R Heat Lightning, the likely favorite in the May 6 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) for trainer Todd Pletcher, put in her final drill prior to the race April 30, working a half-mile in :48 1/5 at Churchill Downs.
Exercise rider Hector Ramos galloped his eager filly past the six-furlong pole with assistant trainer Mike McCarthy alongside on a pony, then went on his own with the Trippi filly under stout restraint. He let out a notch as she approached the half-mile pole and the racy bay zoomed into her exercise.
Coming to the quarter pole, Ramos had to alter course slightly when he encountered a pair of 2-year-olds blowing out a quarter mile down the lane right along the rail. The rider shifted out and went on by the twosome, all the while never really letting his charge have her head. Churchill clockers caught R Heat Lightning’s splits in :11 4/5, :23, and :34 4/5, then gave her a gallop-out time of 1:01 4/5.
“Some might say she’s headstrong,” said Pletcher, who watched the move from the Churchill Downs grandstand. “But I just think she’s very enthusiastic about her work. She’ll go on a light schedule from here on out up to the race on Friday.”
E. Paul Robsham Stables’ R Heat Lightning was a powerful winner of both the Davona Dale Stakes (gr. II) and Gulfstream Oaks (gr. II) in her past two starts.
Also on the Churchill worktab, top contender Kathmanblu worked five furlongs in 1:01 4/5 over a fast track after the renovation break, the 16th fastest of 36 works at the distance.
Working on her own with jockey Julien Leparoux up, Five D Thoroughbreds and Wind River Stables’ Kathmanblu clicked off fractions of :12 1/5, :24 2/5, :36 4/5, and :49 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:15 1/5.
“It was a nice and steady work,” trainer Ken McPeek said. “I got her last quarter in :24, which is all we wanted.”
James Covello and partners’ Lilacs and Lace breezed five furlongs in 1:02 3/5 under exercise rider Eliel DeJesus following the renovation break.
“She just had an easy five-eighths. We just wanted to see how she got over the track and everything seemed to go good. She started off easy and seemed to finish up well,” trainer John Terranova said.
Lilacs and Lace, who captured the Central Bank Ashland Stakes (gr. I) over Keeneland’s Polytrack surface last time out, has run only once on dirt, a distant eighth-place finish in her career debut.
“I think she handles it great. She’s a great-moving filly and she gets over the ground really, really nicely. My rider said she feels great going over it,” Terranova said.
Javier Castellano, who rode the daughter of Flower Alley in the Ashland, has the return mount for the Kentucky Oaks.
Another leading contender, Team Valor International’s Summer Soiree, breezed a half-mile in :48 4/5 for exercise rider Heather Craig.
“She went great. She went perfect,” trainer Graham Motion said. “She’s had two really fast works at Keeneland. I said today, I just wanted to have an easy go. It’s completely the opposite of what I wanted to do with Animal Kingdom. She just went a handy half-mile in :48 and change. I said to shut her down after the wire. I don’t want her galloping out too strong.”
Motion moved the work up a day because rain is forecast for Sunday.
“I wanted to do it on Sunday, but the weather was just too iffy,” he said. “I thought it was crazy to wait and then have to breeze her on a sloppy track. There was no sense in doing that.”
At Hollywood Park, Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Moss’ Zazu turned in her final workout for the Oaks when she covered seven furlong in 1:24 2/5 at Hollywood Park April 30.
“She went really well; we’re very pleased,” said trainer John Sadler from his Hollywood barn. “Joel Rosario was aboard for the move and he’ll ride her Friday.”
Zazu has been first or second in six of her seven starts, including a tally in the Las Virgenes (gr. I) in February at Santa Anita. She figures to be among the favorites for the nine-furlong Oaks.
“We’ll see how she comes out of this work tomorrow,” Sadler said, adding, “then train her a bit more after that. On Tuesday, she’s on a plane to Louisville. I’m on a plane that day, too, but it’s the Moss’ private jet. We’re all looking forward to the trip to Kentucky.”
Meanwhile, John Oxley’s Delightful Mary was withdrawn from Oaks consideration by her connections following a five-furlong work of 1:01 3/5 at Churchill April 29.
“It was a good work yesterday, but we wanted a tremendous work and we did not get that,” said Norman Casse, son of and assistant to trainer Mark Casse. “I think she is going to go back to Woodbine and regroup. There are no definite plans for her next race. We will let her tell us when she is ready.”