MIDWEST (Illinois, Kentucky) / KATHMANBLU THE EARLY CHOICE IN ASHLAND – Five D Thoroughbreds and Wind River Stables’ Kathmanblu carries a three-race winning streak and the role of morning line favorite into Saturday’s 74th running of the $400,000 Central Bank Ashland Stakes (Grade I) at Keeneland.

The 1 1/16-mile race over the Lexington, Ky., track’s synthetic Polytrack surface will be the final prep for Kathmanblu in her bid to win the 137th running of the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (GI) on Friday, May 6 at Churchill Downs. The winning streak for the versatile Ken McPeek-trained filly includes the Golden Rod (GII) at Churchill Downs and the Rachel Alexandra (GIII) at Fair Grounds, both run over traditional dirt, and the Sweetest Chant on turf at Gulfstream Park.

Alan Garcia will ride Kathmanblu, the 9-5 morning line favorite for the Ashland.

Kathmanblu faces eight accomplished rivals that include Dancinginherdreams (2-1) and Delightful Mary (5-1), both owned by John C. Oxley. Dancinginherdreams won the Pocahontas (GII) at Churchill Downs for trainer John Ward Jr., but is winless in two starts this year. The Mark Casse-trained Delightful Mary finished third to unbeaten champion Awesome Feather in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) at Churchill Downs.

Delta Princess (GIII) winner Bouquet Booth and Mazarine (GIII) and Suncoast winner Wyomia also loom as threats.

SOUTH (Arkansas, Louisiana) / JOYFUL VICTORY, ARIENZA EXPECTED FOR SUNDAY’S FANTASY – Fox Hill Farm’s Joyful Victory, an easy winner in Oaklawn Park’s Honeybee (GIII) in her 2011 debut, and unbeaten Arienza are expected to head a small field to be entered on Friday for Sunday’s $300,000 Fantasy (GII) at the Hot Springs, Ark. track.

Trainer J. Larry Jones’ Joyful Victory is expected to be the favorite for the key 1 1/16-mile prep for the Kentucky Oaks, but Robert and Lawana Low’s regally bred Arienza has sparked much talk during a brief two-race career launched on March 6 in an Oaklawn Park maiden race. Trainer Dan Peitz has been patient with the daughter of European champion Giant’s Causeway out of 2002 U.S. Horse of the Year Azeri, but the Fantasy has become an attractive option because of concern that Arienza might not have sufficient earnings in graded stakes races to compete in the Kentucky Oaks should she pursue that path.

“It almost seems like we have to do it,” Peitz said. “She's doing fine and I wouldn't do it if she wasn't, and with just a couple horses going, it seems like the right move.”

EAST (Maryland, New York) – R HOLIDAY MOOD, AVA K. HEAD COMELY – E. Paul Robsham Stables and trainer Todd Pletcher have a major Kentucky Oaks contender in Gulfstream Oaks (GII) winner R Heat Lightning, but they could have another rising 3-year-old filly star in R Holiday Mood, a contender in Saturday’s $150,000 Comely (GIII) at Aqueduct.

R Holiday Mood is the 7-2 second choice in the morning line for the one-mile Comely and John Velazquez will ride.

“She’s a filly we’ve always liked,” Pletcher said. “It’s stepping up in class, but we are optimistic she’s that kind of filly.”

The favorite at 5-2 is the New York-bred Ava K., who is unbeaten in three races at Aqueduct for trainer Mike Hushion.