“We would have loved to have been somewhere four through 10,” Walker said. “But she breaks so good it’s not an issue with a long run into the first turn. I really didn’t want to be in gates one through three and fear being shuffled back to the rear if you don’t break. But she’s out-broken the field in just about every race she’s run in seven starts so far, so don’t be surprised if you hear her name called first.”
AND WHY NOT – Helen K. Groves’ And Why Not galloped 1 ½ miles under exercise rider Peter Brette Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs.
The daughter of Street Cry, who closed well to finish a close second in the Pocahontas (GII) at Churchill in her 2011 finale, has raced only once this year, finishing a distant seventh in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (GII) on March 31.
Having gotten such a late start, And Why Not is expected by trainer Michael Matz to blossom later in the year while hoping for the best in the Oaks.
“She’s a May 26th foal, so she’s a really young horse to be doing this. I think by the time the ends of the season comes around, maybe like Saratoga in the Alabama going a mile-and-a-quarter, it’ll really suit her to a ‘T,” Matz said. “But she ran well here in the Pocahontas, only got beat a half-length, and she has a race under her belt and has worked well since that, so I hope she will run a good race. There’s a lot of speed in the race, so that should help her.”
Julien Leparoux has been named to ride And Why Not.
BELIEVE YOU CAN – Brereton Jones’ homebred Believe You Can continues to impress trainer Larry Jones, who gallops the filly himself each morning during the Oaks and Derby training session. Today the duo walked around the paddock and stood in the same stall she’ll be saddled in Friday before galloping five-eighths of a mile.
“We let her walk around there a little bit, let her find what hole she’s going to be in for the Oaks and let her get accustomed to that view,” Jones said of the paddock visit.
Fair Grounds’ Silverbulletday Stakes and Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) winner galloped professionally and doesn’t appear to have felt any negative effects from her blazing :58.80 breeze on Sunday.
“She had a very uneventful day but she went really well,” Jones said. “Now all we do is keep her from getting in trouble between now and the race.”
BROADWAY’S ALIBI – E. Paul Robsham Stables’ Broadway’s Alibi galloped 1 ¼ miles under exercise rider Carlos Cano at Churchill Downs in preparation for a start in Friday’s Kentucky Oaks (GI). The daughter of Vindication arrived Tuesday morning after a flight from South Florida.
The winner of her last four starts after finishing second in her debut at Delaware Park last summer, Broadway’s Alibi will be making her first start around two turns in the 1 1/8-mile Oaks.
“Everything she’s done so far, stretching out from six furlongs to seven furlongs to a mile, she keeps going and going and going,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “The way she trains, she gave us every indication that we needed to be in there and trying her.”
Although her two-turn credentials may be a “question mark,’ her trainer has reason to hope that 1 1/8 miles is within her scope.
“Pedigree-wise, she’s by Vindication, who is by Seattle Slew, and has Seeking the Gold on the bottom, so suggests she should handle it,” Pletcher said.
Broadway’s Alibi will be ridden by John Velazquez.
COLONIAL EMPRESS – Trainer D. Wayne Lukas shuffled plans with Colonial Empress this morning, giving his Honeybee Stakes (GIII) third-place finisher the day off.
“The filly just walked today,” Lukas said. “I let her open her stride up pretty good for about five-eighths in her gallop yesterday, so she got the day off.”
Colonial Empress, bidding to give Lukas a record-tying fifth career Oaks win, is scheduled to return to the track tomorrow. She will be ridden by two-time Oaks winner Corey Nakatani on Friday.
EDEN’S MOON/JEMIMA’S PEARL – Kaleem Shah’s Eden’s Moon and Gillian Campbell, R Group Management Ltd. and Greenwood Lodge Farm’s Jemima’s Pearl each galloped 1½ miles Wednesday morning.
Eden’s Moon, winner of the Las Virgenes (GI) and third as the favorite in the Santa Anita Oaks (GI) will be ridden by Martin Garcia in the Kentucky Oaks. Joe Talamo will be aboard Jemina’s Pearl, who raced five times in Ireland in 2011 and has made her two starts this year in the U.S. for trainer Bob Baffert. She came from off the pace to finish third in her last start, the Fantasy (G2) at Oaklawn Park.
“They’re different,” Baffert said. “Eden’s Moon is speed. The other one is still green and learning. I think the distance won’t be a problem for either one of them.”
