Kentucky Oaks Notes: Liora In Blinkers For Friday Tune-Up

by | 04.26.2019 | 3:08pm
Liora, inside, fends off Restless Rider to win the G2 Golden Rod

CHAMPAGNE ANYONE – Six Column Stables and Randy Bloch's Champagne Anyone galloped a mile and three-eighths under Kara Lee for trainer Ian Wilkes.

Winner of the Gulfstream Park Oaks (GII) in her most recent start, Champagne Anyone has had three local works since that victory and is scheduled for her final Oaks work this weekend.


CHOCOLATE KISSES – Debbie Oxley's Honeybee Stakes (GIII) winner Chocolate Kisses galloped about 1 ½ miles Friday at Churchill Downs with exercise rider Kim Carroll aboard for trainer Mark Casse.

Chocolate Kisses is slated to work Saturday in what will be her first move since finishing sixth in the Ashland Stakes (GI) at Keeneland on April 6. Casse put the blame partially on himself for the filly's effort that day, saying he gave instructions to have her closer to the pace than she prefers.

“I kind of maybe messed that up,” Casse said. “The track was playing so biased that first week at Keeneland that I told (jockey) Tyler (Gaffalione) to keep her close to the pace and that didn't work. So she'll drop back to the back (in the Oaks) and she'll gallop along. If speed collapses, she'll come running. If it doesn't, she won't.”


LADY APPLE – Phoenix Thoroughbred III and KatieRich Stables' Fantasy Stakes (GIII) winner Lady Applegalloped about 1 3/8 miles during the exclusive training window for Derby and Oaks horses at 7:30 a.m. Friday with exercise rider Juan Vargas aboard.

LIORA – Trainer Wayne Catalano hit a personal trifecta Friday morning.

He got the weather he wanted, the track conditions he was hoping for and – most important – he saw every positive indicator he could have asked from his Kentucky Oaks contender Liora in her final serious move before the 1 1/8-mile test.

With the sun showing itself after some dreary conditions earlier in the morning, Coffee Pot Stables' graded stakes winner Liora took to the track shortly after 9 o'clock with jockey Florent Geroux in the irons and turned in a nifty five-furlong workout in :59.60. After breaking off in eager fashion, the dark bay daughter of Candy Ride (ARG) clocked splits of :12, :23.60 and :35.20 before galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.20.

As he bounded out of the clockers stand and hustled back the barn, Catalano nearly matched his charge's energy in declaring the filly's final piece of serious work a success.

“We got everything we wanted actually, we've been blessed,” Catalano said. “The sun is shining, the horses worked good, what more could you want? Liora is doing very well right now. Obviously Flo is a very good jockey and he's got the hands which is the reason why I had him substitute for (regular rider) Channing (Hill) to work her.”

Catalano worked Liora in blinkers Friday in an attempt to get her focus on track following a pair of runner-up efforts in the Feb. 16 Rachel Alexandra Stakes (GII) and March 23 Fair Grounds Oaks (GII).

“We put the blinkers on her to try and get her a little more focused early on the running. Now she's learning,” Catalano said. “I think she's learning, but the blinkers helped.”

Added Geroux, “She was way more focused today. She puts way more into her works. She's got a win over the track – not with me on her – but I've always liked her. The blinkers definitely helped because she has a tendency of wandering around a bit at the end. Not getting tired, but just losing her focus a bit.”

Though Liora is still seeking her first victory this season, she has a couple intangibles in her pocket that could propel her to an Oaks triumph. Both of her career wins have come over the Churchill Downs main track including her gate-to-wire victory in the Golden Rod Stakes (GII) last November where she defeated Grade I winner Restless Rider.

That Golden Rod triumph came over a sealed, sloppy track. Hence, Catalano isn't too concerned about what the weatherman's prediction is for Oaks Day.

“She might be the only horse going into the Oaks that's won two races at Churchill Downs,” Catalano said. “She's been over it, she's won over it. You can see today, she did that work pretty easy. And one thing about her is, she doesn't care (what the track conditions are). She won over a sloppy track, she's been in it a few times. But we'd like to have good weather for everybody.”

