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Kentucky Oaks Notes-May 1

 
BEHOLDER – The 2-year-old-champion-turned-serious-Kentucky-Oaks contender Beholder was out for a mile and one-half gallop Wednesday morning during the special Derby/Oaks training period following Churchill Downs renovation break.
        Jockey-turned-exercise rider David Nuesch did the driving on the bay daughter of Henny Hughes as trainer Richard Mandella looked on.
        Nuesch, along with two Mandella’s stable workers, had flown on the plane that brought Beholder, as well as the Humana Distaff-bound stakes mare Rumor, to Louisville from California. He’s worked with Beholder since she came into the Mandella barn early last year.
        “She’s a smart one,” Nuesch said. “And she’s a bit of a drama queen. She’ll overreact sometimes; jump at something she sees or bothers her. Then other times something will happen and she doesn’t turn a hair. She does it all on her terms. She’s a good-feeling filly and those kind have a right to be full of themselves.
        “Last year when we won the Breeders’ Cup and she had such a great year, it was hard to believe she was only a 2-year-old. She did so many things just like she was an old horse that sometimes I forgot who she was.”
        Beholder, who was listed as the 7-2 co-second choice in Friday’s $1 million Kentucky Oaks (GI), drew post three for the nine-furlong race. Was Mandella OK with that?
        “I’m fine with it,” he said. “I’m just happy to be there.”
        Beholder will school in the paddock today with horses from the fifth race.
 




CLOSE HATCHES/FLASHY GRAY – Trainer Bill Mott informed the Churchill Downs Racing Office late Wednesday morning that West Point Thoroughbreds and Tom Keithley’s Flashy Gray will scratch out of Friday’s Kentucky Oaks. Daily Racing Form reported the filly has suffered a foot bruise.
        The Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) runner-up had gone to the track without incident during the Oaks and Derby training session, visiting the paddock before galloping 1 3/8 miles from the seven-eighths pole to the half-mile pole.
        Juddmonte Farms LLC’s undefeated Close Hatches followed an identical regimen, visiting the paddock and galloping 1 3/8 miles.
        With the scratch of Flashy Gray, who had drawn post No. 10, outside filly Close Hatches will now get to move in one spot in the starting gate.
“You don’t know whether it’s good or bad, I guess,” Mott said of the outside draw. “There are advantages and disadvantages. You like to be on the outside and if the field separates itself you can tuck in a little bit. Obviously you don’t want to be 10-wide around the turn.”
Close Hatches is 6-1 on the morning line.
 
DREAMING OF JULIA / PRINCESS OF SYLMAR / SILSITA / UNLIMITED BUDGET – The four fine fillies who comprise trainer Todd Pletcher’s Kentucky Oaks (GI) contingent moved trackside at 6 o’clock Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs, each with some leg-stretching in order and on their minds.
        Dreaming of Julia (with exercise rider Humberto Zamora up), Unlimited Budget (Patti Krotenko), Silsita (Nick Bush) and Princess of Sylmar (Jake Nelson) stepped from the dark of the morning into the bright of the illuminated racetrack and went about their business with the professional air that marks virtually all of Pletcher’s runners.
        Dreaming of Julia, the 3-1 morning-line favorite for the Oaks, galloped a mile and one-quarter. Friday she’ll be handled by John Velazquez and break from post eight in the 10-horse field of 3-year-old fillies. Unlimited Budget, co-second choice at 7-2 with Beholder, will depart from post four under Javier Castellano.Silsita gets the saddle services of Gary Stevens as they break from the rail with starting odds of 20-1. And Princess of Sylmar will begin in post six for jockey Mike Smith, also at odds of 20-1.
        Pletcher has won the Oaks twice previously – first with Ashado in 2004, then with Rags to Riches in 2007. Both were subsequently named champions.
 
MIDNIGHT LUCKY – Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman’s unbeaten filly Midnight Lucky galloped 1 ½ miles Wednesday morning.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert will saddle the Sunland Oaks winner, who drew post No. 2 and is 9-2 on the morning line. Baffert has won the Oaks twice: Plum Pretty in 2011 and Silverbulletday in 1999.
 