GRACE HALL – Gulfstream Park Oaks (GII) winner Grace Hall made her first appearance on the track Tuesday morning since shipping from South Florida to Churchill Downs on Tuesday. The Anthony Dutrow-trained 3-year-old filly galloped about a mile under exercise rider Carol Fisher.
Dutrow expressed pleasure with his 5-2 morning-line favorite for Friday’s Kentucky Oaks (GI).
“She doing really well. She’ll either jog or gallop tomorrow,” said Dutrow, who is considering a trip to the paddock for the daughter of Empire Maker on Thursday.
Owned by Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables and The Elkstone Group, Grace Hall, finished second behind champion My Miss Aurelia in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs last fall after winning her first three starts by open lengths. After finishing second in the Davona Dale (GII) at Gulfstream in her 2012 debut, she captured the Gulfstream Park Oaks in a runaway by more than six lengths.
Javier Castellano will have the return mount aboard Grace Hall.
HARD NOT TO LIKE – Though trainer Gail Cox was en route to Louisville from Ontario, Canada, her Kentucky Oaks prospect Hard Not to Like was on the track at Churchill Downs for a gallop getting her initial feel of the surface she’ll tackle Friday in the $1 million Oaks for 3-year-old fillies.
Hard Not to Like arrived at Churchill Downs in mid-afternoon Tuesday after a 10-hour van ride from her home base at Woodbine Race Course.
Cox is expected to get into Louisville by mid-afternoon.
KARLOVY VARY – Alex Campbell Jr.’s Karlovy Vary galloped 1 ½ miles under exercise rider Marty Metcalf before the morning renovation break.
Winner of the Central Bank Ashland (GI) in her most recent start, Karlovy Vary is scheduled for a second paddock schooling session this afternoon.
“She did OK yesterday, but it could have been better,” trainer Rusty Arnold said. “If she does fine today, that will be it.”
Listed at 20-1 on the morning line, Karlovy Vary will break from post position 11 under jockey James Graham.
“Eleven is a good spot, couldn’t be any better,” Arnold said. “A lot of things can get her beat, but it won’t be the post. We just have to see if she can handle the dirt and the competition.”
Karlovy Vary captured the Central Bank Ashland in front-running fashion, but Arnold sees Friday’s Oaks as a whole new ballgame.
“It will be a completely different race from the Ashland,” Arnold said. “The Ashland had no speed and there is a lot of speed here. It is not a comparable race.”
OAKS LILY – Jonathan Rey, Javier Sarmiento and Dante Zanelli Jr.’s Oaks Lily is hoping for some good news in time for her third birthday Friday (while all registered Thoroughbreds officially have their birthday on Jan. 1, Oaks Lily’s foal date was May 4, 2009). The Keeneland maiden winner remains on the “Also-Eligible” list and needs a defection from the current 14-horse field to draw in.
As time runs out on her chances, Oaks Lily continues to train forwardly should the opportunity come. This morning she galloped 1 1/8 miles during the Oaks and Derby training session under exercise rider Raphael Verderosa.
“On the track she’s doing really good,” said Zanelli, the bloodstock agent who co-owns the filly and is managing her preparations this week. “We let her stretch out a little more this week, to let her know that it’s getting a little more serious with what we want her to do.
“She’s doing great and moving forward with each passing day. Just have to sit tight and wait.”
Being a relative youngster because of a foal date that falls later in the spring than most, Oaks Lily continues to mature at a rapid pace. Zanelli has seen significant changes in her physical appearance over the three weeks since her win at Keeneland.
“There’s tons of difference,” he said. “Her coat, the way she looks, she’s muscling in, filling in real good. She’s really coming around. You can see her neck is getting muscled. Mainly it’s because she’s still a baby and has continued growing into herself.
“She’ll have a happy birthday regardless, but it could get happier.”
ON FIRE BABY – Anita Cauley’s On Fire Baby, the co-second choice on the Kentucky Oaks morning line at 4-1, visited the paddock and then galloped a mile and a half under jockey Joe Johnson shortly after 6 o’clock Wednesday morning.
Winner of the Pocahontas (GII) and Golden Rod (GII) here last fall, On Fire Baby drew post position one for Friday’s Oaks.
