Fort took more time to explain his emotions after the victory than it took his filly to run her race. He almost didn’t get his chance to speak from the post-race media room, as Rosie Napravnik aboard Dede McGehee’s St. John’s River made a futile charge at Plum Pretty in the last hundred yards. The two leaders and, more importantly, the horses behind them looked a little bandy-legged at the finish. But, it’s not how you look winning but whether you win or not that counts.
Bob Baffert, no stranger to the winner circle beneath the twin spires, is Plum Pretty’s trainer. His main man, Martin Garcia, was in the irons. Their work had the crowd wondering if Midnight Interlude would bring Baffert an Oaks/Derby double. That won’t happen for Garcia because Victor Espinoza will be riding in his place.
Oaks Day was exciting from the sixth race on, although there were several confusing moments. The Gr. 2 La Troienne Stakes was renamed the Eight Belles and the Gr. 3 Louisville Handicap the La Troienne. The whole grandstand expected Regal Ransom’s number eleven to go up in the Gr. 3 Alysheba. But it was First Dude’s seven that went up instead. The Baffert/Garcia partnership was involved in First Dude’s defeat of Regal Ransom and in Plum Pretty’s defeat of St. John’s River.
Blind Luck, last year’s Kentucky Oaks winner, won the La Troienne. She went down to her knees at the start but gathered herself, settled in the back of the pack and began her trademark stretch as if nothing adverse ever happened. Rival Unbridaled Belle, two for two on the strip, finished second. The result was received very favorably – in fact, ectastically.
Victoria’s Wildcat, ridden by Kent Desormeaux, took the Gr. 3 Eight Belles. Ironically, Eight Belles’ trainer Larry Jones had the favorite Joyful Victory in the Oaks. Jones was just a bit less interested in giving a trophy away than in receiving one.
Vic Zast will be posting updates from Churchill Downs throughout the day tomorrow in Fast Words.