A wide open nine-horse field of 3-year-old fillies will assemble on Saturday for the final local prep on Churchill Downs' Road To The Kentucky Oaks – the Gr. II $400,000 TwinSpires.com Fair Grounds Oaks, which awards the Top 4 finishers points on a 100-40-20-10 scale.
Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots' clocker and odds maker Mike Diliberto has given morning line favoritism to Carl R. Moore Management's Classy Act, who breaks from the rail at 5-2 odds. Trained by Bret Calhoun, the daughter of Into Mischief made her stakes debut last time out in the Gr. II Rachel Alexandra Stakes, where she was second behind Monomoy Girl. She broke her maiden at fourth asking by four lengths over a yielding Stall-Wilson Turf Course in December – her first start on grass – before defeating winners over the Fair Grounds main track the following month. Javier Castellano piloted Classy Act in the Rachel Alexandra, and will return to the saddle for the Fair Grounds Oaks. She is currently No. 11 on the Leaderboard with 20 points.
“She's been like the iron horse,” Calhoun said. “She's had some hard races and she's run hard. She keeps getting better and better. She just needs to learn how to turn off a little bit and she's learning that. I think in her last race a horse next to her was acting up a little bit in the gate and she lost her concentration when they opened the gates. I think if she leaves there on time, she's up there cruising a lot more relaxed. Since (jockey) Javier (Castellano) had to smooch at her to keep her running, she got a little more keen.”
Calhoun also is sending out Craig Upham's Patrona Margarita, who breaks from post five at 10-1 odds under jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr. Like her stable mate, the Texas-bred daughter of Special Rate also ran in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes and finished fourth beaten 7½ lengths. The Rachel Alexandra was her first start since an upset triumph in the Gr. II Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs on Sept. 16 where she was 23-1. She won her career debut three starts back at Churchill Downs in June by a half-length. She lies at No. 12 on the Leaderboard with 15 points.
Breaking from post eight is Wonder Gadot, the only filly in the race to have competed in the other two local preps on the Road To The Kentucky Oaks. Owned by Gary Barber and trained by Mark Casse, the Ontario-bred daughter of Medaglia d'Oro made her sophomore debut in the Silverbulletday Stakes as the favorite but finished second beaten a neck behind Stronger Than Ever. In the Rachel Alexandra Stakes, she was third beaten 3¾ lengths behind Monomoy Girl and Classy Act. Wonder Gadot is a winner on all three surfaces. As a 2-year-old, she broke her maiden in her career debut, which took place in an allowance race over the Woodbine turf course. She would go on to win two graded stakes events as a 2-year-old as well – the Gr. III Mazarine Stakes on Woodbine's Polytrack and the Gr. II Demoiselle Stakes on Dec. 2 over the main track at Aqueduct. She boasts a lifetime record of 7-3-1-2. Her only off-the-board effort took place in the Gr. I Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies where she was sixth. Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez has ridden Wonder Gadot in her past three starts and will guide her in Saturday's Fair Grounds Oaks. She currently sits at No. 8 on the Leaderboard with 24 points.
One newcomer is Magdalena Racing, Gainesway Stables and Harold Lerner's Eskimo Kisses, a daughter of To Honor and Serve who will be going for her third straight victory for trainer Kenny McPeek. Both of her last efforts took place at Oaklawn Park when she broke her maiden on Feb.1 and then romped in an allowance race by 11½ lengths later that month. Eskimo Kisses is trained by Kenny McPeek and will be ridden by Florent Geroux who scored a Fair Grounds Oaks win in 2015 with I'm A Chatterbox. She breaks from post four at 9-2.
Double Doors Racing LLC's Chocolate Martini (post nine, Mitchell Murrill, 10-1) is looking to continue to climb up the ladder following an upset win in an allowance race over the Fair Grounds main track at odds of 27-1, where he was a neck over next out winner Haynesfest. Trainer Tom Amoss claimed the daughter of Broken Vow from Bret Calhoun for $25,000 two starts back where she was fourth beaten 1½ lengths.
Rounding out the field are Saguaro Row (post two, Gary Stevens, 12-1), America's Tale (post three, Marcelino Pedroza, 10-1), She's A Julie (post six, Corey Lanerie, 15-1) and Testing One Two (post seven, Diego Saenz, 10-1).
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