ANGELA RENEE/ESKENFORMONEY – It was a walk day for trainer Todd Pletcher's Kentucky Oaks duo of Siena Farm's Angela Renee and Star Ladies Racing's Eskenformoney. The 3-year-old fillies had put in their final major work moves for Friday's Grade I race this past Friday and then gone for light jogs early Saturday morning.
Pletcher has a feel for the Oaks and the fillies who run in it. The two he'll send out in the $1,000,000 test this year will be his 17th and 18th starters (since 1999) in the nine-furlong Grade I that is considered the ultimate spring prize for 3-year-old fillies. Along the way, he's won it three times – with Ashado in 2004, Rags to Riches in 2007 and Princess of Sylmar in 2013.
“They'll go back to the track tomorrow,” the trainer said of his current pair Sunday morning at Barn 40. “We'll see if they jog or gallop.”
Angela Renee will get the saddle services of John Velazquez, while Eskenformoney will be handled by Javier Castellano.
BIRDATTHEWIRE – Forum Racing's Gulfstream Park Oaks (GII) winner Birdatthewire walked the shedrow a day after working five furlongs in 1:01.20 for trainer Dale Romans.
CONDO COMMANDO – Trainer Rudy Rodriguez kept his Gazelle (GII) winner Condo Commando busy Sunday morning, schooling her in the paddock and the gate and then jogged her on the track. “So far, so good,” Rodriguez said as he held her shank what she was being bathed. “She seems pretty good.”
Jockey Joel Rosario will ride the filly owned by Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables and The Elkstone Group.
FOREVER UNBRIDLED – Trainer Dallas Stewart said he's aware of scenarios by which Charles Fipke's Forever Unbridled can move into the top 14 in Kentucky Oaks points and be assured a spot in the Oaks starting gate. As of Sunday, she stood 15th in the standings. But, Stewart said, all he can do is prepare her as if she's going to run.
“You've just got to train your horses,'' Stewart said.
Early on Sunday, Forever Unbridled jogged a mile under exercise rider Emerson Chavez, who later in the morning escaped injury in a training incident on another horse.
Chavez, who worked Alazano in company with 2014 Kentucky Derby runner-up Commanding Curve, was thrown to the track when Alazano collapsed near the half-mile pole after the workout. Chavez lay on the track for several minutes.
“After I fell, I was kind of in shock a little bit,'' he said. “But after that, I'm good. Greg (Blasi, a Churchill Downs outrider) came to me and asked me a couple questions, but I'm good.”
Forever Unbridled is a daughter of Unbridled's Song and the Lemon Drop Kid mare Lemons Forever, who won the 2006 Kentucky Oaks for Stewart in 2006. The filly is a full sister to the 4-year-old filly Unbridled Forever. Last year, she was a multiple graded-placed runner for Stewart. She is in training at Churchill Downs, and Chavez is her exercise rider, too.
“Both are great,'' he said. “The new one, Forever Unbridled, is bigger than her sister. But both are great, good fillies. … Her sister last year was third in the Kentucky Oaks, so I'm hoping (Forever Unbridled) can make it in the race.''
I'M A CHATTERBOX/LOVELY MARIA – Grayson Farm's Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) heroine I'm a Chatterbox and Brereton Jones' Ashland Stakes (GI) winner Lovely Maria each breezed five furlongs Sunday morning, with I'm a Chatterbox going first in 1:01, followed seconds later by Lovely Maria in :59.60.
“They both did well,” trainer Larry Jones said. “Both jockeys came back grinning.”
I'm a Chatterbox, ridden by regular jockey Florent Geroux, recorded splits of :11.80, :23.80 and :36, with a six-furlong gallop out in 1:14.40. The work was the fifth fastest of 32 at the distance.
“It was kind of the way she worked when she first came in [to the Jones barn at Fair Grounds in December],” Jones said. “She got real brilliant in her works down in New Orleans. This was a little slower than she'd been working. I just don't know if she takes to Churchill as well but we'll see.”
Right behind I'm a Chatterbox was Lovely Maria, who broke off from the half-mile pole with regular rider Kerwin Clark aboard as her stablemate was finishing through the lane and posted fractions of :12, :23.80 and :35.80. Clockers caught her gallop-out time in 1:13.40. The work was the second fastest of 32 at the distance.
“Lovely Maria just worked sparkling,” Jones said. “Every eighth was just getting faster and we're real happy with her. She's just getting on her game right now.”
Jones said he wasn't looking for a specific time from his fillies and didn't even bother with suggestions for either of the jockeys, who have been working with these horses all winter.
“They both know what to do,” Jones said of Geroux and Clark. “If I have to give instructions by now then I've got the wrong riders. That's what's great about brining your team in. They know the game plan, they know what they've done, and obviously it's been working for them.”
This year's Kentucky Oaks is comprised of a deep field of fillies, many of which are coming off impressive wins.
“You could make a case for every horse in this race,” Jones said. “They all have something on their resume that shows they're capable of winning.”
INCLUDE BETTY – Brereton Jones and Timothy Thornton's Fantasy Stakes (GIII) winner Include Betty walked the shedrow at trainer Tom Proctor's barn the morning after a five-furlong breeze in 1:02.20. Regular rider Rosemary Homeister Jr. has been in town following the Include filly's preparations and is understandably excited about a Kentucky Oaks that could set up perfectly for a closer.
“Tom has been joking that he's going to take me to lunch at the track kitchen every day because that's exactly where he wants me to move in the Oaks,” she said. Churchill Downs' track kitchen is located on the backstretch directly across from the half-mile pole.
