Grace Hall, who exits an impressive 6 1/2-length tally in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks, arrived at Churchill Downs late Tuesday morning following a flight from South Florida, where she had been training at Palm Meadows Training Center for a start in Friday's Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks.
Owned by Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables and The Elkstone Group, Grace Hall was installed as the 5-2 favorite after drawing post No. 2 Tuesday. Runner-up in the Grade 1 Breeders' Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs last November, the Grade 1-winning daughter of Empire Maker will break directly to the outside of On Fire Baby, rated second at 4-1 along with Broadway's Alibi.
"At the moment, I'm not feeling I have something to be concerned about with the 2 post," trainer Anthony Dutrow said. "I thought that she would be the favorite."
Grace Hall, who'll be stabled in trainer Dallas Stewart's barn at Churchill, is scheduled to be ridden by Javier Castellano.
E. Paul Robsham Stables' Broadway's Alibi accompanied stablemates Gemologist and El Padrino on a flight from South Florida Tuesday morning. Trainer Todd Pletcher's Derby-Oaks contingent arrived by van from Louisville International Standiford Field Airport in late morning.
Broadway's Alibi finished second in her debut at Delaware Park before winning her next four starts, including the Grade 2 Forward Gal at Gulfstream Park and the Grade 3 Comely at Aqueduct this year. The daughter of Vindication was rated as the 4-1 co-second choice on the Oaks morning line after drawing post six in the full field of 14.
"Frankly, she surprised us," Pletcher said. "I thought that when we were at Saratoga that she wasn't up to the maiden special weight level at Saratoga. She's just one that's improved, improved and improved."
John Velazquez has the mount aboard Broadway's Alibi.
Anita Cauley's On Fire Baby was on the track at 6 a.m. (EDT) Tuesday morning with jockey Joe Johnson aboard for trainer Gary Hartlage. The two-time Churchill Downs graded-stakes winner visited the paddock and then started a routine 1 1/2 -mile gallop. As she passed the five-eighths pole, the horn sounded signifying a loose horse.
The loose horse, who was about a quarter-mile behind On Fire Baby, was quickly caught but Johnson opted not to take any chances.
"She galloped about seven-eighths and then jogged her back to the half-mile pole," said Johnson, who has ridden On Fire Baby in all six of her starts. Johnson rode On Fire Baby's half-sister High Heels to a third-place finish behind Rags to Riches in the 2007 Kentucky Oaks.
"High Heels carried herself a little lower," Johnson said. "On Fire Baby is taller and wider. If they were cars, High Heels would be a Camaro and On Fire Baby a Camaro Super Sport."
Johnson was at the barn the day On Fire Baby arrived last spring.
"When she walked off the van, she had a presence about her," Johnson said of the daughter of Smoke Glacken. "You could see the ability. Everything has worked out and here we are almost a year later. I am glad to be a part of it."
Peras International's Yara arrived at Churchill Downs late this morning by van from the Trackside Training Center, where she galloped 1 1/2 miles when the track opened at 6 a.m. She will spend the remainder of this week in Barn 43, Stall 12.
Trainer Jose Garoffalo confirmed that Yara was fine upon arrival at Churchill. Sticking with the established routine, Yara will get her daily exercise in shortly after the track opens at 5:45 a.m. and not during the Oaks and Derby training session.
Yara, who has been on or near the lead for all of her three wins, drew the outside post 14. She is 30-1 on the morning line and Jesus Castanon, who was aboard for the filly's 64-1 upset in the Grade 2 Davona Dale, has the mount.
Hard Not to Like, who was on her way to Louisville from Woodbine Race Course Tuesday morning, elated trainer Gail Cox when drawing post position five for Friday's $1 million Oaks at Churchill Downs.
"That's a pretty good post," the trainer said by telephone from the track outside of Toronto. "I'm certainly happy with that."
Hard Not to Like left at 5 a.m. for her 10-hour van ride to Churchill Downs. The trainer will leave for Louisville Wednesday, with an expected arrival time of mid- to late-afternoon. Churchill Downs veteran jockey Robby Albarado has the call.