PURE FUN – Magdalena Racing’s Pure Fun galloped one mile during the Oaks and Derby session under exercise rider Jose Cano.
The Pure Prize filly, entering Friday’s race off a seventh against males in Keeneland’s Lexington Stakes (GIII), didn’t get her first timed work of 2013 until mid-February and has been playing catch up with her conditioning since. There were no physical problems that forced her to be away for so long, trainer Ken McPeek said, but she needed a break after eight starts as a juvenile, culminating with a Grade I win in December’s Hollywood Starlet.
        “We gave her time off, which is typical for us with 2-year-olds,” McPeek said. “But she ran late into the season so she was later getting back into the game. She gained a bit of weight. I wanted to have her ready for the Honeybee, which is a dirt race, but she just wasn’t ready yet. She was still a couple of works behind schedule. And then we chose the Bourbonette, which was not exactly the surface or the timing that I wanted. That didn’t go well because she came out of that race with a slight fever. I thought I was going to come back in the Fantasy (GIII at Oaklawn) but that didn’t work either.
“I was kind of in between and was like, well, what do I do now? There weren’t any more preps after that; the only one I could find was the Lexington. Again, it wasn’t the surface or the timing I wanted but she needed the race in order to be competitive this weekend.”
While both of her starts this year have been disappointing, Pure Fun’s most recent start over the Churchill Downs surface – a 9 1/4-length allowance win in November – allows for hope that she could still put it all together on Friday.
“She likes this ground,” McPeek said. “I do think she’s a dirt horse. We’ve got her ready and I’m pleased with the way it’s gone. It was a little unconventional but all of them are.”
 
ROSE TO GOLD – Kathleen Amaya and Raffaele Centofanti’s Rose to Gold walked the shedrow at Barn 43 Wednesday morning, a plan she will follow Thursday morning and Friday morning for trainer Sal Santoro.
        Listed at 15-1 on the morning line, Rose to Gold drew post position nine for Friday’s Oaks and will be ridden by Calvin Borel.
        “I would have preferred somewhere from three through six, but it is what it is,” Santoro said. “I am confident in Calvin and whatever he feels is the right thing, he’ll do it.”
        Rose to Gold is scheduled to school with horses in Wednesday’s first race.
        “She never has had an issue at the gate or in the paddock,” Santoro said. “She is pretty level-headed. I know there is no way you can replicate 100,000 people. It will probably be like Keeneland where everybody is close. The day she won the Fantasy, there were 30,000 there that day, so this will be three times more.”
        The latest forecast for Friday is for temperatures in the mid-70s with a 10 percent chance of rain. Rose to Gold is two-for-two on sloppy tracks, including the 4 ½-length victory in the Fantasy (GIII).
        “The mud at Oaklawn the day of the Fantasy was so deep that the woman who presented the trophy took her shoes off to cross the track. She said she could wash her feet, but not the shoes,” Santoro said. “So, if you see somebody lighting a novena candle in the grandstand, it’s me.”        
 
SEANEEN GIRL – The 30-1 morning-line odds on Naveed Chowhan’s Seaneen Girl for the Oaks on Friday don’t concern trainer Bernie Flint.
“No pain, no gain,’’ Flint said. “She’s always been a longshot. Most of these classic races, like the Kentucky Derby, I don’t care who’s the favorite. They’ve always got a favorite. Very seldom do they win, so go from there. The Oaks is the same way. It will be the same way, because I’ve got a feeling I’m going to get them. … I’ve got ’em where I want ’em.’’
Seaneen Girl went off at 19-1 when she finished second in the Mazarine (GIII) at Woodbine, 31-1 when she won the Golden Rod (GII) at Churchill Downs and 24-1 when she finished third in the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII).
She galloped a mile and a half Wednesday under exercise rider Edward “Rocky” Seely.
“Wonderful,’’ Seely said. “She came out of her work (Monday) in very, very good shape. She’s going as good as she’s been going.’’

 

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