A total of 13 sophomore fillies put in their final major morning preparations over the past week in advance of Friday’s $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs. Grade 2 princess Positive Spirit previously drilled a bullet four panels in :47.20 at Keeneland on Sunday, April 21, the best of 33 works at the distance.
Two-time Grade 2 winner Serengeti Empress also impressed in her final tune-up, scorching five furlongs in a bullet :58.20 at Churchill Downs on Tuesday, April 23 for trainer Tom Amoss.
MONDAY, APRIL 29
At Churchill Downs, Grade 1 heroine Restless Rider breezed a half-mile in :49.60 in her final move for the Oaks. Trainer Kenny McPeek was “pleased” with how his consistently very good filly traveled, as she clocked fractions of :12, :23.80, :36.80 and going out in 1:03.20 for five-eighths.
Restless Rider, the co-second choice in the field, was second in the recent Ashland Stakes (G1) in her sophomore debut.
“This next race is going to be an improved race off that first race of the year,” McPeek said. “She’s ready to do that.”
SUNDAY, APRIL 28
Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) victress Champagne Anyone completed her major preparations for the race with a half-mile move in :48 at Churchill Downs. She established fractions of :12.40 and :24.60 before eventually galloping out in 1:00.80 for five furlongs.
The Ian Wilkes charge is the co-second choice on the morning line, and her latest drill left both trainer and jockey Chris Landeros in a positive mood.
“It was perfect,” Wilkes said. “She has had a good four weeks here and as long as I don’t mess anything up the next four days, we are fine.”
“Every time I get on this filly, she gives me more confidence I can win the Oaks,” Landeros said.
Fantasy Stakes (G3) winner Lady Apple traveled four furlongs on the Churchill main surface in :49.80 in advance of her biggest test to date. The Steve Asmussen trainee worked in solo fashion and went in :12.40, :25 and :37.20, eventually galloping out five furlongs in 1:04.80.
Also at Churchill Downs, Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) star Street Band posted :12.60, :24.40, :37, :48.40 and 1:00.20, going out in 1:13.60 for three-quarters of a mile under regular rider Sophie Doyle. The filly races for conditioner Larry Jones, who has saddled a trio of Kentucky Oaks winners since 2008.
Doyle had a very positive outlook following the final major breeze for Street Band.
“She moved well out there,” the 31-year-old rider said. “She gave me a great feel.”
SATURDAY, APRIL 27
Two Oaks contenders got in a final morning work in advance of the Friday feature. Honeybee Stakes (G3) queen Chocolate Kisses clocked four furlongs in :48 beneath Julien Leparoux. The Mark Casse pupil worked in company and posted splits of :12.40 and :24.40, with a five-furlong gallop out in 1:01.
“I thought she worked super,” Casse said. “Julien was aboard; Julien is going to ride her in the Oaks. He said ‘she loves this place.’”
The twice-raced Dunbar Road is currently on the also-eligible list waiting for a defection to draw into the Oaks field. The talented Chad Brown trainee stopped the timer in 1:01.60 for five-eighths. The Quality Road filly earned splits of :13, :25.20, :36.80 and :49.40, before galloping out six panels in 1:14.80.
“She breezed great, we worked her and everything went as planned,” Brown said. “Everything is perfect now all we can do is wait to see if there are any defections.”
FRIDAY, APRIL 26
Multiple Grade 1 star and Oaks favorite Bellafina posted her final drill in anticipation of Friday at Santa Anita Park. The daughter of Quality Road clocked five furlongs in 1:01 to the pleasure of conditioner Simon Callaghan.
“She came out of her work very well,” Callaghan noted. “We didn’t ask her to do too much; she’s been on a good path and we want to keep her going. We’re happy with where we are.”
Santa Anita Oaks (G1) runner-up Flor de la Mar scorched five furlongs from the gate in a bullet :59.80, the swiftest of the 46 morning moves at Santa Anita on Friday for trainer Bob Baffert.
“I mean we’re taking a shot. I think she’ll be better down the road,” Baffert said. “She’ll have to really step it up but the way she worked the other day (was impressive).”
At Churchill Downs, the speedy Motion Emotion registered a half-mile breeze in :49.80 over a surface labeled good. The Thomas Van Berg charge worked on her own and recorded fractions of :12.20 and :24.60, before eventually galloping out five furlongs in 1:03 under Tyler Baze.
“It was absolutely beautiful,” said Baze, who was aboard the Fantasy Stakes (G3) runner-up for the first time. “She made a favorable impression.”
Motion Emotion is expected to be part of a busy front end in the Oaks.
The Wayne Catalano-trained Liora also drilled beneath the Twin Spires and was credited with five furlongs in :59.60. The Candy Ride filly comes into the Oaks off consecutive runner-up finishes at Fair Grounds in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) and Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2).
Blinkers were added to the filly for her latest start, and the equipment change has moved the hard-trying dark bay forward.
“She was way more focused today,” said Florent Geroux, who was aboard for her morning spin. “She puts way more into her works. The blinkers definitely helped because she has a tendency of wandering around a bit at the end. Not getting tired, but just losing her focus a bit.”
THURSDAY, APRIL 25
Ashland Stakes (G1) upsetter Out For a Spin put forth her final serious Oaks work over a muddy surface at Churchill Downs. The Hard Spun filly set splits of :12.20, :24.40 and :37 prior to completing her move in :49.80.
The drill pleased conditioner Dallas Stewart, who thought it was “perfect.” The Grade 1 heroine will receive a rider change to Irad Ortiz Jr. on Friday.
Champion Jaywalk, who dominated the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) on this course in the fall, is sending signals that she will be a filly to deal with in the Oaks. The daughter of Cross Traffic ran a creditable third in the recent Ashland Stakes (G1) at Keeneland and Friday will mark her third start in 2019.
The lass recorded a bullet five furlongs on the Keeneland main surface in :59.20 and received praise from Tyler Servis, the son of conditioner John Servis.
“That was exactly what we wanted,” Tyler Servis stated. “She left the five-furlong marker like a bear. She left there running. I had her in :11 3/5 for the first eighth. She looked like she wanted to do it. She galloped out really well.”
At Gulfstream Park, Davona Dale Stakes (G2) stunner Jeltrin worked five furlongs out of the gate in 1:00.33. The bay daughter of Tapizar has shown steady improvement in 2019 and has could be a live Oaks longshot in his first voyage outside of the Sunshine State.
Conditioner Alexis Delgado said of her final morning move, “Perfect work; we’re ready to ship.”
PHOTO: Restless Rider posts her final major move on Monday, May 29, ahead of the 2019 Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs (c) Coady Photography/Churchill Downs