Full Field of 14 to Run for the Oaks; Balance Early Favorite

Full Field of 14 to Run for the Oaks; Balance Early Favorite
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Balance emerges from draw as early favorite among 14 fillies in Friday's Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs.
A full field of 14 fillies, headed by dual grade I winner Balance, is set to run for the lilies in Friday's Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) at Churchill Downs. If all 14 fillies start, the purse for the 1 1/8-mile race will swell to $685,900.

Balance, who will be ridden by jockey Victor Espinoza, was made the 2-1 morning-line favorite.

The one-two finishers in the Ashland Stakes (gr. I), Bushfire and Wait a While, were listed as the co-second choices at 5-1. Bushfire and jockey Cornelio Velazquez will break from post 10, and Wait a While and jockey Garret Gomez will break from post eight.

"I would prefer not to be the favorite, but I guess we are," said trainer David Hofmans, who conditions Balance. "In my mind, she is the best horse out there. I just hope she runs back to her California form."

The Kentucky-bred daughter of Thunder Gulch   enters the Oaks after a disappointing third-place effort in the Ashland after rolling off back-to-back grade I scores in the Las Virgenes and the Santa Anita Oaks.

"All of the Kentuckians I know have said it's a good thing we didn't win the Ashland," Hofmans said. "I was concerned how she would come out of that race because she just wasn't herself. We had her X-rayed, nuclear scanned, and did blood work - and everything came back fine."

Owned by John and Jerry Amerman, Balance shipped to Churchill Downs from California after working six furlongs in 1:11.60 at her Hollywood Park base April 28.

"Her last two works were great, and she galloped over a muddy racetrack today," Hofmans said. "She'll go to the paddock tomorrow. She's adjusted very well, better than I have."

Trainer Chris Paasch, who conditions Diplomat Lady, also has confidence in his filly, who most recently won the Stonerside Beaumont Stakes (gr. II).

Jockey Alex Solis has the mount, and the pair will break from post two.

"She's adjusted well and seems to like the track," said Paasch, who conditions the daughter of Forestry   for Charles Cono. "I was hoping we would be somewhere in the middle, closer to the inside middle than the outside middle."

The field includes four fillies--Last Romance, Miss Norman, Red Cherries Spin, and Top Notch Lady--who were not among the original 159 nominees for the race but were supplemented for a fee of $25,000.

The field for Friday's Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) includes:

1-- Miss Norman (Pablo Morales, 20-1)
2-- Diplomat Lady (Alex Solis, 10-1)
3-- Quiet Kim (Kent Desormeaux, 12-1)
4-- Balance (Victor Espinoza, 2-1)
5-- Red Cherries Spin (Corey Nakatani, 50-1)
6-- Ex Caelis (Julien Leparoux, 20-1)
7-- Wonder Lady Anne L (Edgar Prado, 8-1)
8-- Wait a While (Garrett Gomez, 5-1)
9-- Itty Bitty Pretty (Patrick Valenzuela, 12-1)
10-- Bushfire (Cornelio Velasquez, 5-1)
11-- Top Notch Lady (Patrick Husbands, 20-1)
12-- Ermine (Robby Albarado, 12-1)
13-- Last Romance (Rafael Bejarano, 15-1)
14-- Lemons Forever (Mark Guidry, 20-1)

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