Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner Plum Pretty came back “super good” from her impressive score in the May 6 race for 3-year-old fillies, according to Jim Barnes, assistant to trainer Bob Baffert.
The Pennsylvania-bred Medaglia d'Oro filly got a perfect trip under rider Martin Garcia, fired well clear at the head of the lane, then had enough in the tank to hold off the fast-closing St. John's River by a neck. Future plans for Plum Pretty, who picked up a first prize of $570,400 after covering nine furlongs in 1:49.50, had yet to be made.
“(Trainer Bob Baffert) will be making that call at some point soon,” Barnes said.
Dede McGehee’s homebred St. John’s River was bucking and playing in her stall the morning of May 7, one day who passed every horse but one while weaving through the field to finish second in the Oaks.
“Look at her,” trainer Andy Leggio Jr. said at Churchill Downs’ Barn 43 as St. John’s River watched another horse walking around the barn. “She’s peeved that’s not her out there doing that. She’s in great shape.”
St. John’s River came within a neck of catching winner Plum Pretty, thanks in large part to a heady rail trip under 23-year-old jockey Rosie Napravnik.
“She gave her a great ride,” Leggio said. “When she cut that corner turning for home I thought, 'We’re going to win this race.' But we just couldn’t get there.”
With a better start St. John’s River very well could have won the race, but she spotted the field a few lengths by breaking to the right from her outside post.
“I think it was because she went in last and they rang the bell before she got settled,” Leggio said. “She went out a little bit and that probably cost her a length just getting her straight. I think if she breaks straight she wins by two or three lengths, but that’s racing and that goes with the territory.
“I wanted to get through this one first but now that this race is over and I know the kind of horse she is I’m thinking Breeders’ Cup, and I’m going to try to keep her happy and healthy until that race."
The 2011 Breeders’ Cup World Championships will return to Churchill Downs for the second consecutive year and a record eighth time overall Nov. 4-5.
“That’s the time of the year when they run against older horses," Leggio said. "Once you get to September, October, November, it’s no problem. We’ll run her in a little race here and there, but we want to make it easy on her until the big race comes along.”
St. John’s River will leave Louisville by van late the afternoon of May 8 for Leggio’s summer base at Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, La.
“She’ll get two weeks of just walking and she’ll probably get six weeks off,” Leggio said.
Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Moss’ racy gray filly Zazu was none the worse for wear after an effort in which she finished third, less than three lengths behind Plum Pretty.
“She’s doing fine,” said Caesar Aguilar, assistant to trainer John Sadler. “No problems.”
Sadler had grabbed an early morning flight back to his Southern California base at Hollywood Park. The filly would follow him May 8.
“She’s on a flight (Sunday),” Aguilar said. “We’ll be back in California tomorrow night.”
Meanwhile, Fox Hill Farms’ Joyful Victory, fourth as the Oaks favorite, was reported to be doing well by trainer Larry Jones, who said the filly would be pointed toward the Mother Goose (gr. I) at Belmont Park or the Delaware Oaks (gr. II).
Jones said Joyful Victory would leave for Delaware Park May 8 to join the rest of his stable.