“I wanted the one or the seven,” trainer Gary Hartlage said. “That’s perfect. She has been outside for most of her races. Maybe after the race, I’ll feel different.”
Wednesday’s activity was more the norm for On Fire Baby, who galloped only seven-eighths of a mile the day before because of a loose horse and Johnson cut the gallop short.
“This makes up a little bit for yesterday,” Hartlage said. “She’s full of herself this morning. She will have a light day tomorrow.”
SACRISTY – Sacristy, the beaten favorite in the Beaumont (GII), galloped a mile Wednesday morning and will have a paddock schooling session in today’s seventh race at Churchill Downs. Sacristy also schooled in the paddock yesterday.
“She got a little hot yesterday, but overall was very good in there,” trainer Wayne Catalano said. “With the forecast calling for hot weather Friday, it’s not going to hurt to get them used to the afternoon temperatures.”
Catalano said he likes the post seven draw for the Oaks.
“She’s right in the middle,” he said. “You can’t complain about that. I like it.”
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith will have the Oaks mount on Sacristy.
SUMMER APPLAUSE – Gillian Campbell, R Group Management and Greenwood Lodge Farm’s Summer Applause galloped an easy 1 ½ miles on the main track just after it opened at 5:45 a.m., with her neck bowed the entire way.
“She’s full of herself,” trainer Bret Calhoun said. “She’s strong right now. She’s ready to go and it just seems like mentally and physically everything’s good.”
Summer Applause schooled in the Churchill Downs paddock during Tuesday’s races and has one more morning of light exercise before raceday.
“We’ve pretty much got all of our ‘i’s dotted and all of our ‘t’s crossed,” Calhoun said. “She’s trained really well coming into the race and everything’s good.”
The Harlan’s Holiday filly drew post No. 3 for the 1 1/8-mile event.
“I’m glad we’re not on the fence, but really we’re going to be back off the pace,” Calhoun said. “There’s a lot of pace in there and we’re going to be sitting back off it. I think it gives us an opportunity to not get sawed off and jammed up against the rail, and we don’t have to worry about dropping over and saving ground.”
The nine furlongs she’ll attempt for the first time should not be an issue for Summer Applause, whose pedigree suggests she should thrive at longer distances.
“Every one of her races she’s been coming, continuing to close and finishing strong,” Calhoun said. “I think a mile and-an-eighth is what she wants. There’s a lot of speed in there and it sets up well for her.”
YARA – Peras International’s Yara jogged a half-mile and galloped 1 ½ miles under regular exercise rider Mario Diaz as soon as the track opened at 5:45 a.m.
“I gave her the jog because I wanted her to see the environment, the twin spires, the grandstand, which is all different than what she’s seen before,” trainer Jose Garoffalo said. “Now she’s very familiar with her environment and she went really well today. I think she’s ready for the race.”
Yara drew the outside post No. 14, which Garoffalo believes could work to her advantage, as the main question is whether she can successfully relax behind the early leaders if necessary.
“I think it’s going to be good for her,” Garoffalo said. “The race is going to be fast inside so we can rate her. I think we can have a good trip from there.”
In her last race, the Gulfstream Park Oaks (GII), Yara faded to fifth after pressing a pace that would be considered fast for the nine-furlong distance. In that one, though, she had fewer options breaking from the rail.
“I think the post position had a lot to do with that,” Garoffalo said. “She had to press the pace and it was extremely fast, too fast for her. But she did good in that race and she would’ve finished second behind Grace Hall if the pace had been a little slower.
“This time we’re not going to make the same mistake. We’re going to go slower, try to relax at least the first half-mile. If we can relax, if [jockey Jesus] Castanon can do it, we’ll be close or can win the race. It’s going to be a fast race and if we can rate a bit we’ll hit the board.
"She has the tactical speed to do it and she proved it when we won the Davona Dale.”
That 64-1 surprise was the first Grade II score for Garoffalo, who has been training for 20 years.
“I started to train in my country, in Venezuela, then I moved back here in 1999,” he said. “I started out as a breeder – my dad runs a big farm there – so I’ve been in the horse business forever, all my life. I trained in Venezuela, won some races there, but decided to come here for as long as I can.”
Yara will conclude her Oaks preparations Thursday with a one-mile gallop – “very easy,” said Garoffalo – and “that will be that.”