Follow your Oaks favorites through Churchill Downs, and make your choice on who will win tomorrow's 135th running of the Kentucky Oaks!
BE FAIR / STONE LEGACY / TWEETER – Trainer D. Wayne Lukas sent his three Kentucky Oaks entrants to the track for morning gallops before the renovation break at Churchill Downs on Thursday. The Hall of Fame trainer later acknowledged that “it’s a bad year to be in the Oaks” because of the presence of Rachel Alexandra, the odds-on morning-line favorite.
“We’re realistic. Rachel Alexandra is a super good filly. Since Winning Colors, she’s the best to come along,” said Lukas, who notched his first of four Kentucky Derby successes when Winning Colors beat the boys in 1988.
Lukas will saddle a trio of lightly experienced fillies for their clash with Rachel Alexandra. While the task of running against such a dominant filly will be an imposing one, Lukas is confident that his three fillies won’t get in each other’s way.
“When you run three, you’ve got to be careful that they don’t compromise each other. They have three different running styles,” Lukas said. “Tweeter has a style that she’ll be more forward and be close to the pace. Be Fair has good tactical speed, but will probably be mid-pack. Stone Legacy will be coming late, if there is such a thing and she has the ability.”
FLYING SPUR – Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said said he is pleased with the way Flying Spur is coming up to Friday’s Grade I event at a mile and an eighth.
“She’s great,” Mott said of the daughter of the top mare Lakeway, who ran second to Sardula in the 1994 Oaks.
Flying Spur galloped once around the track Thursday morning with exercise rider Joanna Trout up. Garrett Gomez has the mount on Flying Spur, who will break from post position eight.
GABBY’S GOLDEN GAL – Arnold Zetcher’s homebred Medaglia d’Oro filly Gabby’s Golden Gal galloped a mile and half Thursday morning.
“She’s great, but Rachel Alexandra is in the race,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “It’s like knowing that you’re in there with Usain Bolt.”
Victor Espinosa will ride Gabby’s Golden Gal on Friday and break from post position four.
JUSTWHISTLEDIXIE – Justwhistledixie, a daughter of Dixie Union, galloped 1 1/2 miles under Danny Wright at Churchill Downs on Thursday morning prior to the renovation break.
Justwhistledixie will be seeking her sixth straight victory when she takes on odds-on morning-line favorite Rachel Alexandra. Yet, her connections are training their filly like the odds-on morning-line favorite won’t be in the race.
“We need to just make our own game plan and stick with it. We’re going to be stalking the pace and hopefully, not too far back. We hope someone takes on Rachel Alexandra on the lead and sets a good pace,” said Neal McLaughlin, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin’s assistant and brother. “We’ll be sitting back in third and fourth, saving ground, hopefully, and be ready to pounce. We have to stick to our plan, and that’s the way the filly likes to run.”
McLaughlin thinks jockey Julien Leparoux will help Justwhistledixie run her own race.
“Julien is such a patient rider, that’s what I like about him. He’s cool, especially on big days like this one. He has a great record here and is coming off a super meet at Keeneland. He’s just full of confidence,” McLaughlin said. “Julien’s not going to panic. If they go fast and open up six or eight (lengths), he’s not going to go after them and worry. This filly’s running style fits Julien’s riding style. He likes to settle in and make a run, just like this filly likes to do.”
NAN – J. Paul Reddam’s Nan galloped a mile and an eighth before the renovation break under exercise rider Sergio Martin.
Listed at 20-1 on the morning line, Nan will break from post position seven in the Friday’s Oaks under two-time Oaks winner Corey Nakatani.
Nan has won one of 10 starts, but was competitive against Grade I company going two turns this winter at Santa Anita.
“She has had some rough trips,” said Aimee Dollase, who along with her father Wally is overseeing Nan’s preparations here. “I guess the key question for tomorrow is how she handles the dirt in the afternoon. She has been training good and I guess we’ll see if she likes the mud.”
Only two of Nan’s starts have been on dirt, a ninth-place finish going six furlongs on a fast track at Saratoga last August and a fifth-place finish in an off-the-turf mile race at Aqueduct in November. Nan was trained by Mark Hennig at the time.
Dollase was asked if she could write the perfect script for Nan on Friday how it would unfold.
“I’d like to see a speed duel with Rachel Alexandra,” Dollase said. “Corey can sit sit back and let her roll. That would be ideal.”
RACHEL ALEXANDRA – After two days of walking, morning-line Kentucky Oaks favorite Rachel Alexandra returned to the track Thursday morning, galloping a strong mile and a half under Rudy Gallegos.
Trainer Hal Wiggins waited until after the renovation break to bring Rachel Alexandra out for her first exercise since working a bullet half-mile in :46.40 on Monday. Rachel Alexandra stood quietly about 30 yards off the track in the gap surrounded by on-lookers and then went out about her business.
“She’s like a keg of dynamite,” Gallegos said as the duo exited the track at the clockers’ stand a short time later.
“We’re ready to go. I want to go to the paddock now,” Wiggins said. “She will not go to the track in the morning. She will get her bath about 5:15 and then we will let her relax until it is time to go over.”
Calvin Borel, who has been aboard for Rachel Alexandra’s past four victories, has the mount Friday and will break from post position six. She is 3-5 on the morning line in the field of eight.
“I’d like to see her break clean, get an easy lead and have an easy lead at the wire,” Wiggins said. “I told (D. Wayne) Lukas I was going to watch the load and make sure all three of his horses were in the gate. I didn’t want to see one of them at the half-mile pole.”