Oaks Fillies Post Final Works
Oaks fillies out in force to post final works
Grade 1 winner R HEAT LIGHTNING (Trippi), the likely favorite for Friday's $1 million Kentucky Oaks (G1), put in her final drill for the headliner Saturday morning, working a half-mile on Churchill Downs' fast dirt under exercise rider Hector Ramos at 8:45 a.m. (EDT), a drill that was clocked in :48 1/5.
Ramos galloped his eager filly around past the six-furlong pole with assistant trainer Mike McCarthy alongside on a pony, then went on his own with his filly under stout restraint. He let out a notch on her coming to the half-mile pole and the racy bay zoomed into her exercise.
Coming to the quarter-pole, Ramos had to alter course slightly when he encountered a pair of two-year-olds blowing out a quarter-mile down the lane right along the rail. The rider shifted out and went on by the twosome inside him, all the while never really letting his charge have her head. Churchill clockers caught R Heat Lightning's splits in :11 4/5, :23 and :34 4/5, then gave her a gallop out time of 1:01 4/5.
'Some might say she's headstrong,' said trainer Todd Pletcher, who watched the move from the Churchill Downs grandstand. 'But I just think she's very enthusiastic about her work. She'll go on a light schedule from here on out up to the race on Friday.'
R Heat Lightning will enter the Oaks off two dominating victories at Gulfstream Park, a 7 1/4-length score in the Davona Dale S. (G2) and an 8 1/4-length romp in the Gulfstream Oaks (G2).
Stablemate and Comely S. (G3) runner-up HER SMILE (Include) galloped 1 1/4 miles Saturday morning with exercise rider Kevin Willey aboard. They went trackside at 8:30 a.m. following the renovation break when the track is reserved for Oaks and Kentucky Derby (G1) runners. Her Smile entered the Oaks picture after being bought by celebrity chef Bobby Flay following her Comely run.
'We're going to work her tomorrow at 8:30 following the break,' Pletcher said. 'We'll see how she goes and then I'll talk to Bobby. If we decide to run, Garrett Gomez will ride her.'
Her Smile has finished off the board just once in seven lifetime starts, finishing fourth in the grassy Florida Oaks at Tampa Bay Downs, but followed that with a third in the Suncoast S. and the Comely second.
Lilacs and Lace flew over Churchill's dirt in her first move on the surface (Reed Palmer Photography/Churchill Downs)
LILACS AND LACE (Flower Alley) breezed five furlongs in 1:02 3/5 under exercise rider Eliel DeJesus following the renovation break Saturday morning at Churchill.
'She just had an easy five-eighths. We just wanted to see how she got over the track and everything seemed to go good. She started off easy and seemed to finish up well,' trainer John Terranova said.
Lilacs and Lace, who captured the Ashland S. (G1) over Keeneland's Polytrack last out, has run only once on dirt, finishing a distant seventh in her career debut at Santa Rosa in California.
'I think she handles it great,' Terranova asserted. 'She's a great moving filly and she gets over the ground really, really nicely. My rider said she feels great going over it.'
Javier Castellano, who rode the Kentucky-bred chestnut in the Ashland, has the return mount for the Oaks.
With jockey Julien Leparoux up, Grade 2 victress KATHMANBLU (Bluegrass Cat) logged five furlongs in 1:01 4/5 over the fast track after the renovation break, the 16th fastest of 36 works at the distance. Working on her own, Kathmanblu clicked off fractions of :12 1/5, :24 2/5, :36 4/5 and :49 before galloping out six furlongs in 1:15 1/5.
'It was a nice and steady work,' trainer Ken McPeek said. 'I got her last quarter in :24, which is all we wanted.'
Also working for McPeek after the renovation break in the time reserved for Kentucky Derby and Oaks horses was NIJI'S GRAND GIRL (Candy Ride [Arg]), third-place finisher in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) in her most recent start.
Niji's Grand Girl worked in company with the winning Sassy's Dream (Flower Alley), with each being credited with a time of 1:02 for five furlongs, the 17th fastest clocking of the morning at the distance.
'I have not ruled it out,' McPeek said of an Oaks run for Niji's Grand Girl. The chestnut miss, as well as Sassy's Dream, are nominated to the $100,000 Edgewood S. to be run at 1 1/16 miles over the turf on Oaks Day.
Summer Soiree is undefeated this season in two starts (Harold Roth/Horsephotos.com)
Bourbonette Oaks (G3) queen SUMMER SOIREE (War Front) breezed a half-mile in :48 4/5 Saturday morning under exercise rider Heather Craig.
'She went great. She went perfect,' trainer Graham Motion said. 'She's had two really fast works at Keeneland. I said today, I just wanted to have an easy go. It's completely the opposite of what I wanted to do with (Kentucky Derby candidate) Animal Kingdom (Leroidesanimaux [Brz]).
'She just went a handy half-mile in :48 and change. I said to shut her down after the wire. I don't want her galloping out too strong. She's a filly that wants to do a lot in the morning. Today was just about giving her a little blow and setting her up for Friday.'
Motion moved the work up a day because rain is in the forecast for Sunday.
'I wanted to do it on Sunday, but the weather was just too iffy,' he said. 'I thought it was crazy to wait and then have to breeze her on a sloppy track. There was no sense in doing that.'
Grade 1 heroine ZAZU (Tapit) turned in her final workout prior to her start Friday in the Kentucky Oaks when she covered seven furlongs in 1:24 2/5 over Hollywood Park's Cushion Track on Saturday morning.
'She went really well; we're very pleased,' trainer John Sadler said from his Hollywood barn. 'Joel Rosario was aboard for the move and he'll ride her Friday.'
Zazu has been first or second in six of her seven starts, including a tally in the Las Virgenes S. (G1) in February at Santa Anita. She figures to be among the favorites for the nine-furlong Oaks.
'We'll see how she comes out of this work tomorrow,' Sadler said, 'then train her a bit more after that. On Tuesday, she's on a plane to Louisville. I'm on a plane that day, too, but it's the (owner) Moss' private jet. We're all looking forward to the trip to Kentucky.'
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