When R Heat Lightning was removed from the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) picture due to some heat detected in her right knee, all eyes became focused on another talented filly, the Larry Jones-trained Joyful Victory, who was installed as the 5-2 morning line favorite.
And even when the filly drew the rail for the May 6 race at Churchill Downs, Jones still seemed confident of her ability to dominate the 13-horse field.
“We’ve got the shortest way around; we drew the rail,” he said while standing in the crowded racing office following the May 3 Oaks draw. “I didn’t think a post position would bother her either way. She’s not expected to go to the front….we’ll save ground, and hopefully a spot will open up and we’ll find somewhere to run."
Owned by Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farms and bred in Ontario by William Graham, Joyful Victory earned her favored status with consecutive, dominating victories in the Honeybee (gr. III) and Fantasy (gr. II) at Oaklawn Park. Boasting a record of 3-0-1 from five starts and earnings of $380,100, the daughter of Tapit will be ridden in the Oaks by Mike Smith, who was aboard for both the aforementioned races.
“I don’t think Mike will have to do anything in particular…we’re not expected to go to the front (in the Oaks),” said Jones. “If we had a front runner, you’ve got to break well, but we’ll probably be mid pack anyway…there’s a lot of speed in (the field). There’s going to be some (fillies) behind us…but we should get a good trip.
“We’ll stalk around…and Calvin Borel likes it down in there (on the rail), so we might be in the golden spot,” Jones added of the jockey, who is famous for his rail skimming tactics by which he guided Mine That Bird and Super Saver to win the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) in 2009 and 2010, respectively.
The eight partners of Right Time Racing and trainer Steve Margolis have an interesting situation in that they have two entrants in the Oaks in Bouquet Booth and Street Storm. Both longshots, the fillies were installed at morning line odds of 20-1 and 50-1, respectively.
Bouquet Booth, winner of the Jan. 22 Silverbulletday Stakes at Fair Grounds, most recently ran third to Oaks second-choice filly Kathmanblu in the Feb. 19 Rachel Alexandra (gr. III), also at the New Orleans track. She will be ridden by Robby Albarado in the Oaks and will break from post 8.
Right Time Racing and Margolis chose to enter Street Storm in the Oaks instead of the May 6 Edgewood Presented by Kentucky National Insurance even though she has no graded earnings. The daughter of Stormy Atlantic drew the 10 post and will be ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan.
“She has improved so much,” said Right Time Racing partner Dann Glick of the filly, a $45,000 Keeneland September yearling sale purchase.
A handful of the Louisville-based Right Time Racing partners, many of whom have known each other since high school, were present at the Oaks draw. When asked how they felt about their fillies' post positions, they uttered phrases such as, “We’ll take that; we’re tickled to death.”
“We just didn’t want the 1, 12, or 13 spot,” said Steve Gowers, one of the partners. “So after (we didn’t draw those), we felt pretty strong. We almost couldn’t have hand-picked them any better. We’re really excited.”
John Terranova, who will saddle Lilacs and Lace for the Oaks, was satisfied with the filly's post 2 draw. “It’s fine…she’s quick early; she broke from the inside in the Ashland (gr. I),” he said of Lilacs and Lace, who has odds of 12-1 in the Oaks. “I hope we can get it done from there; we’ll see.”
Lilacs and Lace, who won the Ashland as a 48-1 outsider, enters the Oaks off a record of 3-2-0 from eight starts. Owned by James Covello, Judy Hicks, and Kathryn Nikkel, the daughter of Flower Alley has earnings of $340,300 and will be ridden by Javier Castellano.
St. John's River, a 30-1 shot in the Oaks, drew 13 post for the Run for the Lilies. “I’m thrilled; I’m happy,” said owner Dede McGehee, who also bred the daughter of Include in Kentucky. “I think I’d rather be outside than inside; we aren’t going to be in the front. I’m just happy to be here; I just leave all the logistics to (trainer) Andy Leggio.”
St. John's River enters the Oaks off a runner-up effort to fellow Oaks contender Daisy Devine in the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) March 26.
The field for the $1 million, 1 1/8 mile race, in post-position order, with jockeys, odds:
1—Joyful Victory, Mike Smith, 5-2
2—Lilacs and Lace, Javier Castellano, 12-1
3—Summer Soiree, Gabriel Saez, 5-1
4—Kathmanblu, Julien Leparoux, 4-1
5—Suave Voir Faire, Miguel Mena, 50-1
6—Zazu, Joel Rosario, 4-1
7—Her Smile, Garrett Gomez, 20-1
8—Bouquet Booth, Robby Albarado, 20-1
9—Daisy Devine, James Graham, 20-1
10—Street Storm, Shaun Bridgmohan, 50-1
11—Holy Heavens, Kent Desormeaux, 50-1
12—Plum Pretty, Martin Garcia, 5-1
13—St. John's River, Rosie Napravnik, 30-1