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Kentucky Oaks Barn Notes - April 30

BEHOLDER -- Reigning 2-year-old filly champion Beholder took another step down the road to further stardom when she galloped Tuesday at Churchill Downs in advance of her date Friday in the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (GI).
 
The racy bay daughter of Henny Hughes had more than a few interested parties on hand to see her strut her stuff, including her Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella, her owner and the guy behind Kentucky’s historic Spendthrift Farm, B. Wayne Hughes, and Spendthrift’s farm manager, Ned Toffey.
 
And she didn’t disappoint them. Sporting her usual black ear muff training hood and handled by jockey-turned-exercise rider David Nuesch, the $1.5-million earner skipped over the big oval in strong fashion, covering a mile and one-half before she was done.
 
Noting that he’d galloped her nine furlongs Sunday in her first appearance on the track following her trip in from California, then 10 furlongs Monday, dry-wit specialist Mandella smiled when he offered:
 
“We’re ready for the Belmont now.”
 
Mandella will give a leg up to rider Garrett Gomez Friday, then watch them break from the No. 3 post in the 11-horse Oaks lineup. She is the 7-2 co-second-choice on the morning line for the Oaks. 
 
CLOSE HATCHES/FLASHY GRAY – Juddmonte Farms LLC’s undefeated Close Hatches and West Point Thoroughbreds and Tom Keithley’s Flashy Gray both walked through the paddock and had “normal gallops” of 1 ¼ miles during the Oaks and Derby session, according to trainer Bill Mott.
 
The Mott duo will break next to each other from the outside posts – 10 for Flashy Gray and 11 for Close Hatches – but the trainer did not express concern about any particular draw.
 
“I’d like to be somewhere between one and 11,” Mott deadpanned.
 
Flashy Gray is 15-1 on the morning line and Close Hatches was installed as the 6-1 fifth choice despite a perfect record.

I would say one of any five or six of these would be the favorite any other year,” Mott said.

 
DREAMING OF JULIA / PRINCESS OF SYLMAR / SILSITA / UNLIMITED BUDGET – Trainer Todd Pletcher had his four Kentucky Oaks (GI) fillies out early Tuesday morning, sending them trackside prior to 6 o’clock in his first set of the day, each with their regular exercise riders on board.
But the other three 3-year-olds each galloped a good mile and a quarter before they got to return to their Barn 34 stalls. Patti Krotenko did the steering on the undefeated Fair Grounds Oaks (GII)  winner Unlimited Budget; Humberto Zamora was the pilot for the Gulfstream Park Oaks (GII) heroine Dreaming of Julia, and Princess of Sylmar, a winner of four of six starts and second last out in the Gazelle (GII) at Aqueduct, had her guy Jake Nelson in the boot.
 
Pletcher likes the way his quartet is coming up to their nine-furlong testing and has said it is only a matter of the minor details from here on out.
 
One of those details will happen this afternoon when horses come over for Churchill’s second race and all four of his fillies will “paddock” with them.
 
Dreaming of Julia, who will break from post position eight, was made the 3-1 morning line favorite by track handicapper Mike Battaglia. Unlimited Budget, the 7-2 co-second choice, will break from post position four, Silsita (20-1) from post one and Princess of Sylmar (20-1) from post six.
 
MIDNIGHT LUCKY – Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman’s unbeaten filly Midnight Lucky jogged and schooled in the gate in her return to the track Tuesday morning. She breezed five furlongs in :59.60 Sunday.
 
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said his Sunland Park Oaks winner will be put to the test Friday against what he has described as a very strong field.
 
“She’s only had two outs; her weakness is her foundation,” Baffert said. ”There are some good fillies in there. She has to break well. She ran a sprint and went a mile. Now she’s going a mile and an eighth against the best fillies. She has her work cut out for her.”
 
Midnight Lucky, listed at 9-2 on the morning line, will break from post position two under Rafael Bejarano.
 
PURE FUN – Magdalena Racing’s Pure Fun came to the track during the Oaks and Derby session under exercise rider Jose Cano.
 
“The filly jogged off the right direction and galloped a mile-and-a-half,” trainer Ken McPeek said. “She picked it up from the three-eighths.”
 
McPeek’s Derby duo of Frac Daddy and Java’s War opened up their gallops at the quarter pole but Pure Fun is getting a little extra exercise because she has not put in an official work since her most recent start in the April 20 Lexington Stakes (GIII).
 
