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Kentucky Oaks 134 Update - March 14

| Churchill Downs Communications | 03/25/2008 #

TOP STORIES:

- Eight Belles, Pure Clan Set for Rematch in Oaklawn's Fantasy
- Casse Bids for Another Bourbonette
- A to the Croft Returns for McPeek
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SOUTH/EIGHT BELLES, PURE CLAN EXPECTED FOR FANTASY REMATCH – The top two fillies from last week’s memorable renewal of the $100,000 Honeybee Stakes (Grade III) at Oaklawn Park – Eight Belles and Pure Clan – are expected to meet again in the $250,000 Fantasy (GII) as they continue on the Arkansas route to the 134th running of the $500,000-added Kentucky Oaks (GI) on May 2 at Churchill Downs.

Fox Hill Farm’s Eight Belles notched her first stakes victory in her impressive Honeybee win over previously unbeaten Pure Clan last Sunday. The J. Larry Jones-trained daughter of Unbridled’s Song won her third consecutive race following flashy allowance victories by margins of 15 and 13 ½ lengths.

Pure Clan, owned by Lewis Lakin, IEAH Stables and Pegasus Holdings, never threatened Eight Belles in the Honeybee, but closed well for veteran trainer Robert Holthus to easily grab the runner-up spot in her first race since the $250,000-added Golden Rod (GII) at Churchill Downs.

“We’re disappointed that we didn’t win, but we’re happy with her performance,” said Holthus. “It’s not very often you catch one like that the first time out.”

Jones, who saddled Island Sand for a runner-up finish to champion Ashado in the 2004 Kentucky Oaks, looks forward to his filly’s rematch with Pure Clan in the April 6 Fantasy.

“I know Bob’s filly will be better for the Fantasy with a race under her, but my filly just gets better with each race,” Jones said. “It will be a show, but I have all the confidence in the world in my filly.”

Jones has another major contender for the Kentucky Oaks under his shedrow in Brereton C. Jones’ Proud Spell, winner of the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII). She is expected to make her final Kentucky Oaks prep in the Ashland (GI) at Keeneland.

MIDWEST/CASSE LOOKS TO CLEARLY FOXY TO CONTINUE BOURBONETTE RUN – Trainer Mark Casse will be looking to extend a couple of impressive runs when he saddles Clearly Foxy in Saturday’s $150,000 Bourbonette Oaks (GIII) at Turfway Park.

A victory by Charles LaLoggia’s daughter of Volponi would be Casse’s third consecutive win in the Bourbonette, a one-mile race for 3-year-old fillies on the undercard of $500,000 Lane’s End Stakes (GII) at the northern Kentucky track. He took the last two runnings of the Bourbonette with Top Notch Lady (2006) and Sealy Hill (2007).

It would also be the sixth career victory in the race for Casse.

The Bourbonette Oaks will mark the first start for Clearly Foxy since a sixth-race finish behind champion Indian Blessing in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) at Monmouth Park, the only blemish on her record in three career races.

“She really didn’t run all that bad,” said Casse. “She got left at the gate and came running at the end. Nothing was gaining much in the mud that day. I was as pleased as you could be for coming in sixth.”

Casse had intended to run Clearly Foxy in the Silverbulletday (GIII) at Fair Grounds, but said his filly did not care for the New Orleans track. She had trained well over the winter at the synthetic surface at the Ocala Training Center in Florida, so a run over Polytrack at Turfway seemed to be a natural spot for Casse’s filly.

Another filly entered in the Bourbonette Oaks because of the Polytrack surface is Koolman Racing LLC’s A to the Croft, who makes her 2008 debut following a 2-year-old campaign that ended in a ninth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. She has a career record of 1-3-0 in five races that includes runner-up finishes to Country Star in the Darley Alcibiades (GI) at Keeneland and Irish Smoke in the Spinaway (GI) at Saratoga.

The Alcibiades run, in which she was beaten by a length by Country Star, came over Keeneland’s Polytrack surface, and trainer Ken McPeek elected to wait until the Bourbonette for A to the Croft’s season debut to take advantage of her affinity for the surface and the mile distance.

The field for the Bourbonette Oaks includes (from the rail out with jockeys): Love Buzz (Kent Desormeaux), Lovers Spat (John McKee), Valentine Fever (Julien Leparoux), Maren’s Meadow (Gabriel Saez), Clearly Foxy (Patrick Husbands), Morakami (Edgar Prado), A to the Croft (Robby Albarado), and Downtown Drifter (Miguel Mena).

The Bourbonette produced a Kentucky Oaks winner in 2004 when Lemons Forever finished third to Top Notch Lady, but came back to score a 47-1 upset at Churchill Downs – the biggest upset in the history of the 134-year-old race.

SOUTHEAST/BONNIE MISS FIELD TAKES SHAPE – A solid field is taking shape for next week’s $150,000 Bonnie Miss (GII) at Gulfstream Park, the south Florida track’s major prep for the 134th running of the Kentucky Oaks.

Leading contenders for the 1 1/8-mile race include Backseat Rhythm, the third-place finisher in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Monmouth Park, and Highest Class, third to Indian Blessing in the Silverbulletday (GIII) at Fair Grounds.

Backseat Rhythm finished third in her season debut in an allowance race on turf at Gulfstream Park.

The most recent victory for the Neil Howard-trained Highest Class came in a Fair Grounds allowance race in which the daughter of Mineshaft defeated Eight Belles, who has since run off three consecutive victories to emerge as one of the favorites for the Kentucky Oaks.

The Bonnie Miss will be run as part of the Florida Derby (GI) undercard on March 29.