MIDWEST (Illinois, Kentucky) / CALIFORNIA EXPORT LILACS AND LACE STUNS ASHLAND FIELD AT 48-1 – Lilacs and Lace, dismissed at odds of 48-1 despite stakes success in Northern California, led most of the way and held off Wyomia in the stretch to score a major upset in Keeneland’s 74th running of the $400,000 Central Bank Ashland Stakes (Grade I) and earned a start in Churchill Downs’ $1 million Kentucky Oaks (GI).
Favored Kathmanblu, the favorite in this year’s Kentucky Oaks Future Wager, finished third before 23,155 fans.
Owned by James Covello, Judy Hicks and Kathryn Nikkel and trained by John Terranova, the daughter of Flower Alley won by a length under jockey Javier Castellano and covered 1 1/16 miles on the synthetic Polytrack course in 1:42.73.
“We talked about it before the race that if she broke well, to take it from there,” said Castellano. “She had a perfect trip.”
Lilacs and Lace won the Jan. 1 California Oaks at Northern California’s Golden Gate Fields for trainer Duane Offield, but she was turned over to Terranova after Covello purchased a majority interest in the filly. She finished fourth to runaway winner Summer Soiree in Turfway’s Bourbonette Oaks (GIII) in her debut for her new barn.
Trainer Ken McPeek blamed a wide journey for Kathmanblu’s loss, which snapped a string of three straight stakes wins.
“She just got hung too wide to beat the winner,” he said. “She just never had the chance to get inside and save ground.”
Bouquet Booth finished fourth, and was followed by Grand Style, Draw It, Delightful Mary, Excited and second betting choice Dancinginherdreams. The John Ward Jr.-trained Dancinginherdreams, the winner of last fall’s Pocahontas (GII) at Churchill Downs, lost for the third time in as many races in 2011.
SOUTH (Arkansas, Louisiana) / JOYFUL VICTORY ROLLS AGAIN IN FANTASY – On the far turn, Sunday’s $300,000 Fantasy Stakes (GII) at Oaklawn Park looked like a match race between unbeaten Arienza and Honeybee (GIII) winner Joyful Victory, but it didn’t take long to see that Arienza, and maybe no 3-year-old filly, is a match for Joyful Victory.
Mike Smith urged the Fox Hill Farm filly past Arienza in upper stretch and easily pulled away to seven-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile prep for the Kentucky Oaks. The gray daughter of Tapit, who won the Honeybee by 8 ¾ lengths for trainer J. Larry Jones, finished the Fantasy’s 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.74. Holy Heavens was third in the small field of four fillies.
Joyful Victory could become the third straight Fantasy winner to win the Kentucky Oaks, following Blind Luck (2010) and Rachel Alexandra (2009). Fox Hill’s ill-fated Kentucky Derby (GI) runner-up Eight Belles won the 2008 Fantasy.
EAST (Maryland, New York) – HOT SUMMER SURPRISES IN COMELY – Harold Queen’s Florida-based Hot Summer rallied from just off the pace and rolled to a 2 ¾-length victory in the $150,000 Comely (GIII) at Aqueduct.
The David Fawkes-trained Malibu Moon filly waited patiently before bursting through an opening in upper stretch and rushed clear under Jockey Luis Saez for her third win in five career races. Hot Summer, a nominee to the Kentucky Oaks who is coming off a fifth-place finish in the Davona Dale (GII) at Gulfstream Park, pushed her career earnings to $158,000.
Her Smile finished second, favored Ava K. was third and R Holiday Mood finished fourth.