp over Turfway’s synthetic Polytrack surface in the one-mile Bourbonette Oaks, will be transferred to the care of Graham Motion, who trains Animal Kingdom and Team Valor’s North American division.
“We saw her race in person on Saturday and we were very impressed with her,” Irwin said. “She appeared to be just galloping. Larry Jones has done a remarkable job with her.”
Summer Soiree, who won her two 2011 starts for Jones by 20 ½ lengths, will prepare for her Kentucky Oaks bid with Motion’s stable at Keeneland, which also has a Polytrack surface.
Although Summer Soiree has left his barn, trainer Larry Jones still has a major Kentucky Oaks contender in his care in Fox Hill Farm’s Joyful Victory, an easy winner of Oaklawn Park’s Honeybee (GIII) in her 2011 debut.
Dancinginherdreams Awaits Return to Keeneland for Ashland – Two losses over the winter in Florida by John C. Oxley’s Dancinginherdreams have been disappointing, but trainer John Ward Jr. is pushing ahead with Kentucky Oaks plans for the gray daughter of Tapit and her final prep for that race will come next week in Kentucky.
Ward told Daily Racing Form this week that the winner of last fall’s Pocahontas (GII) at Churchill Downs will run next in Keeneland’s $400,000 Central Bank Ashland (GI) at 1 1/16 miles on Saturday, April 9.
“That’s been the plan all along,” Ward told DRF’s Mike Welsch at Gulfstream, “Two races here, give her six weeks and run her two turns for the first time down the short stretch at Keeneland in the Ashland.”
Dancinginherdreams was a runner-up Pomeroys Pistol in the Forward Gal (GII) and R Heat Lightning in the Davona Dale in her two Gulfstream Park starts, both of which came at the Florida track’s one-turn mile distance.
WEST (Arizona, California, New Mexico) / PLUM PRETTY KENTUCKY-BOUND AFTER SUNLAND OAKS ROMP – Peachtree Stable’s Plum Pretty, a 25-length winner in last Sunday’s 1 1/16-mile Sunland Oaks at New Mexico’s Sunland Park, will make her next start for trainer Bob Baffert in the Kentucky Oaks.
“I should have run her in the Sunland Derby,” Baffert told the Blood-Horse. “She’s definitely in the (Kentucky) Oaks picture now.”
The Sunland Oaks was the first stakes victory for Plum Pretty, a Medaglia d’Oro filly who had finished third in her previous starts to California Nectar in the Santa Ynez (GII) and Zazu in the Las Virgenes (GI) at Santa Anita.
EAST (Maryland, New York) / PLETCHER, ROBSHAM LOOK TO COMELY WITH R HOLIDAY MOOD – While E. Paul Robsham Stable and trainer Todd Pletcher will be rooting for the accomplished R Heat Lightning in Saturday’s Gulfstream Oaks, they will also be looking ahead to a run by stablemate and fellow Kentucky Oaks nominee R Holiday Mood in next week’s $150,000 Comely (GIII) for 3-year-old fillies at a mile at Aqueduct.
R Holiday Mood has scored a pair of wins over Aqueduct’s inner track surface over the winter. Other probable Comely starters include Holy Heavens, Portside, Around the Twig and Royal Sighting.
SOUTH (Arkansas, Louisiana) / DREAMS EXPAND, BUT QUESTIONS REMAIN, FOR ARIENZA – Trainer Dan Peitz and owners Robert and Lawana Low are now looking at the Kentucky Oaks as a major goal for unbeaten Arienza. Their question is which path is best to get her to the $1 million race at Churchill Downs on Friday, May 6.
The daughter of Giant’s Causeway out of 2002 Horse of the Year Azeri won for the second time in as many starts last Sunday when she cruised to an easy victory in a one-mile allowance race at Oaklawn Park.
“I know the Lows would love to run in the Kentucky Oaks,” Peitz told Daily Racing Form this week, “but not at the expense of the horse and doing the wrong thing.”
Peitz is now looking at two options with Arienza: the $300,000 Fantasy (GII) on April 10 or the $100,000 Instant Racing on April 16. Both races will be run at Oaklawn Park.
The Kentucky Oaks is limited to 14 starters, with preference given to 3-year-old fillies with the highest total earnings in graded stakes races. Arienza has yet to compete in a graded stakes race, so she has no graded earnings.
“Without a dominant 3-year-old filly somewhere in the country, our fear is if we want to try to go to the Kentucky Oaks, we may need graded stakes earnings to get in,” Peitz said. “So that’s coming into play.”
Arienza is not nominated to the Kentucky Oaks, but the Lows could make her eligible for America’s top race for 3-year-old fillies prior to Churchill Downs’ new Kentucky Oaks late nomination deadline of April 13.