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Kentucky Oaks Barn Notes - May 2

BEHOLDER – Trainer Richard Mandella sent his Kentucky Oaks filly Beholder through a mile and three-eighths gallop Thursday morning, her last serious bit of training prior to her start Friday in the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (GI).
 
The bay daughter of Henny Hughes, America’s 2-year-old filly champion in 2012, went through her paces during the special Derby/Oaks training period at Churchill Downs Thursday morning under jockey-turned-exercise rider David Nuesch, then returned to her temporary home in Barn 45.
 
Prior to the exercise, Mandella, the Hall of Fame trainer who will be seeking his first victory in the Run for the Lilies, played host to a contingent of visitors that included University of Louisville football coach Charlie Strong and New England Patriots all-pro defensive lineman Vince Wilfork. The conditioner also fielded a few questions about his ace filly and her Oaks run.
 
As far as her ability to run the nine furlongs of the Oaks:
 
“Well, I remember last year it was a question of whether she could get six furlongs. And she did. And she got far enough in the Breeders’ Cup (mile and one-sixteenth). Every time I’ve asked her to do something, she’s done it. I really don’t think the mile and an eighth is going to make that big a difference. And, you know, I wouldn’t trade her for any of the others.”
 
And would he have any special instructions for rider Garrett Gomez, the only jockey she’s known in her eight-race career:
 
“I won’t have to say much to him. He knows her; he’s been on her in the afternoons and he’s breezed her some in the mornings. He also knows how I think. We won’t need to have any long conversations.”
 
And would he do anything special with her Oaks morning:
 
“I might walk her with a rider up around the barn, or I might put her out for a short gallop during the special time (5:45-6 a.m.) for Oaks and Derby horses tomorrow. I’ll play it by ear and decide in the morning.”
 
Beholder is slated to break from post three in the 10-horse Oaks field. She is a 7-2 co-second-choice for the rich headliner.  
 
CLOSE HATCHES Juddmonte Farms LLC’s undefeated Close Hatches was on the track for a final contained gallop during the Oaks and Derby training session with regular exercise rider Joanna Trout aboard.
 
With Bill Mott stablemate Flashy Gray officially declared from the Oaks, the outside filly Close Hatches will move in one stall in the starting gate and break from post 10.
 
“If we had a choice we would probably take somewhere in the middle but Ron Anderson said he’s delighted with it,” said Juddmonte farm manager Garrett O’Rourke, referring to jockey Joel Rosario’s agent. “He’s probably spinning a little bit of positive into it, but you can sit outside of them and watch them.

“I heard Joel say that if they didn’t want to go (to establish the early lead) he would go, but I think that’s an unlikely scenario given that Beholder and Midnight Lucky drew inside. I can’t see them taking back.

“The worst-case scenario is that everyone has the same idea and then we all get hung wide on the outside but hopefully that won’t happen.”

 
One piece of conventional wisdom regarding the Oaks and Derby is that the eventual winners can’t have any hiccups in the weeks leading up to their races. Count Close Hatches among those that have had zero issues.
 
“Everything is a go and we’re very happy with her,” O’Rourke said. “Everything so far has gone very smoothly with her preparation. She’s training well, she’s sound, she’s happy, she’s aggressive and she’s ready for action.”
 
DREAMING OF JULIA / PRINCESS OF SYLMAR / SILSITA / UNLIMITED BUDGET – Three of the four Todd Pletcher fillies were out with the trainer’s first set at 6 o’clock Thursday morning, each galloping well for their regular exercise riders on the day before their dates in the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (GI).
 
The fourth – the undefeated Unlimited Budget – was held back until the special 8:30-8:45 training session at Churchill Downs for Derby and Oaks runners. Owner Mike Repole had asked that his filly go late in order for him to be able to take in the drill, so instead of sending out his five Derby colts at 8:30 as-per-usual, he sent one of them – Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Charming Kitten – out with the fillies early and Unlimited Budget with the colts late.
 
Unlimited Budget, most recently the heroine of the Fair Ground Oaks, was sent a mile and three eighths by Patti Krotenko, stretching out from the finish line to the five-eighths pole. The dark bay daughter of Street Sense did it in stylish fashion.
 
Earlier, the trio of Dreaming of Julia (with Humberto Zamora up), Princess of Sylmar (Jake Nelson) and Silsita (Obed Perez) had galloped on the illuminated racetrack just as a bright red glow began to fill up the sky to the east of the historic Churchill grounds.
 
