- TIME RUNNING OUT FOR ALSO-ELIGIBLE OAKS LILY
- VENEZUELA HAS ROOTING INTEREST IN YARA
- AMIE'S DINI GETS THE SPA TREATMENT
AMIE'S DINI – While she may be a blue-collar $3,000 sales purchase, Oaks contender Amie's Dini is a bit of a princess. Following today's 1 ½ mile gallop, the Ron Moquett trainee hit the spa and was bedded down for breakfast.
“She really enjoys the spa,” Moquett said. “Actually, she likes all the finer things, the spa, the respiratory treatments, the massages. She likes all the things a lady likes.”
Jon Court will have the mount in Friday's Oaks from post 13.
AND WHY NOT – Helen K. Groves' And Why Not jogged a mile and galloped a mile under Peter Brette at Churchill Downs Thursday morning.
The daughter of Street Cry will be making her fifth straight graded-stakes appearance following her debut victory at Saratoga last August. The Michael Matz-trained filly's best finish in a stakes came at Churchill Downs in her final 2011 start in the Pocahontas (GII), in which she closed from 11th to finish second, beaten by less than a length by On Fire Baby.
And Why Not will be ridden by Julien Leparoux, who is slated to ride the Matz-trained Union Rags in Saturday's Kentucky Derby.
BELIEVE YOU CAN – Brereton Jones' homebred Believe You Can had a morning identical to the one before it, according to trainer Larry Jones.
“Just look at your notes from yesterday,” Jones told a visitor from atop one of his charges. “I did the exact same thing today.”
Which means Believe You Can walked around the paddock and stood in the same stall she'll be saddled in Friday (No. 9) before galloping five-eighths with Jones aboard.
The Proud Citizen filly will be ridden by Rosie Napravnik, who was aboard for all three starts this year, including wins in Fair Grounds' $125,000 Silverbulletday Stakes and $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (GII).
Napravnik nearly won the Kentucky Oaks last year, piloting St. John's River to a fast-closing second.
The 24-year-old jockey won her second leading rider title at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots this season and currently makes her base at Belmont Park.
BROADWAY'S ALIBI – E. Paul Robsham Stables' Broadway's Alibi galloped 1 ¼ miles under Carlos Cano Thursday morning at Churchill Downs.
Having stretched out successfully from six furlongs to seven furlongs in the Forward Gal (GII) at Gulfstream and from seven furlongs to a mile in the Comely (GIII) at Aqueduct, Broadway's Alibi will be making her first start around two turns in the 1 1/8-mile Oaks.
Broadway's Alibi was bred by Joyce Robsham, who has provided Pletcher with several stakes winners in recent years.
“It's been a great relationship for us,” said Pletcher, noting the professionalism of the stable's racing manager Anna Ford. “We're awfully fortunate. She's sent us some awfully nice horses and we've been fortunate to have a lot of success with them. She has a quality band of broodmares. It's something that's just working.”
Broadway's Alibi will be seeking her fifth straight victory after finishing second in her career debut at Delaware last summer.
COLONIAL EMPRESS – Trainer D. Wayne Lukas sent his filly back to the track today after an off day on Wednesday. The maiden daughter of 2003 Kentucky Derby runner-up Empire Maker galloped 1 ½ miles after the renovation break.
Lukas said many of the challenges that face Derby horses also are on the debate table for the Oaks fillies.
“A lot of the same scenarios show up,” Lukas reasoned. “The mile and an eighth for the fillies is a tough distance test for the fillies just like the mile and one-quarter is for the Derby colts. And you can't duplicate that 5:30 crowd on Saturday or Friday. It's unique to any other race.”
Two-time Oaks winner Corey Nakatani has the call Friday from post 12.
EDEN'S MOON/JEMIMA'S PEARL – Kaleem Shah's Eden's Moon and Gillian Campbell, R Group Management Ltd. and Greenwood Lodge Farm's Jemima's Pearl each galloped 1½ miles Thursday morning.
Eden's Moon, winner of the Las Virgenes (G1) will be ridden by Martin Garcia in the Kentucky Oaks. Joe Talamo will be aboard Jemina's Pearl, who was third in the Fantasy (G2) in her last start.
GRACE HALL – Grace Hall, the 5-2 morning-line favorite for Friday's Kentucky Oaks (GI), galloped 1 1/8 miles under exercise rider Carol Fisher Thursday morning at Churchill Downs.
Owned by Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables and The Elkstone Group, Grace Hall finished second behind champion My Miss Aurelia in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) at Churchill Downs last fall to suffer her first career loss.
“I think that we just finished second that day. There's nothing coming at me telling me, ‘This is why you finished second.' We were second because of the filly who beat her,” trainer Anthony Dutrow said. “I felt our filly ran very well without excuse.”
Despite the defeat, Dutrow takes comfort in knowing that the Gulfstream Park Oaks (GII) winner handled the Churchill surface well.
“I have to feel good about that. It has to be something that makes me feel good, but makes me feel even better is watching her train her the last two days,” Dutrow said. “I'm feeling very good that she's enjoying Churchill very much.”
Javier Castellano will be aboard Grace Hall.
HARD NOT TO LIKE – Choosing cooler weather over less traffic, trainer Gail Cox sent her Kentucky Oaks (GI) filly Hard Not to Like to the track about 7:30 Thursday morning for her final trip around the track prior to Friday's running of the 138th Kentucky Oaks for 3-year-old fillies.
Of the early exercise for Hard Not to Like, Cox, who arrived Wednesday afternoon from Woodbine Race Course, said, “It's been getting very hot as the morning goes on, so I thought going out earlier would be a good idea. There were more horses on the track than when just the Oaks and Derby horses go out [at 8:30], but she seemed to handle it well.”
