For the past years, the Kentucky Oaks, rich with history, has brought together solid horses from all across the country. Rachel Alexandra ran away with an astonishing twenty-plus length win against a powerful field. Most recently, Blind Luck, with her late-running style, edged out Evening Jewel for a heart-stopping win. The past few years, the Oaks has offered history-making moments, leaving me to wonder what will happen at Churchill Downs on Friday: A major win? A photo-finish? A longshot victory?
This bay filly who won the Sunland Park Oaks by twenty-five lengths has the qualities of a brick house. I adore the breeding of this Bob Baffert trainee: Medaglia d’Oro-Liszy, by A.P. Indy. In 2009, her sire’s female offspring had abundant success: Rachel Alexandra had a stunning 8-0 Horse of the Year campaign against top colts her age, and older; and Payton d’Oro won the Black Eyed Susan Stakes. A.P. Indy also has a background with siring great fillies like Rags To Riches who defeated Curlin to win the Belmont Stakes in 2007. This made her the first filly to win the last leg of the Triple Crown in over one hundred years. As a result, Rags To Riches created a historical accomplishment that made Seattle Slew the only stallion who is a Belmont winner, to sire a Belmont winner, who also sired a Belmont winner.
Plum Pretty has raced four times, breaking her maiden first time out with jockey Martin Garcia aboard. Rafael Bejarano rode her to a strong third place finish behind California Nectar, and Zazu in the Santa Ynez Stakes. Switching back to Martin Garcia aboard, in the Las Virgenes, she showed respectfully behind Zazu, and Turbulent Descent.
She went into the Sunland Park Oaks at rarely low odds of 1-20 with Martin Garcia in the irons. After the start, Plum Pretty, and Icelain Diva ran into a speed duel, pulling about one length away from the field. It was neck and neck until the quarter, where she got the slightest advantage on her rival. It was uncertain which horse would go on to win up to the half mile, when Plum Pretty put her ears up, and began to run away so effortlessly. Without urging, her winning margin kept increasing, until she romped to the finish twenty-five lengths ahead. Seldom does a horse win by such an immense margin, and the horse who completes such a challenge is genuinely special.
Plum Pretty’s win at one and one sixteenths of a mile had a quick time of 1:43.18, over a second (approximately seven lengths) faster than Joyful Victory’s win in the Fantasy Stakes (1:44.74). Both races were on a dirt surface.
Not just because of her adorable name, but because of her great pedigree, attractive appearance, and outstanding, consistent performances, Plum Pretty is my favorite for the Kentucky Oaks.
I am excited to see R Heat Lightning and Plum Pretty face off in the Oaks. This Todd Pletcher trainee has always been on the Oaks radar, turning in an imposing eight length win in the Gulfstream Park Oaks. Ridden by John Velazquez, R Heat Lightning went five wide around the first turn, and was second after the half mile. Going around the final turn, she took the lead, and pulled away easily without any urging from his rider. R Heat Lightning, who is a product of the Trippi-Yellow Heat, by Gold Fever cross, is bred and owned by E. Paul Robsham Stables.
She has proven to be versatile on dirt, Turf, and even synthetics. An accomplishment I appreciate is that she has won on the Churchill Downs dirt surface, which many horses who are even successful on dirt tend to dislike. Though she finished third in the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland, I believe she gave the strongest performance out of the entire field. With Alan Garcia aboard instead of regular jockey, Julien Leparoux, she was taken wide for the entire race, putting her at the disadvantage of having to cover the most ground.
Prior to the Ashland Stakes, Kathmanblu pulled off an impressive victory in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes. Leaving me to wonder why Julien Leparoux jumped off this filly to ride Dancinginherdreams, who finished out of the money and finished last in the Ashland Stakes.
Kathmanblu, pronounced “CAT-man-blu”, is by Bluegrass Cat, and out of Abba Gold, by Devil’s Bag. Her sire was the runner-up to the late Barbaro in the 2006 Kentucky Derby, and has 2010 Kentucky Derby winner, Super Saver in his family. This strong contender is trained by Ken McPeek.
This is another talented Tapit filly. There are no cons in her dam’s side, she is out of Wild Lady Black, by Wild Again, who won the first Breeders’ Cup Classic. She sold as a yearling for $60,000 in the Keeneland January Horses of All Ages Sale, and went on to bring in $400,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Florida Select Two-Year-Olds In-Training sale. Joyful Victory, ridden by Mike Smith, has dominated Oaklawn Park, winning the Honeybee Stakes, and the Fantasy (by seven lengths), which earlier winners include Rachel Alexandra, and the late Eight Belles. In the Fantasy, the Larry Jones trainee carried her head high and was rank when held back.
Like Zenyatta, this grey filly is owned by Jerry and Anne Moss, and is named after an album released by A & M records. Zazu has been one of the leading Oaks contenders this year, first making her name known when she defeated Turbulent Descent, who ran into trouble, in the Las Virgenes Stakes. In the Santa Anita Oaks, she would place to Turbulent Descent. Zazu reminds me of Blind Luck in her running style. This John Sadler trainee is comfortable off the pace, yet she runs like a Quarter Horse when Joel Rosario asks her for run. She regularly races with blinkers and a shadowroll. Zazu is by Tapit, and out of Rhumb Line, who is a Mr. Greeley mare.
This longshot winner of the Ashland Stakes is by Flower Alley, and out of Refinement, by Seattle Slew, who won the Triple Crown in 1977. In the Ashland, she made the pace, and was rank under jockey Javier Castellano. Lilacs And Lace ran with her head high, so I have to wonder if trainer John Terranova will consider removing her shadowroll for the Oaks. Her win in the Ashland was solid, and it looks as if she may be peaking at the Oaks. I expect Lilacs And Lace and Plum Pretty to make the pace.
The field for the Kentucky Oaks this year runs deep with talent. I believe we will see high-quality performances by many of the contenders and it will be a legendary victory to win in a race of this caliber.