A crowd of 110,122, the third-highest Kentucky Oaks attendance in history, gathered under sunny spring skies at Churchill Downs to witness Plum Pretty capture the 137th running of the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (Grade I), America’s premier race for 3-year-old fillies.
On-track guests sported plenty of pink in honor of the track’s third annual Pink Out to support breast cancer awareness and wagered $12.1 million on the full Kentucky Oaks Day race card, an increase of 2.1 percent over 2010’s on-track total of $11.9 million. On-track wagering on the Oaks race was $3.0 million, an increase of 7.4 percent over the $2.8 million wagered one year earlier.
All-sources wagering on the Kentucky Oaks card set a record of $37.5 million, an increase of 4.2 percent over the prior year’s 36.0 million. All-sources handle on the Oaks race itself was $11.4 million, up 8.2 percent over 2010’s $10.6 million. Churchill Downs returned $30.6 million to bettors, which amounts to 81.6 percent of total wagering on the Oaks Day race card.
Kentucky Oaks Day at Churchill Downs again provided a platform to put “Ladies First” and celebrate women and causes important to them. For the third straight year, Churchill Downs partnered with Susan G. Komen for the Cure® (“Komen”), the global leader of the breast cancer movement, and the Kentucky-based nonprofit organization Horses and Hope to honor breast cancer survivors and raise money for breast cancer research and education. The Kentucky Oaks Survivors Parade sponsored by Kroger showcased 137 breast cancer survivors and their co-survivors who marched along Churchill Downs’ main track forming a sea of pink before the Oaks fillies took to the course. Churchill Downs will again donate $1 for every Kentucky Oaks attendee to Komen and $1 for every Oaks Lily – the signature cocktail of the Oaks – to Horses and Hope. With this year’s contributions, Churchill Downs will have donated approximately $400,000 over the last three years to breast cancer-related causes through its Kentucky Oaks marketing initiatives.
Fashion – especially pink fashion – was again the focus of the Chambord Kentucky Oaks Fashion Contest, held on the pink carpet in the Churchill Downs paddock throughout the afternoon. Approximately 200 women entered the contest judged by iconic fashion designer and honorary “First Lady of Oaks,” Betsey Johnson, herself a breast cancer survivor, and supermodel Nikki Taylor.
Fans around the country watched the Oaks Day festivities for the first time live on Versus, a sister cable network of NBC. Another NBC Universal cable network, Bravo, provided live coverage of the Oaks race and ancillary activities in 2009 and 2010. This year’s coverage on Versus included the Run for the Lilies along with highlights of the Pink Out, Survivors Parade, Chambord Kentucky Oaks Fashion Contest and feature stories about the Oaks contenders and their connections.
“Churchill Downs extends its sincere thanks to the tens of thousands of people who made today’s Kentucky Oaks event one of the most successful in our track’s 137-year history – especially our fans, horsemen, employees, vendors and the local authorities who helped us conduct another exciting, fun and safe day under the Twin Spires,” said President Kevin Flanery. “It is tremendously gratifying to see how well our customers and home community have embraced the Kentucky Oaks ‘Ladies First’ program and the worthy causes it promotes by turning out in near-record numbers to support the Pink Out. The innovations our team introduced in 2009 have quickly become unique Oaks Day traditions and have allowed us to establish the Kentucky Oaks as a premier sports and entertainment event in its own right.
“Our congratulations go out to the connections of our new Kentucky Oaks champion Plum Pretty and to all of the horse owners, trainers and jockeys who participated in today’s competitive racing program,” Flanery continued. “Fans here at Churchill Downs and around the world showed their support for the quality racing product our horsemen and racing office assembled by wagering a record $37.5 million on the Kentucky Oaks race card. The Kentucky Oaks racing program now routinely ranks among the Top 10 days for total wagering on Thoroughbred racing in the United States each year. We are very pleased with today’s results and look forward to what we hope will be a record-setting and memory-making Kentucky Derby 137 tomorrow at Churchill Downs.”
Peachtree Stable’s Plum Pretty, ridden by Martin Garcia, took command in the middle of the far turn and then held off a late charge along the rail from St. John’s River to win the Kentucky Oaks by a neck. She returned $14.60, $7 and $4.60.
Plum Pretty, a Pennsylvania-bred daughter of Medaglia d’Oro out of the A.P. Indy mare Liszy, ran the 1 1/8 miles on a fast main track in 1:49.50. The victory was worth $570,400 and increased Plum Pretty’s earnings to $761,200 with a record of 5-3-0-2. The filly, who entered the Oaks off a 25-length victory in the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks on March 27, is trained by Bob Baffert, who also won the Oaks in 1999 with Silverbulletday. The victory puts Baffert in position to become the third trainer to win the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby in the same year and the first since Ben Jones accomplished the feat in 1952. Baffert will send out Midnight Interlude in Saturday’s $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands.
NOTE: A tote system malfunction that occurred shortly after post time for Race 6 resulted in the track’s inability to accept some on-track wagers for a period of approximately 35 minutes. The technical issue was resolved prior to the start of Race 7, but Churchill Downs officials did elect to delay post time for Race 7 – and all subsequent races – by 15 minutes to allow race fans additional time to place wagers. The schedule change resulted in the Kentucky Oaks’ post time being delayed until approximately 6 p.m. No off-track or online wagers were affected by the on-track tote issue.