Trainer John Ward won't be caught up in the hoopla of Florida Derby (gr. I) week like he was in 2001 when Monarchos parlayed a victory in Gulfstream's premier event into a win in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), but he did send three of his talented fillies for workouts Monday, each with potential for the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I).Little Money Down, who was second in the Stonerside Forward Gal Stakes (gr. II) March 5, breezed five furlongs in 1:01 4/5. Miss Matched, who was third in the Darley Alcibiades (gr. II) last fall, continues to work toward her comeback, getting five furlongs in 1:00 1/5 while in company with South American import Eccellenza. Both fillies worked handily from the starting gate."Little Money Down and Eccelenza are being pointed for stakes at Keeneland," said Ward. "I'd love to race Eccelenza here, but she won so much in South America, we'd need a non-winners of eight allowance, and they don't write many of those."Ward is looking forward to starting Miss Matched as well as the impressive maiden winner Seek A Star before the end of the Gulfstream meet. He points out there was a plan in mind when he and owner John Oxley set out to acquire talented female runners."A lot of our broodmares were just getting into production, and we needed to refresh our female racing talent," said Ward. "Plus, the price of yearlings started to really escalate. We always plan to acquire some colts, but it just didn't develop."Ward and Oxley now have a plethora of talented fillies and appear to have picked a year when the best filly, Sweet Catomine, is being pointed toward the Kentucky Derby. That could leave the Oaks field wide open, much like it was in 1995 when Ward saddled Gal in a Ruckus to victory.
"When we won the Oaks, that was Serena's Song's year," said Ward. "It certainly was nice to see the good one go in the Derby so we didn't have to worry about her. It's amazing how the crops go gender-wise from year to year. One year it seems like all the colts have all the talent, and then other years it's all the fillies."