This past weekend offered little in the way of Kentucky
Oaks prep action as only two major stakes races were run for 3-year-old fillies
but one of the two could be a prelude of better things to come. The Santa Paula
Stakes and Cicada Stakes didn’t feature much in the way of proven quality
fillies but the Santa Paula result showcased a promising run by Mildly
Making the second start of her young career the speedy
filly rated just behind California Nectar until the ¼ mile mark and then
dragged herself to the lead, full of run and looking very strong. By the time
she entered the stretch she was already more than a length in the lead and
continued to extend her advantage from there under a hand ride by jockey Rafael
Bejarano. She won by 4 ¼ lengths in a time of 1:15.70 on a sloppy track for the
6 ½ furlongs.
This daughter of Sharp Humor is one to keep an eye on for
sure but perhaps not for the Kentucky Oaks as no mention has been made yet as
to her short term goal this spring. Her gallop out wasn’t particularly strong
which prompts me to think she could be at her best running sprint distance
races and might not be as effective stretching out.
This weekend’s Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks for 3-year-old
fillies lost a leading Kentucky Oaks contender on Monday when Kathmanblu’s
connections announced their decision to skip the race in favor of the April 9th
Ashland Stakes (gr.1). Apparently trainer Kenny McPeek thinks his filly could
use some more time before her next start and he would also like to get a Grade
1 win under her belt. This means that the Bluegrass Cat filly will have almost exactly
one month between her Ashland run and the Kentucky Oaks, a schedule that should
have her sharper than ever coming into the Oaks. She turned in a bullet 5
furlong move on Saturday finishing in a time of :59.80.
With the withdrawal of Kathmanblu the way is paved for
Canadian shipper Inglorious to assume the title of favorite race favorite in
the Fair Grounds Oaks. Inglorious finished second to Kathmanblu in the Rachel
Alexandra Stakes at Fair Grounds last month in the third start of her career.
There should be nothing to stand in the way of this talented filly taking her
third stakes victory on Saturday.
There is little adjustment in this week’s Novel Nine
rankings with the biggest change being Inglorious jumping up two spots from #6
The Novel Nine:
– She skips the Fair Grounds Oaks this Saturday to point instead for the April
9th Ashland Stakes, giving her more time to tune up for her first
try at a Grade 1 race since her 3rd place finish in the Breeders’
Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf last November. Running in the Ashland will allow her
to enter the Kentucky Oaks one month later sharp and fit.
Victory – She understandably hasn’t worked since her rousing Honeybee
Stakes victory on March 12th but after such a huge effort in the
Honeybee she probably isn’t in need of much conditioning. Next up for the Larry
Jones trainee is Oaklawn Park’s Fantasy Stakes on April 10th, just
one day after Kathmanblu’s planned run in the Ashland.
Since finishing a fast closing second by a neck to Turbulent Descent on March 5th
the almost white Tapit filly has not turned in any works which seems a little
bit odd. No word yet on where she might run next but wherever and whenever she
shows up she will play a pivotal role. Three of her last four races have been
in Grade 1’s and she is no stranger to deep fields.
– Finishing second in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes only 1 ¼ lengths behind
Kathmanblu certainly put a lot of bottom into this talented filly. The Rachel
Alexandra was her first start on dirt and only her third career start, she is
still learning and should improve off that effort. When she starts in the Fair
Grounds Oaks on Saturday I’m betting it will be a much different filly that we
see show up.
– Her next start has not been decided yet but The Fantasy Stakes was mentioned
as a possibility. She has never run past a mile while winning two of four
starts and finishing second twice but she is simply screaming for more distance
in her races. Once she stretches out past a mile it’s going to be anybody’s
guess how good she could be. She turned in a bullet 1:00.00 5 furlong move last
Lightning – Her next start will most likely come in the Gulfstream Oaks
(gr.2) on April 2nd where she will be facing the very impressive
undefeated filly It’s Tricky. The 1 1/8 mile distance of the Gulfstream Oaks
will be a stern test of her distances capabilities. Her latest work, a 5
furlong move in 1:03.15 was far from being impressive.
7) It’s Tricky – She is undefeated in 3
starts and after her impressive 8 length romp in the Busher Stakes on February
20th It’s Tricky is being given her biggest challenge to date in the
Gulfstream Oaks where she will face Grade 1 winner R Heat Lightning. She will
be running against a much deeper field than she has ever faced before but
something about her seems very compelling, I get the impression that she is a
high quality filly who will rise to new challenges with the same level of
talent she displayed in her Busher Stakes victory.
8) Pomeroy’s Pistol – This daughter of
Pomeroy has proved herself one of the tougher sophomore fillies so far this
year as she has placed second in two graded stakes races and won the Grade 2
Forward Gal. She likes to be on the lead and has shown an ability to hang on in
the stretch against classy fillies to place well. Her next start could come in
Keeneland’s Grade 3 Beaumont Stakes on April 17th over their Polytrack
Lioness – Gran Lioness hung tough in the stretch of the Rachel Alexandra after
setting the pace up front but will doubtless have trouble handling the longer
distances past the 1 1/16 mile mark with fillies like Kathmanblu and Inglorious
around. While she never posts fast works her last two works have been pretty
slow, even by her standards. The last was a 4 furlong move in :51.60 on
Holy Heavens, Dixie City and Wyomia.
Much like the top nine the Honorable Trio remains the
same. Dixie City and Holy Heavens both exited their respective 2nd
and 3rd place finishing in the Honeybee Stakes in good condition but
no immediate plans have been made. The most logical next step would be the
Fantasy Stakes for both fillies, especially Holy Heavens who obviously loves
Oaklawn’s dirt track.
Wyomia’s next start has not been determined yet. I really
liked her win in the Suncoast Stakes on March 12th and have a
feeling she will become a strong player in the 3-year-old filly division this
Photo Courtesy of Michael Burns