Joyful Victory Favored in Deep Oaks Field
Fox Hills Farms’ Joyful Victory, runaway winner of Oaklawn Park’s Honeybee (gr. III) and Fantasy (gr. II) in her past two starts, tops a stellar cast of 13 3-year-old fillies entered in the 137th running of the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) at Churchill Downs May 6.
The Oaks, run at 1 1/8 miles on the main track, will be the centerpiece of a 12-race program beginning at 10:30 a.m. (all times Eastern) that also features the Churchill Downs return of 2010 Kentucky Oaks winner Blind Luck in the $300,000-added La Troienne Presented by Blackberry/RIM (gr. II) and the eighth running of the $300,000 Alysheba Presented by Besilu Stables (gr. III) earlier on the card. The Oaks will go as the 11th race May 6 with a 5:45 p.m. post time.
The Kentucky Oaks, which carries a $1 million purse for the first time, will be televised live on VERSUS from 5-6 p.m.
“She’s an off-the-pace kind of horse,” said Jones of Joyful Victory, who turned in a bullet work at Churchill May 1 when she covered five furlongs over a sloppy track in :59 1/5. “She lays up close…in this race she may be a little farther back. It looks like there’s going to be a lot of pace, so she may get shuffled back mid-pack, and if she does we’re okay with that.
“This is a little bit longer of a race than she’s been running in, so the longer she waits, the better,” continued Jones, who will be seeking his second Oaks victory to go with the 2008 triumph by Proud Spell. “(Joyful Victory) is a great horse to train, great around the barn, she’s a people horse, and she loves the crowd, so we’re not expecting any difficulty with a large crowd that day. We did take her to the paddock and let her stand and look around a little bit. Of course, she was here for the Breeders’ Cup last year, so she’s done this before. We’re not expecting any issues.”
Co-second choices on the morning line at 4-1 are Jerry and Ann Moss’ Zazu and Five D Thoroughbreds and Wind River Stables’ Kathmanblu.
“She’s training really well--I’m looking forward to (the Oaks); we’re excited about running her a mile and an eighth,” said Sadler of Zazu. “She finished so well in her last race (second by a neck in the March 5 Santa Anita Oaks, gr. I). The weather won’t hurt us; if we got a little rain, I think she would like it, so we’re looking forward to Friday.”
When asked what other filly he felt posed the biggest threat to Zazu in the Oaks, Sadler said, “Probably the other Tapit filly (Joyful Victory). I was kidding Larry Jones this morning that they look like sisters. They’re both gray fillies, and they look very similar.”
Trained by Ken McPeek, Kathmanblu romped to an 8 1/2-length victory at Churchill Downs last fall in the Golden Rod (gr. II) and is coming off a troubled third-place finish in the Central Bank Ashland (gr. I) over Polytrack at Keeneland. Julien Leparoux, who was aboard for the Golden Rod triumph, will ride Kathmanblu May 6 and will break from post position four. The daughter of Bluegrass Cat --Abba Gold, by Devil's Bag was bred in Kentucky by Five D Thoroughbreds.
In addition to Jones, two other trainers will be seeking a second Kentucky Oaks victory: Bob Baffert, who won the race in 1999 with Silverbulletday and Todd Pletcher, who won the race in 2007 with Rags To Riches.
Baffert will send out Peachtree Stable’s Plum Pretty, a 25-length winner of the Sunland Park Oaks in her most recent start on March 27. Martin Garcia, who was aboard for that victory at 1-20 odds, has the return call May 6. Listed at 5-1 on the morning line, Plum Pretty will break from post position 12.
"She's very lightly raced but her last race in Sunland was pretty amazing,” said Baffert. “I don't think I've had a horse win by 25. She's been training really well here (at Churchill). It's a big field so she still needs to be up there close, I think."
Pletcher will saddle Bobby Flay’s Her Smile, second in the Comely (gr. III) at Aqueduct April 9 in her most recent start. Garrett Gomez, who won the Oaks in 2007 on Rags To Riches, has the mount on Her Smile, who will break from post position seven and open at morning line odds of 20-1.
"I just don't know if she'll be able to run that far, that's the only question,” said Barry Irwin, CEO of Team Valor of the daughter of War Front , who has never been tested at 1 1/8 miles. “She's fast as hell and anytime you have a horse who is that fast, you wonder how far they're going to go. We're going to try and get her to relax and go as slow as she possibly can. But she's a friggin monster."
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