Pletcher said he will not put his Oaks fillies on the racetrack Friday morning.
 
MIDNIGHT LUCKY – Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman’s undefeated Midnight Lucky galloped after the renovation break with exercise rider Jorge Alvarez up for trainer Bob Baffert.
 
The gray filly bred by Pegram won in her first try against maidens and rolled to a decisive win in the Sunland Park Oaks.
 
“We knew she was going to be a nice filly,” Pegram said. “As a 2-year-old she had some trouble; that’s the reason she did not run. 
 
“She’s from the family of Hookedonthefeelin, Jimmy Creed and Pussycat Doll. None of those horses wanted to stretch out, but probably the real surprise when you look at this horse is how stretchy she is and how she trains. She showed them at Sunland that distance wasn’t going to a limitation. The biggest surprise is how well she’s handled the added distance.”
 
PURE FUN – Magdalena Racing’s Pure Fun could not be more relaxed on the eve of the Kentucky Oaks. The Hollywood Starlet (GI) winner was sound asleep in her stall at about 8:30 a.m. Thursday, even while Ken McPeek’s barn was buzzing with activity after the trainer’s Kentucky Derby contenders came back from the track.
 
"She’ll snore sometimes,” said Peter Edwards, a partner in McPeek’s Magdalena Racing syndicate headed by Ken McPeek and his wife, Sue McPeek. “She loves to sleep. She had a good three-eighths down the lane yesterday, walked today, and she’s good to go. Now it’s just a matter of dropping back and hoping the speed takes over.”
 
Walking the shedrow the day before a race has always been part of Pure Fun’s routine. 

“She absolutely loves this track,” Edwards said. “She’ll be running at the end. If someone gets out to an easy lead then so be it, it is what it is, but I have to hope that two or three of them go together.”

 
ROSE TO GOLD Kathleen Amaya and Raffaele Centofanti’s Rose to Gold walked the shedrow Thursday morning at Barn 43. She will not go to the track Friday morning.
 
Rose to Gold passed her paddock schooling test of Wednesday afternoon to the satisfaction of trainer Sal Santoro.
 
“She went over with the horses in the first race yesterday and with (Derby favorite) Orb, who was in the schooling stall next to her,” Santoro said. “He must have gotten up on the wrong side of the stall or something because he got agitated and was kicking the back of the stall. But she just stood there and wasn’t bothered at all.”

Rose to Gold has been on or near the lead in the majority of her races and trainer Sal Santoro was asked how he envisioned the Oaks unfolding Friday. 

 
“We are going to have to see what the big three -- Dreaming of Julia, Beholder and Unlimited Budget – do,” Santoro said. “If any of them get free rein and left alone, the party is over.
 
“Hopefully, going into the first turn we will get a good position. Talking to people that have raced here for years, I know the track will be lightning fast and you don’t want to be too far back. I can see a tight pack to the head of the stretch and then have everybody fan out.”
 
Santoro was asked if he had scouted the opposition during morning training hours.
 
“No. We got busy back here this morning with people coming in,” Santoro said. “I will see them in the paddock tomorrow and that will be soon enough.”
 
SEANEEN GIRL – It was “a no brainer’’ to retire as a New Orleans Police detective to become a full-time horse trainer, Bernie Flint was saying Thursday.

“They don’t shoot at you,’’ Flint said of why he left the police force in 1976 after 16 years on the job. “People shooting at you, and then coming out here playing with horses and good people, it’s a different world. … I was in robbery, burglary, homicide and narcotics. I got all the shooting I needed in my life.’’

He said he never was shot. “Fortunately no, but I lost two people with me,’’ he said.

Flint, 73, saddled has won 3,289 races. His first victory came in 1969 at the Fair Grounds.

“I was always training horses,’’ Flint said. “I always had a second job of training horses while I was on the police.’’  

Naveed Chowhan’s Seaneen Girl, who galloped Thursday under exercise rider Edward “Rocky’’ Seely, will be the third Oaks starter for Flint, seeking his first Oaks victory. Rosie Napravnik, the Fair Grounds’ leading rider, has the mount.

Flint said he doesn’t spend much time strategizing.

“Not really, because it’s going to pan out how it’s going to pan out,’’ he said. “You can’t say what’s going to happen in a race – who’s doing what. You can never figure out what’s going to happen when the gates open. All that, that’s the way it goes. That’s why I got Rosie. I mean, she’s going to run with the ball.’’

 

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