Kentucky Oaks hopeful Ermine works Thursday and waits for the draw.

Kentucky Oaks hopeful Ermine works Thursday and waits for the draw.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Ermine and Press Camp Works Toward Oaks Start

Ermine and Press Camp both turned in Thursday works for a start in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) May 5. Ermine worked at Churchill Downs while Press Camp worked at her Bay Meadows base.

Ermine worked five furlongs in 1:01.20. Press Camp went a mile in 1:44.60.

"I was very pleased with her work," said Ermine's trainer, Ronny Werner. "It was just what I wanted from her. I think she galloped out in :15 and she came home the last quarter in : 24 2/5. I wanted her to go 1:01, finish up in :24 with a good, strong, gallop out. All in all it was just a good work."

Jockey Robby Albarado, who has the mount aboard Ermine in the Oaks, was up for the work.

"I didn't want nothing too severe this far out, and she did it nicely," Werner said. "When Robby got off of her, he was pleased."

Werner said the daughter of Exchange Rate would jog Friday and walk the shedrow Saturday.

Werner conditions Ermine for Art and Stephanie Preston's Oxbow Racing. The Ocala, Fla., couple purchased her for $45,000 at the 2004 Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s August yearling sale from the consignment of Summerfield, Agt. Marion G. Montanari originally purchased the filly as a weanling for $30,000 at the 2003 OBS October mixed sale.

Produced from the Thirty Six Red mare Red Mischief, Ermine was bred in Florida by Equirace.Com.

Ermine is one of 15 fillies vying for a place in the Oaks, which is limited to 14 starters, with preference given to horses with the highest total earnings in graded stakes races.

"I'm concerned and hope she will get in. One day I'm hearing there are going to be 12 starters, and the next day I'm hearing 15," Werner said. "If there's 15, we're on the bubble. I guess we won't know anything for sure until Tuesday when posts are drawn."

Unlike the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), there is no preference for original nominees over supplemental entries.

Ermine, winner of the Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn Park in her most recent start, could be left out of the race based on earnings. The Honeybee was not a graded stakes race, so none of the $79,700 earned by Ermine in her five career races would count toward getting her into the starting gate for the Oaks.

The Honeybee win was the second consecutive victory for Ermine, and Werner considered running his filly back in the Fantasy (gr. II), but decided to train the filly up to the Oaks at his Churchill Downs base.

"We had to go this route. The Fantasy was just out of the question. Bringing her back in three weeks and running again in three weeks was just too much," the trainer said. "She's not the kind of horse that you can wheel back in three weeks. We're trying to give her the best opportunity to be at her best."

If Ermine does not draw into the Oaks, Werner said she would likely point toward the May 19 Black Eyed Susan (gr. II) at Pimlico. "We do have her in the seven-eighths race (La Troienne Stakes, grade III, May 6) but the distance really doesn't suit her. She needs more distance, so I doubt I will go there. We will just wait for the Black-Eyed Susan," the trainer said.

The Billy Morey-trained Press Camp went one mile in 1:44.60 at Bay Meadows under exercise rider Sylvester Jimenez.

"She just went a long, slow mile," Morey said. "She's obviously a sprinter-type filly that we got to stretch out to a mile once. I wasn't that concerned with the time because she has so much speed and, if you work her short, she works real fast. I didn't want to bring her into the race with a fast, quick work. I felt she'd be too short and rank early to get the distance."

Morey conditions the daughter of Comic Strip for Don Peter's Peters Stable, Rancho San Miguel, and Matthew Shaver.

Press Camp enters the Oaks after scoring a length win in the one-mile San Ramon at Golden Gate. The San Ramon was her fourth straight win and the first time she had stretched out more than seven furlongs.

"I would rather have more seasoning going under her going into a race like the Oaks, but my owners really want to go, so I'm doing my best to get her to settle down and get that extra eighth of a mile," Morey said.

Bred in California by Peters Stables, Press Camp was produced from the Moscow Ballet mare Gallant Effort.

Press Camp is scheduled to leave Northern California Tuesday morning and arrive at Churchill Downs just after noon.

In other Oaks-related news, Top Notch Lady and Itty Bitty Pretty are both scheduled to work April 28 at Churchill Downs. Bushfire could work either April 28 or 29 at Keeneland before shipping to Churchill Downs April 30.

Likely Oaks favorite, Balance, will work April 28 at her Hollywood Park base before shipping to Churchill Downs the following day.