Cox said the filly backed up into Churchill's one-mile chute and then galloped a mile.
The trainer said she feels the morning-line odds of 20-1 on Hard Not to Like are a result of her never racing on dirt. But, she said, the filly trained on Payson Park's dirt track throughout the winter and her final breeze prior to heading to Louisville was on Woodbine's dirt track.
“And she's won a lot of nice races,” Cox said, “including beating the boys twice.”
KARLOVY VARY – Alex Campbell Jr.'s Karlovy Vary galloped a little more than a mile early Thursday morning under exercise rider Marty Metcalf.
Trainer Rusty Arnold said all of the preparations for the wire-to-wire winner of the Central Bank Ashland (GI) were complete.
“She won't go to the track in the morning,” said Arnold, who had Karlovy Vary go through two paddock schooling sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“She was fine in the paddock yesterday, and she won't go back. I have no concerns about that.”
Karlovy Vary, who finished seventh here last fall in the Golden Rod (GII) in her lone start on dirt, will break from post position 11 under James Graham, She is 20-1 on the morning line.
“She will not be anywhere near the lead here, there is too much speed. She will lay back,” Arnold said. “We need for two things to happen – she has to have a good trip and be able to handle the dirt.”
OAKS LILY – Jonathan Rey, Javier Sarmiento and Dante Zanelli Jr.'s Oaks Lily is running out of time to make the Kentucky Oaks field. The Keeneland maiden winner remains on the “Also-Eligible” list and needs a defection from the current 14-horse field by Friday at 9 a.m. to draw in.
This morning she jogged 1 1/8 miles and visited the paddock during the Oaks and Derby training session under exercise rider Raphael Verderosa.
“She really doesn't need to school, she's so laid-back,” said Zanelli, the bloodstock agent who co-owns the filly and is managing her preparations this week. “She's really good. We just went for the pleasure of relaxing her.”
Oaks Lily – who has been the easiest horse to spot all week with her neon pink halter and lead-chain – has been racing on behalf of three different charities this year, with portions of her winnings shared among Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear's Horses and Hope, and the University of Kentucky Newman Center.
“I hope we get in,” Zanelli said. “We'd love to run. She's doing really well and I think she'd run well.”
ON FIRE BABY – Anita Cauley's On Fire Baby, the 4-1 co-second choice on the morning line for Friday's Kentucky Oaks, galloped a little more than a mile early Friday morning with jockey Joe Johnson aboard.
Trainer Gary Hartlage, who trained On Fire Baby's half-sister High Heels to a third-place finish in the 2007 Kentucky Oaks, was asked what his expectation level was this year compared to 2007.
“It is probably better because there is no horse like Rags to Riches who was a standout that year,” Hartlage said of the filly that not only won the Oaks but defeated eventual Horse of the Year Curlin in the Belmont Stakes (GI).
On Fire Baby will break from post position one in the full field of 14 and Hartlage was asked how he would like to see things unfold.
“I am going to leave it up to Joe and let him control things,” Hartlage said of the rider who also piloted High Heels.
SACRISTY – Beaumont Stakes (GII) runner-up Sacristy galloped 1 ½ miles Thursday morning after the renovation break as she continues her preparations for Friday's Kentucky Oaks, her first two-turn bid.
“A mile and an eighth won't be easy for any of them,” trainer Wayne Catalano said. “We'll all find out what we've got. We're taking a shot with a nice filly.”
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith will have the Oaks mount from post seven. The Oaks remains one of Smith's elusive major racing trophies in his decorated career.
SUMMER APPLAUSE – Gillian Campbell, R Group Management and Greenwood Lodge Farm's Summer Applause galloped 1 ½ miles on the main track just after it opened at 5:45 a.m., according to Dennis “Peaches” Geier, assistant to trainer Bret Calhoun.
Exercise rider Jeff Lopez was aboard for the exercise.
Summer Applause comes into the Kentucky Oaks off a disappointing runner-up effort in the $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (GII). Her lone victory this year was in February's Rachel Alexandra Stakes (GIII), but the Harlans's Holiday filly could easily be three-for-three in 2012 with better racing luck.
In January's $125,000 Silverbulletday Stakes, winner Believe You Can took advantage of an easy lead through soft fractions to spurt away. The running order of the five-horse field barely changed throughout but Summer Applause did make up ground to finish 1 ½ lengths back.
In the Fair Grounds Oaks, odds-on favorite Summer Applause raced three-wide on both turns, while Believe You Can and jockey Rosie Napravnik stayed inside and cut the corner into the stretch to open up on the field. Summer Applause came back in the final furlong to finish second by a rapidly diminishing head but may have run the better race. Calhoun also noted a perceived speed bias that day, which would make his filly's effort all the more impressive.
Garrett Gomez, two-time Eclipse Award winner (2007 and 2008) as the nation's Oustanding Jockey and a Kentucky Oaks winner aboard Rags to Riches in 2009, will ride Summer Applause for the first time Friday.
YARA – Peras International's Yara galloped one mile – “very easy,” according to trainer Jose Garoffalo – and schooled in the starting gate under regular exercise rider Mario Diaz.
“She did it very nicely,” Garrofalo said. “She's been very relaxed around the barn. She's settled down very nicely but she's tough on the track. She galloped today very strongly, but very happy. For the rest of the day I just have to keep her as quiet as I can.”
Garoffalo was shadowed on the backstretch Thursday by a reporter from Lider en Deportes, a leading all-sports newspaper in the horseman's native Venezuela.
“Horseracing is hugely popular there,” Garrofalo said. “The top trainers are celebrities. It's like Saratoga but it's the whole country. If you're a successful trainer or jockey, you can't even go into a restaurant and buy your own dinner because someone will recognize you and pick up the check.”
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