Catalano said Liora would have a walk day Saturday.


MOTION EMOTION – Mark DeDomenico's Motion Emotion worked a half-mile in :49.80 over a track rated as good with Tyler Baze aboard for trainer Tom Van Berg.

Working on her own, Motion Emotion recorded fractions of :12.20, :24.60 and out five furlongs in 1:03.

“It was absolutely beautiful,” said Baze, who was aboard the Fantasy runner-up (GIII) for the first time. “She made a favorable impression.”

Van Berg gave a thumbs up on the morning after Motion Emotion cooled out. “Tyler says we're in good shape,” said Van Berg, who will give a leg up to Mike Smith in the Oaks.

Motion Emotion, who was stabled here last fall, is scheduled for gate and paddock schooling next week.


OUT FOR A SPIN – Commonwealth Stables' Ashland (GI) winner Out for a Spin had a scheduled walk day for trainer Dallas Stewart.


RESTLESS RIDER – Fern Circle Stables and Three Chimneys Farm's Ashland Stakes (GI) runner-up Restless Rider was out for a light gallop Friday morning during the 7:30 a.m. session set aside for Derby and Oaks horses. Regular exercise rider Danny Ramsey was up for trainer Kenny McPeek.

The filly, who is seventh on the Oaks points leaderboard, is to have Brian Hernandez Jr. riding next week. Last year, she won the Alcibiades (GI) at Keeneland, then closed out her 2-year-old season with second-place finishes at Churchill Downs in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) and the Golden Rod (GII).

“The Ashland did her a world of good,” Hernandez said Friday. “Kenny has had a great game plan for her. That was her only race since November. Bellafina will be the one to beat, but we beat her last year in the Breeders' Cup (second vs. fourth), and Jaywalk, we beat her in the Ashland (second vs. third).”


SERENGETI EMPRESS – Following a scare in the March 23 Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) in New Orleans, owner Joel Politi's filly continues to rebound from the bleeding episode as she trains toward the May 3 Kentucky Oaks (GI). She was on the Churchill Downs track Friday morning with her regular exercise rider, Francisco Herrera.

“We had a typical day of training by our standards, of what we do with our horses,” trainer Tom Amoss said afterward at the barn. “She did a full mile of jogging, then galloped for a mile-and-a-half.

“Tomorrow,” Amoss continued, “the only variation might be that we might go to the paddock and practice a little bit. And at some point, this week, we'll do some gate practice as well.”

Amoss, along with many others, is awaiting the arrival of likely Oaks favorite Bellafina, who is expected to check intoSimon Callaghan's barn at Churchill Downs on Monday. The filly, fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) comes into the Oaks on a three-race win streak, including a 6¼-length victory in the Santa Anita Oaks (GI) in her most recent start.

“I'm anxious to see Bellafina, because she's the horse to beat,” Amoss said. “There's no question that it's her and the rest of the field. She's the only one who's held her form from her 2-year-old year, whether it's mine or John Servis' horse (Jaywalk, third in the Ashland (GI) at Keeneland).”


STREET BAND – Larry Jones, Cindy Jones and Ray Francis' Street Band galloped a mile under exercise riderJorge Nava over a track rated as good.

Winner of the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) in her most start for trainer Larry Jones, Street Band is scheduled to work Sunday and prior to that have a paddock schooling session Saturday night.




DUNBAR ROAD (No. 16) – Peter Brant's filly continues to train well for a possible run in the May 3 Kentucky Oaks (GI). Trainer Chad Brown had her on the track Friday for a gallop under exercise rider Kriss Bon.

“She's probably going to gallop tomorrow (Saturday),” said Brown, who was runner-up last year in the Kentucky Derby to eventual Triple Crown champion Justify with Good Magic. “Then we'll wait and see.”

Dunbar Road, who finished second as the favorite in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (GII) in just her second career start, is 16th on the Kentucky Oaks points leaderboard, but only the top 14 will enter the starting gate. Jose Ortiz is expected to ride her if she makes it into the Oaks.

For Brown, it's a year of late-blooming colts. “I have some late-developing horses that look promising,” he said. “Not every horse can make the Derby. We have several good prospects in the barn.”

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