Helen K. Groves' And Why Not stood in the starting gate before jogging a mile and galloping a mile at Churchill Downs Tuesday morning. The daughter of Street Cry, who finished seventh in the Gulfstream Park Oaks in her only start this year, post 10 for the Kentucky Oaks and was rated at 15-1 in the morning line.
Michael Matz trains And Why Not for his mother-in-law.
"It's terrific," said Matz, breaking out in a smile when asked what it's like to train for his mother-in-law. "No, she's a horsewoman. She understands things. She couldn't be any better. I'd love for this horse to do well here. She wanted the horse to run here and we got in. We're taking our best hold."
And Why Not, who finished second behind On Fire Baby in the Grade 2 Pocahontas last fall at Churchill Downs, is slated to be ridden by Julien Leparoux.
Owner Brereton Jones and trainer Larry Jones still had reason to be excited Tuesday morning, despite having to announce that their top 3-year-old colt, Mark Valeski, will pass on the Kentucky Derby. A question about how their Kentucky Oaks prospect, Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks winner Believe You Can, galloped on her first day back to the track after Sunday's sizzling five-furlong work in :58 4/5 brought a grin to the trainer's face.
"Great," said Jones, who galloped the filly himself during the Oaks and Derby training session. "Just great. Hers was a 'wow' work. She acts like she went in a minute and three-fifths. If we win the Oaks we're going to have a good weekend anyway."
Believe You Can drew post nine and is 10-1 on the morning line for the Kentucky Oaks. Regular rider Rosie Napravnik has the call.
Alex Campbell Jr.'s Karlovy Vary galloped 1 1/2 miles under exercise rider Marty Metcalf before the morning renovation break and schooled in the paddock Tuesday with horses for the 5TH race.
James Graham, who rode the filly to a front-running victory in the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland in her most recent start, will be aboard the Rusty Arnold-trained filly on Friday.
"The Ashland was the first time I was on her," Graham said. "She's a lovely filly. She got a little warm in the post parade like Rusty said she would but when she left the gate, that's all she wrote."
Graham was asked if he had any concerns about Karlovy Vary handling the dirt, a surface she has raced on only once with a seventh-place finish in last fall's Grade 2 Golden Rod.
"No," Graham said emphatically. "Her sire is Dynaformer and they can run on broken glass and bottle tops. People look at the pedigree and think grass and Polytrack. I'll tell you, the Keeneland Poly this spring was not a grass course. I am going to ride her with confidence."
Grade 2 Fantasy Stakes runner-up Amie's Dini galloped 1 1/2 miles this morning for trainer Ron Moquett, the third trainer who has been part of the filly's development. She began her career with Bernell Rhone in Oklahoma last fall and was conditioned by Kellyn Gorder in her first Churchill attempt in October.
"I was happy to get her in our barn and she keeps improving," Moquett said. "All the guys who trained her before me had a hand in her being what she is today. I give them credit, too."
Amie's Dini set the pace in the Grade 3 Honeybee at Oaklawn when finishing second, but has shown the ability to stalk and pounce.
"She can do whatever," Moquett said of the former claimer. "One thing about her is that she doesn't have to be anywhere particular. Just ride her with common sense."
Jonathan Rey, Javier Sarmiento and Dante Zanelli Jr.'s Oaks Lily galloped 1 3/4 miles during the Oaks and Derby training session and picking up the pace through the lane.
"We let her roll the last quarter-mile to the wire and she did it in :26," said Zanelli, the bloodstock agent who co-owns the filly and is managing her preparations this week. "We were happy. She wasn't even blowing."
Oaks Lily, who has no graded stakes earnings and is the lone also-eligible in the 15-horse Oaks field, is first in line to make the field should there be any defections over the next two days. Oaks Lily, with but one win to her credit, is 50-1 on the morning line. Rafael Bejarano was named to ride.
"We'll wait until Friday at 9 a.m. and see what comes up," Zanelli said. "We're ready. The filly's doing very well. If something happens we'll be here and if something doesn't happen we'll move on to the next one."
Zanelli has said that if Oaks Lily doesn't make it into the race for which she is named they will instead point to the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico Race Course May 18.