Without Kathmanblu in the field, the $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) went from a race with a heavy favorite to one with a wide-open feel.
Kathmanblu, winner of the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (gr. III) in her last start and the current Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) favorite, will skip the March 26 Fair Grounds Oaks in favor of next month’s Ashland (gr. I) at Keeneland. That leaves an evenly-matched field of 10 3-year-old fillies for the 1 1/16-mile race, which is one of four graded stakes on the Louisiana Derby Day card.
With Kathmanblu out of the picture, Donver Stable’s Inglorious inherits the role of the favorite. The Ontario-bred daughter of Hennessy finished second to Kathmanblu in the Feb. 19 Rachel Alexandra, beaten just 1 1/4 lengths after a slow start. The Josie Carroll trainee won the first two starts of her career as a juvenile, both stakes on the Woodbine Polytrack.
Inglorious, who was bred by Arosa Farms, drew post 10 and will be ridden by Chantal Sutherland. She was installed as the 3-1 choice.
“I don’t think the outside post will hurt her at all,” said Carroll. “With all the speed in the race to the inside of her, it should let her get over (to the inside) fairly quickly.”
Though trainer Ken McPeek will not have Kathmanblu in the race, he will still be represented with a logical contender. Niji's Grand Girl (4-1) has hit the board in all seven of her lifetime starts and enters off a third-place finish in the Feb. 12 Florida Oaks on the Tampa Bay Downs turf. The daughter of Candy Ride was impressive in a one-mile allowance score on the Gulfstream main track in her season debut. Garrett Gomez, who was scheduled to ride Kathmanblu, will have the mount on Niji’s Grand Girl.
Breaking from the rail will be Grandacious, who tries to rebound from a failed effort in the Feb. 12 Martha Washington Stakes at Oaklawn when she faded badly to finish last as the 6-5 favorite. The Grand Slam filly, who should be on or near the pace, had finished in the money in her previous five lifetime starts, including a third-place effort in the Delta Downs Princess (gr. III) in November and a runner-up try in the My Trusty Cat Stakes over the same strip in January. Jesse Campbell will ride Grandacious (6-1) for Bret Calhoun.
$500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II, Race 8, 3:56 p.m.), 3YO Fillies, 1 1/16 Miles (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds 1. Grandacious (KY), J M Campbell, 121, W B Calhoun, 6/1
2. Little Miss Holly (KY), E S Prado, 121, S Margolis, 8/1
3. Switching Gears (KY), S Bridgmohan, 121, S Margolis, 8/1
4. Tapit Dancer (KY), M C Baze, 121, S M Asmussen, 10/1
5. Daisy Devine (KY), J Graham, 121, A McKeever, 8/1
6. Snow Fall (KY), A R Napravnik, 121, M Stidham, 8/1
7. Tourmaline (FL), M Mena, 121, L Wiggins, 20/1
8. St. John's River (KY), K J Desormeaux, 121, A Leggio Jr., 8/1
9. Niji's Grand Girl (KY), G K Gomez, 121, K G McPeek 4/1
10. Inglorious (ON), C Sutherland, 121, J Carroll, 3/1