TARAZ: OAKLAWN FOR NOW

HRI Edited Release — Unbeaten Taraz returned to the track Wednesday morning at Oaklawn to begin preparations for her next scheduled start in the $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies March 7.

Bred and owned by Juddmonte Farms and trained by Brad Cox, Taraz was a 3 ¾-length wire-to-wire winner of Saturday’s $150,000 Martha Washington Stakes in her 2020 and two-turn debut.

Taraz was previously based at Fair Grounds, but Cox said he decided to keep the daughter of Into Mischief at Oaklawn, and not immediately challenge males, after conferring Monday with Juddmonte General Manager Garrett O’Rourke and Prince Khalid bin Abdullah, who owns the noted worldwide racing and breeding operation.

“At the current time, we are going to stay with the fillies and point for the Honeybee,” Cox said during training hours Tuesday morning at Oaklawn. “She’ll stay at Oaklawn.”

The 1 1/16-mile Honeybee is Oaklawn’s second of three Kentucky Oaks points races and will offer 85 (50-20-10-5) to the top four finishers toward starting eligibility for the country’s biggest event for 3-year-old fillies. The $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) is May 1 at Churchill Downs.

Asked if running in the Honeybee means Taraz isn’t a candidate to face males in a Kentucky Derby prep, Cox said: “I wouldn’t say that.”

“We would leave our options open, for sure,” Cox said. “Anything can happen. Started getting better horses a few years back; you try to keep them (nominated) as much as you can. Leave your options open.”

Taraz is among seven fillies who are early Triple Crown nominees, according to the Churchill Downs media relations department. The $3 million Kentucky Derby (G1) is May 2 at Churchill Downs.

Taraz won her first two career starts by a combined 18 ¾ lengths and earned 10 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points for her victory in the 1-mile Martha Washington. She arrived Jan. 28 in Hot Springs after recording the first of five published workouts at Fair Grounds in mid-December.

“It crossed my mind,” Cox said of returning Taraz to Fair Grounds to train. But once we settled on the Honeybee, I just thought it made more sense to leave her right here, given the time. I feel like we’re in the clear, as far the weather, here hopefully – knock on wood.

“I feel like the temperatures play a big role in what you can get done here, as far as training. The 10-day forecast looks pretty good. I don’t think we’re going to miss any training. I think once you get into the middle of February, you’re in pretty good shape.”

Cox said Taraz came out of the Martha Washington “fantastic” physically and walked Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Cox said his horses normally walk the shed row three days following a race before returning to the track to train.

“Really came out of the race great,” Cox said. “I was borderline taking her back to the track (Tuesday), but I thought I would give her one more day.”

Cox said Taraz will probably have three works leading up to the Honeybee, the final major local prep for the $600,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles April 10.

“Just kind of routine type things,” Cox said. “Nothing too fancy.”

Oaklawn’s final major Kentucky Derby prep is the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 11. Cox has divisions at Oaklawn, Fair Grounds and New York and has horses at Louisiana Downs.

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