Five fillies have turned in their final workouts from their home bases in preparation for the April 30 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), and many have already arrived at Churchill Downs to settle in before competing in the Run for the Lilies.
While Blind Luck, who will likely be one of the Oaks favorites, worked at Hollywood Park, Bella Diamante worked at Lone Star Park, Evening Jewel worked at Santa Anita Park, Joanie's Catch worked at Calder, and It's Tea Time worked at Keeneland.
Blind Luck covered six furlongs in 1:14 4/5 at Hollywood Park under jockey Rafael Bejarano. While she was clocked the slowest of the five horses that covered the same distance that day, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who co-owns the filly with Mark DeDomenico, John Carver, and Peter Abruzzo, said the work was exactly what they were looking for leading up to the Oaks.
“We’re very pleased, and she’s now in Kentucky and bedded down in her barn down in Louisville,” said Hollendorfer of the filly, who is 6-1-2 from nine starts and has earnings of more than $1 million. “We could do anything we want with her,” he added, indicating Blind Luck would have been willing to work faster or longer, but they chose to take it easy with her a week out from the Oaks.
“(The Oaks) is a very good field as it always is, and we feel confident that we’re ready to run a good race, and we need to get a little good fortune to have a good chance to win,” said Hollendorfer.
Bred in Kentucky by Fairlawn Farm, Blind Luck is ranked first on the Oaks graded earnings list. Winning the Hollywood Starlet Stakes (VIDEO) and Oak Leaf Stakes (VIDEO) (both gr. I) as a 2-year-old, the filly captured this year’s Las Virgenes (gr. I) (VIDEO) and the Fantasy (gr. II) (VIDEO) at Oaklawn Park last out April 2. The Oaks will mark Blind Luck’s first time racing in Kentucky.
Bella Diamante, which means “beautiful diamond” in Italian, had sparking reviews from trainer Allen Milligan following her April 23 drill. The daughter of Lost Soldier covered five furlongs in :58 flat under jockey Martin Escobar at Lone Star Park and was ranked the fastest of 14 horses at that distance.
“The work was super; you couldn’t have asked her to work any better,” said Milligan, who is from the Dallas, Texas, area. “She came out of the work super, and left last night at 7 p.m., and got to Churchill at 9:30 a.m. this morning. She’s going into the race as good as she’s ever been. If that’s good enough, then it is, but if not, then I’ll accept it.”
If Bella Diamante was to win the Oaks, it would mark the first stakes victory for the dark bay or brown filly, who has been runner up in three black-type contests, including the 2009 Boyd Gaming’s Delta Princess Stakes Powered by Youbet.com (VIDEO) to Quiet Temper.
Bella Diamante is owned by Lone Star Stables, a partnership based in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. The group is headed by the filly’s breeder, Weldon “Shorty” Johnson.
Bred in Kentucky, Bella Diamante is out of the Badger Land mare Sharons Song. She currently holds a record of 2-3-0 from seven starts and earnings of $179,281. The filly ranks 10th on the graded earnings list with $100,625.
Bella Diamante will enter the Oaks off a victory in a $43,000 allowance optional claimer at Oaklawn Park April 2.
“I wanted to do something to get her back on a positive note, so I found a little allowance race, and she won it as easy as I’ve ever seen a horse win,” said Milligan of the filly, who finished seventh in her previous two races: the Feb. 13 Martha Washington and the March 13 Honeybee (gr. III) due to traffic trouble and a displaced soft palate, respectively.
“I thought that (optional claimer) would be good for her confidence,” Milligan, who will be making his first trip to the Oaks with Bella Diamante. “I don’t know if she can go the distance or not, but I’ve done everything I can to get her confidence up, she’s training super, she’s aggressive, and wanting to do something more.”
Evening Jewel, who most recently captured the April 3 Ashland Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO) at Keeneland, posted a bullet workout at Santa Anita April 23, covering five furlongs in :59 2/5 under jockey Kent Desormeaux. The daughter of Northern Afleet , who was the fastest of 27 horses that worked the same distance that day, has won or placed in seven of her eight career starts.
“I was very happy with (the work)…I thought she would have an improved work over last week (when she worked five furlongs in a minute flat April 17), and last week’s was good, so that tells you how good I thought this one was,” said trainer James Cassidy. “She went back to the track today, she seems fine, and everything is good to go. We’re going to leave (for Churchill) Tuesday morning, and the flight gets into Louisville sometime during the day.
“She’s never run on a dirt track, but that’s why we bought her, because of the way she worked on the dirt,” added Cassidy, who purchased Evening Jewel privately after watching her in pre-sale workouts prior to the 2008 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co.’s April 2-year-old sale, from which she was scratched due to an illness.
Bred in California by Betty Mabee and Larry Mabee, Evening Jewel is owned by Tom and Marilyn Braly’s Braly Family Trust.
Although Rose Family Stable’s Florida homebred filly Joanie’s Catch has not scored a win since the Brave Raj Stakes (VIDEO) at Calder Race Course as a 2-year-old, the daughter of First Tour has hit the board in nine consecutive stakes contests leading up to the Oaks, including this year’s Old Hat (gr. III), Forward Gal, Dovana Dale, and Bonnie Miss (both gr. II) at Gulfstream Park.
Joanie’s Catch most recently worked four furlongs in :50 flat at Calder April 23 and was ranked the ninth fastest of the 25 horses that worked the same distance that day.
Trained by Barry Rose for the Rose Family Stable, she has a record of 2-8-6 from 18 starts and earnings of $374,790.
It's Tea Time
It’s Tea Time, who covered four furlongs in :49 flat April 16 at Keeneland, turned in her final workout prior to the Oaks when she went five furlongs in 1:02 at the Lexington track April 23.
The lightly raced daughter of Dynaformer who broke her maiden at second asking in a 1 1/8-mile turf contest at Gulfstream Park Feb. 21, had an impressive run in the April 3 Central Bank Ashland Stakes (gr. I) when finishing second by a neck to Evening Jewel.
The Kentucky-bred currently has graded stakes earnings of $80,000 in earnings, which ranks her 12th on the graded earnings list for the Oaks.
Out of the Storm Cat mare Prof. McGonagall, It’s Tea Time is owned by her breeder, Lexington resident Alex Campbell.