“She's a happy-go-lucky filly and she's really at the top of her game right now,” Homeister said. “She looks amazing. She came out of the Fantasy full of confidence. She's not a big filly but she's got a big heart and a huge stride.”
Homeister, 42, has 2,750 career wins and won an Eclipse Award as the Outstanding Apprentice Jockey of 1992. She has been working horses at Churchill this weekend to get a feel for the track and has mounts here Wednesday and Thursday in advance of the Oaks Day card.
“I'm excited because I really believe I have a big chance in this race,” Homeister said of the Oaks. “Tom Proctor is one of the best trainers in the country, of all-time. I've ridden for him for 20 years and have so much confidence in him. And I have so much confidence in her, too. I believe we're going to have a really good race.”
LUMINANCE/MAYBELLENE – Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said that his Oaks candidates are scheduled to breeze Monday morning. Kaleem Shah's Luminance and Jill Baffert's Maybellene both galloped a mile and a half Sunday morning. Baffert said that he has not settled on a jockey for Maybellene. Martin Garcia is the regular rider for Luminance.
OCEANWAVE – Gary and Mary West's Fantasy Stakes (GIII) runner-up Oceanwave jogged one mile after the renovation break with regular exercise rider Santos Rivera aboard. “Everything's beautiful,” trainer Wayne Catalano reported later in the morning.
Today's jog was Oceanwave's first appearance back to the track since Friday's five-furlong maintenance breeze that received some less-than-glowing reviews from the racing media.
“As far as opinions, everyone's got one,” Catalano said. “We know how that goes. They don't know the horse. They don't know the situation. They were commenting on what they saw and that's fine. They're just doing their job, looking at the horse and giving their comments, but we were doing something different from what they saw. We weren't looking to get a fast time. We were just trying to get her inside of horses and educate her because she wants to get out a little bit. I'm happy with everything.”
Oceanwave enters the Oaks off second-place finishes in the last two races of Oaklawn Park's series of graded stakes for 3-year-old fillies, the Honeybee (GIII) and the Fantasy (GIII). “She's not any different than her last two races and if anything she's better,” Catalano said.
PUCA – Donegal Racing's Puca worked a half-mile in company in :48.20 with exercise rider Jo Lawson up. Working in company with Japan, a 3-year-old maiden, Puca produced fractions of :12.60, :24.80, :36.40 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:01.20. The work was the fifth fastest of 54 at the distance.
“It was very similar to the work a week ago,” trainer Bill Mott said. “She went much the same. I was hoping that she'd work as well or better and she looked like she finished up her work nicely but she was all up on the bridle and willing to do it, moving well, galloped out well, came back good.”
This was the second straight time Puca worked in company with Japan, who is entered in Thursday's eighth race.
“I put him in behind just because he needs a little education,” Mott said. “He's a little green. They worked nicely together. I thought they were a good team last week and it worked out well so we just did the same thing again. Nothing fancy.”
Puca hasn't won since breaking her maiden in October but went from that race straight into the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and has only faced top company since.
“If you look at speed figures she maybe hasn't been as good as some of the others but visually, between the Breeders' Cup and her last race being pretty good…if she gets an honest pace that could help,” Mott said.
SARAH SIS – Joe Ragsdale's Sarah Sis went to the track at 7:15 with exercise rider Jesus Esquivel aboard and trainer Ingrid Mason alongside on a pony.
As a team, they walked from the backstretch to the paddock for a schooling session and then walked around to the three-eighths pole before Sarah Sis moved off on her own at a leisurely pace back to the 4 ½-furlong marker.
“You just try to prepare them the best you can,” Mason said. “There will be lots of walking and parading to get used to the attention.”
Mason, who will be saddling her first Oaks starter, said Sarah Sis was “perfect” in the paddock this morning.
“She will school on race days,” Mason said. “She didn't like the paddock at all at Oaklawn with the indoor paddock where people could look over the top.”
SHOOK UP – Regis Racing's Shook Up worked a half-mile Sunday in 49.60 seconds under exercise rider Mike Callaham for trainer Steve Asmussen. The workout was the 27th fastest of 54 workouts Sunday at the distance. The fractions were :24.60 and out five furlongs in 1:03.40.
“She's doing well,'' Asmussen said. “Handled good, didn't lay in. So all's well.''
In two of her races, including a Fair Grounds allowance race in which she finished second to Lovely Maria, Shook Up lugged in. In that race, she had the No. 1 post position and was jammed along the inside behind a slow pace.
“Her motor's running,'' Asmussen said. “She gets a little anxious. And when she does, that seems to be what happens. I think it's when she gets to pulling. … That day (in the allowance race), first time out (at Fair Grounds), it was sloppy and all that. … She had drawn (No.) 1. They cleared her pretty easy, but then they backed it up right into her, and it was circumstances. I think you get these fillies together; they're going to move on. So I think the circumstances that day were they cleared her from the outside, slowed it down and just kind of backed it up in her face, and then she was on the bridle.''
But in the Fair Grounds Oaks in her most recent start, Shook Up ran smoothly all the way en route to a second-place finish behind I'm a Chatterbox.
“She handled nice and everything,'' Asmussen said.
Asmussen expects Shook Up to improve in the Kentucky Oaks.
“I expect her to run the race of her life,'' he said. “And it's going to take that – at least that.”
STELLAR WIND – Hronis Racing's Stellar Wind arrived at Churchill Downs early Sunday afternoon after an early flight from Southern California. The Santa Anita Oaks (GI) winner is trained by John Sadler and will be ridden Friday by Victor Espinoza.
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