“She came out of it good,” McPeek said of the effort in Keeneland’s final 3-year-old stakes event. “I felt like she really needed the race over there. She was a bit behind the eight ball. We maybe laid her up a little longer than we should have or needed to. When we brought her back she gained more weight. The race did her more good than sitting on her and working her a couple more times so that sets her up good.”
 
Pure Fun’s past three starts have been on synthetic surfaces, including a win in December’s Hollywood Starlet (GI). In her most recent attempt on dirt, she won a Churchill Downs allowance in November by more than nine lengths. The runner-up in that race, Dancinginthecircle, dominated a six-figure stakes race in her next start.
 
Pure Fun, listed at 30-1 on the morning line, will break from post seven under Julien Leparoux.
 
ROSE TO GOLD – Kathleen Amaya and Raffaele Centofanti’s Rose to Gold had her final morning on-track exercise for Friday’s Oaks by galloping 1 ½ miles after the break under Denis Roberson.
 
“She will walk the next two mornings and not go to the track Friday morning,” trainer Sal Santoro said. “I have done the same thing for all of her races and if it isn’t broken I am damned sure not going to change it now.”
 
Santoro arrived in Louisville on Monday and saw his star filly for the first time since the day after she won the Fantasy (GIII) on April 10 at Oaklawn Park.

“I had some things that had to be taken care of at home but I had no worries at all with Denis here and (jockey) Calvin (Borel),” said Santoro, who has 20 horses stabled at Calder and another eight in Ocala.

Santoro is relishing the atmosphere leading up to the Oaks and Kentucky Derby.

“I’m excited. This is holy ground here,” said Santoro, standing outside Barn 43 which this week houses one of the favorites for the Derby in Orb and horses for Todd Pletcher. “There’s Shug (McGaughey), Todd … and me.”

The only bad performance on Rose to Gold’s seven-race resume is a 12th-place finish in the Alcibiades last October at Keeneland over the Polytrack surface.

“We are very confident that is what it was,” Santoro said referring to the all-weather surface. “There was no other reason for it. It was totally out of character for her.

“(Jockey Jesus) Rios said she would start to get going and her feet would slip. She kept getting frustrated and the harder she tried, the worse it got.”

Rose to Gold, 15-1 on the morning line, will break from post position nine.  

 
SEANEEN GIRL – Trainer Bernie Flint sounded like a proud papa as he watched Seaneen Girl walk around the shedrow Tuesday morning.

The filly bounced out of her workout Monday – a half-mile in :48.80 – feeling spry, Flint said.

“Look at her,’’ he said. “She’s alert. Ears are up. … Look at my girl walk around there.’’

Flint and owner Naveed Chowhan will be participating in their third Oaks. They finished sixth with Red Cherries Spin in 2006 and sixth with Runway Model in 2005.

Flint claimed Red Cherries Spin for $75,000, and her next start was in the Oaks. She finished 5 ½ lengths behind winner Lemons Forever.

“A claiming horse,’’ Flint said. “I liked her. I figured we could take a shot and do some good. It’s amazing that you could claim one and bring her over there and see her run that well.’’

Runway Model was third in the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) and second in the Ashland (GI) before running in the Kentucky Oaks, in which she finished 7 ¼ lengths behind winner Summerly. She made most of her money as a 2-year-old, winning the Alcibiades (GII) and finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI).

“She was a fantastic 2-year-old, and I realized it,’’ Flint said. “This horse (Seaneen Girl) wasn’t used like that one was. When you do Breeders’ Cups and everything else, trust me, that’s squeezing that lemon pretty dry. (Runway Model) was a good 2-year-old, really a good 2-year-old. Made almost $800,000 with her and sold her for over $2 million. We paid $50,000 for her as a 2-year-old. I thought it was a pretty good deal.’’

The deal for Seaneen Girl has worked out well, too. Flint purchased Seaneen Girl privately in October at Woodbine -- for a price he wouldn’t disclose – after she finished second in the Mazarine (GII). In her two starts for Flint, she won the Golden Rod (GII) and finished third in the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII).

 
Listed at 20-1 on the morning line, Seaneen Girl will break from post position five under Rosie Napravnik in the Oaks.

 

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Older Comments about Kentucky Oaks Barn Notes - April 30...

i was looking closely at the oaks.initialy i was looking at close hatches.but i kept coming back to midnight lucky.she is the only filly in the race that has not fired a big move yet.dreaming of julia.thorograph sheet wise,ran the fastest race ever recorded ,colts or fillies.she has made 2 monster moves in a row.if she repeats her last,she is a lock.i just can't see her really recovering from such an effort.unlimited budget made a big move forward in her last.lucky on the other hand has kept the course.i think she has the best shot of exploding on friday

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