This was certainly the strongest Kentucky Oaks field I have seen in my lifetime. For every one of the thirteen horses, a great case could be made. The field attracted fourteen horses, and would have been complete without the scratch of R Heat Lightning. It was full of great racemares fighting other great fillies, with my favorite, Plum Pretty, winning.
The weather was flawless at Churchill Downs on Friday, and 110,122 spectators came out to see the fillies run for the lilies. The betters made Zazu the favorite at 3.60-1 by post time, while Plum Pretty was the third choice at 6.30-1.
She broke from the twelfth post with regular rider, Martin Garcia aboard. Plum Pretty lost her footing, but quickly recovered to settle second off the pace, while Summer Soiree pulled away by a couple lengths. Without much urging around the final turn, Plum Pretty pulled up to the lead, while jockeys not far behind went to the whip. It wasn’t until they straightened down heartbreak alley when Garcia began to urge his first Oaks winning mount.
Plum Pretty began to gain a slight lead on the field, and it appeared that she was a sure thing as she entered the final furlong. St. John’s River, with up and coming Rosie Napravnik aboard, had other ideas, attempting to become the first female jockey to win the Oaks. The Medaglia d’Oro filly would deny the brilliantly ridden St. John’s River’s jockey this history making moment.
It shouldn’t go without appreciation that the young Napravnik rode her mount flawlessly given struggles right from the gate. From the break, Napravnik already at a disadvantage behind the field, smartly took the opportunity to pull her filly over to the rail, saving tons of ground in the process. She then let St. John’s River calmly settle in, and methodically worked her way up the rail. Only to find (oh, did I mention my favorite) Plum Pretty reaching the wire first.
I was surprised to see such a consistent horse go off at relatively high odds, and was disappointed about the minimal media coverage she received prior to the race. I am proud to have featured Plum Pretty on my Bits N’ Bunny blog as the favorite for the Kentucky Oaks.
I was overjoyed to see this outstanding filly lead this quality field to the wire. Plum Pretty proved that she is a solidly bred, trained, managed and owned filly. I was always impressed by trainer, Bob Baffert’s decision to run her in the Sunland Park Oaks prior to the Kentucky Oaks. Between experienced owner, John Fort, and Bob Baffert, this filly has a great future ahead.