When Kentucky Oaks candidate Imperial Gesture galloped into the Churchill Downs backstretch following her five-furlong work Tuesday, her head was hanging low. Some people might have interpreted the posture as a sign of weariness, but that is just the usual way the Godolphin-owned filly carries herself, according to Tom Albertrani, an assistant to trainer Saeed bin Suroor.
"That's just her action," he said. "She's a little awkward in her stride, but it doesn't seem to bother her at all."
With Lee Roebuck up, Imperial Gesture was timed in 1:01 1/5 on a cool, sunny morning. She worked right after the break for track renovation.
"She did her routine work like she always does; she'll usually go in about 1:01," Albertani said. "She looks the same as she did before she left Dubai, and it looks like she handled the track with no problem. We're right on schedule with her. She tends to be a little aggressive when she trains, which is good. She's not overexerting herself; she's just doing it in a way that shows that she is well."
Imperial Gesture was on her toes as she headed back to her barn, accompanied by a pony. The daughter of Langfuhr finished second in last year's Oak Leaf Stakes and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. In the latter she was beaten 1 ½ lengths by stablemate Tempera, who also was a Kentucky Oaks candidate before being euthanized this past Sunday because of complications from colitis and laminitis.
"This filly just improved so much over the winter," Albertrani said. "Physically, she just did so well. You can just look at how big she is. She's a big, strong filly. I remember Eoin Harty (her trainer as a 2-year-old)looked at her in Dubai, and he noticed the same thing, how much she filled out."
In Dubai earlier this year, Imperial Gesture captured the Moonshell Mile by nine lengths, then defeated Tempera by 3 ¼ lengths in the UAE Oaks.
The only other Kentucky Oaks filly to work Tuesday was Ms Brookski, winner this year of the Davona Dale Stakes. With exercise rider Jennifer Brown up, the Montbrook filly covered three furlongs in :35 3/5 while wearing blinkers. Like Imperial Gesture, she went out right after the track renovation break.
"I was very happy with her work," said trainer Niall O'Callaghan. "It took her awhile to adjust to this track, but I think she's done it. Maybe she'll surprise everybody."