R Heat Lightning, the likely Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) favorite, and Kathmanblu braved a steady rain and sloppy track conditions at Churchill Downs to put in timed workouts just after the track maintenance break April 23.
The Todd Pletcher-trained R Heat Lightning breezed four furlongs in :49 4/5 under exercise rider Hector Ramos. Fractional splits for the work were :12 2/5, :24 4/5 and :37 1/5. The daughter of Trippi galloped out five furlongs over the sloppy footing in 1:03 2/5.
E. Paul Robsham’s R Heat Lightning was a powerful winner of the Gulfstream Oaks (gr.II) April 2 to become the early favorite for the May 6 Kentucky Oaks.
“I thought she handled it pretty well,” Pletcher said of the work over the sloppy Churchill surface. “She looked a little unsure when she first went off, she was kind of pricking her ears and looking at it (the track) a little bit. But once she settled in, she went fine and I thought her gallop-out was particularly good.
“You’re always a little concerned when you go out in conditions like that, but I think Churchill is one of the few places where you can kind of feel OK about it. It seems to handle bad weather well.”
Five D Thoroughbreds and Wind River Stables’ Golden Rod (gr. II) and Rachel Alexandra (gr. III) winner Kathmanblu worked five furlongs in 1:02 4/5 in a move trainer Ken McPeek termed a “maintenance work.”
Exercise rider Will Aldana was in the saddle as the daughter of Bluegrass Cat worked in company with 4-year-old male stablemate Noble's Promise , who ran fifth behind Super Saver in last year’s Kentucky Derby and is scheduled to compete this year on Derby Day in the $300,000 Churchill Downs Stakes Presented by Navistar (gr. II).
Fractional times for the move over the sloppy surface were :13 1/5, :25 2/5, :37 2/5 and :49 4/5. Noble’s Promise, who worked on the outside of Kathmanblu, was a neck in front of the Oaks contender at the finish.
“We just wanted her to stretch out,” McPeek said. “Noble’s Promise needed a work mate and she needed to do something over it, and it was good. We let him gallop out because he hadn’t run in four or five months."
Kathmanblu is coming off a third-place finish behind Lilacs and Lace as the favorite in Keeneland’s Central Bank Ashland (gr. I), which was run over the Lexington track’s Polytrack course. McPeek’s filly endured a wide journey during most of that 1 1/16-mile race.
“We ran the best filly in the Ashland, but that’s just the way the ball bounced,” McPeek said.