Though five of her seven starts have come on turf, Kathmanblu’s undeniable talent will eventually get her a chance on dirt in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) 11 weeks from now. On Feb. 19, she will take a major step toward that goal when topping a field seven 3-year-old fillies in the $150,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes (gr. III) at Fair Grounds.
The daughter of Bluegrass Cat figures to be favored in the 1 1/16-mile Rachel Alexandra, which is the first of four graded stakes on a Fair Grounds card highlighted by the $300,000 Risen Star (gr. II). Post time is set for 3:11 p.m. CST.
Kathmanblu has won a pair of turf stakes—the JP Morgan Chase Jessamine at Keeneland as a juvenile and the Sweetest Chant in her 3-year-old debut Jan. 22 at Gulfstream Park—but her best race came on dirt in the Nov. 27 Golden Rod (gr. II) at Churchill Downs when she romped by 8 1/2 lengths. The $1 million Kentucky Oaks will be run over that same Churchill ground May 6.
Trainer Ken McPeek is hoping a solid effort in the Rachel Alexandra, which was formerly known as the Silverbulletday Stakes, will set her up for her final prep in what will either be in the March 26 Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II), April 2 Gulfstream Oaks (gr. II), or the April 9 Central Bank Ashland (gr. I) at Keeneland. Julien Leparoux, who has been aboard the versatile filly in her last four races, will keep the mount and they will break from post 3 while carrying 122 pounds.
“We ran her (in the Sweetest Chant) because there were really no other options (on dirt),” McPeek said. “I wanted to keep her routine of going two turns and she needed to do something. She’s doing great.”
Five D Thoroughbreds and Wind River Stables owns 6-5 morning-line favorite Kathmanblu, who is out of the Devil's Bag mare Abba Gold. Five D bred her in Kentucky.
Also carrying 122 pounds will be local challenger Bouquet Booth, winner of the one mile and 40-yard Silverbulletday, which was formerly known as the Tiffany Lass (the new Tiffany Lass is now run at six furlongs). Beginning with a maiden win in October at Keeneland, the daughter of Flower Alley has won three consecutive starts. Her biggest payday came in the $500,000 Delta Downs Princess (gr. III) in November when she came flying off a hot pace to get up by a half-length.
The Jan. 22 Silverbulletday win in her season debut was in wire-to-wire fashion at odds of 8-5. Never off the board in five starts, Right Time Racing’s Bouquet Booth (7-2) will be ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan once again.
The other top contender is Lilacs and Lace, who ships in from Golden Gate Fields after winning the Jan. 1 California Oaks for her first stakes win. Also by Flower Alley, the chestnut filly was privately purchased after that win and transferred into the barn of John Terranova after being trained by Duane Offield. Mike Smith draws the mount for the first time.
Also not to be discounted are a pair of fillies from the barn of leading trainers Bret Calhoun and Steve Asmussen. Calhoun will saddle the Jan. 14 My Trusty Cat winner Gran Lioness and Asmussen will send out Tapit Dancer, a 6 1/2-length maiden winner at Churchill Downs last season.
$150,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes (gr. III, Race 7, 3:11 p.m.), 3YO Fillies, 1 1/16 Miles (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer 1. Gran Lioness (KY), J Theriot, 118, W B Calhoun
2. Chloe Kate (KY), C J Lanerie, 118, N J Howard
3. Kathmanblu (KY), J R Leparoux, 122, K G McPeek
4. Bouquet Booth (KY), S Bridgmohan, 122, S Margolis
5. Inglorious (ON), C Sutherland, 120, J Carroll
6. Tapit Dancer (KY), J Graham, 116, S M Asmussen
7. Lilacs and Lace (KY), M E Smith, 120, J P Terranova II