Bobby Zen

This week’s morning action at Churchill Downs only served to entice onlookers by the sheer breadth and quality of contenders set to line up for the 150th renewal of the GI Kentucky Oaks and its undercard Friday.

A stacked field of 14 is set for the Oaks, led by the 7-2 morning line choice Tarifa (Bernardini), who drew post 8 but moves in to the seven slot following Thursday’s scratch of Tapit Jenallie (Tapit). Flavien Prat has the mount on the GII Rachel Alexandra S. and GII Fair Grounds Oaks winner. The homebred filly is trained by Brad Cox, who also saddles Busanda S. scorer Gin Gin (Hightail), runner-up over the track in last year’s Rags to Riches S., for historic Calumet Farm.

“She is doing great,” said Cox of the favorite. “She had a big work last weekend. It was very sharp. So, I feel like she’s had a very good week in regard to how she has settled in her gallops. I am happy with the way she is moving and happy with the way she’s schooled.”

Asked about the post position, Cox said, “I’m happy with it. Flavien knows her. He rode her the last two starts. He’s worked her a couple of times and has a good feel for her. Hopefully he can get away clean and not get into a tussle with her and get a smooth run into the first turn and get into a good rhythm.”

Of her stablemate, he added, “She will have to take a pretty big step forward. She is very consistent, and she always tries. She broke her maiden here last year, so she knows this track. She is going to have to try hard, so we’ll see how that goes.”

The second choice on the morning line at 4-1, Whisper Hill Farm’s Leslie’s Rose (Into Mischief). A $1.15 million Keeneland September purchase, the winner of the Apr. 5 GI Ashland S. will be reunited with Irad Ortiz Jr., who has been aboard all four of her lifetime starts. Trainer Todd Pletcher is represented by the morning line favorite for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, Fierceness (City of Light).

Finishing three-lengths behind Leslie’s Rose in the Ashland, last year’s champion juvenile filly Just F Y I (Justify) is poised for a rematch, breaking immediately to Leslie’s Rose’s inside. The winner of the GI Frizette S. and GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filles drew post 13, but shifts in a slot. A homebred for George Krikorian, the filly will be ridden by her regular partner, Junior Alvarado. Trained by Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who also saddles Resilience in the Run For the Roses, was installed the 9-2 third choice on the morning line.

A pair of fillies were weighted at 5-1 on the morning line-GII Fantasy S. scorer Thorpedo Anna (Fast Anna) and Ways and Means (Practical Joke). The former is campaigned by Brookdale Racing, Mark Edwards, Judy Hicks and Magdalena Racing and trained by Ken McPeek. The latter, a Grade I-placed filly conditioned by Chad Brown, is a homebred for Klaravich Stables. Thorpedo Anna will be ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr. while the latter will be accompanied by Tyler Gaffalione.

The remaining horses (with morning line odds) are: Where’s the Ring (Jose Lezcano, 15-1); Regulatory Risk (Jose Ortiz, 20-1); Lemon Muffin (Keith Asmussen, 30-1); Fiona’s Magic (Luis Saez, 30-1); Everland (Abel Cedillo, 30-1); Into Champagne (Julien Leparoux, 30-1); Power Squeeze (Daniel Centano, 12-1); Our Pretty Woman (Joel Rosario, 15-1).


Champions Idiomatic, Pretty Mischievous Face Off in La Troienne

Defending champions Idiomatic (Curlin) and Pretty Mischievous (Into Mischief) are poised to square off on the Kentucky Oaks undercard in the GI La Troienne S.

Juddmonte’s Idiomatic, who was close to flawless with eight wins from nine starts in 2023, ended her championship season with a victory in the GI Breeders’ Cup Distaff, earning her the Eclipse Award as the champion older mare of 2023. Riding a five-race winning streak, including three Grade Is for trainer Brad Cox, drew post 4. She will be accompanied by her regular pilot Florent Geroux.

“She is every bit as good this year as she was last year in the mornings,” Cox told TDN. “If she shows up in the afternoon like she’s been doing in the mornings, we should be in good shape.”

Of her progress in her time off, she added, “I think she’s bigger and stronger and every bit as good as she was [last year]. We schooled her a couple of times this week, and she did that very well. She is so big and so massive. I really believe she’s ready.”

Godolphin’s Pretty Mischievous won a trio of Grade Is in 2023–the Kentucky Oaks, Acorn S. and Test S., thus earning her the title of champion 3-year-old. Pretty Mischievous capped off 2023 with a runner-up finish behind Ceiling Crusher in the GI Cotillion S. in September. The daughter of GISW Pretty City Dancer (Tapit), who is three for four at Churchill Downs, will be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione from post 5.

The remaining field for the La Troienne, with riders from the inside, is: Frosty O Toole (Frosted) (David Cohen), Taxed (Collected) (Cristian Torres), Free Like a Girl (El Deal) (Corey Lanerie), Xigera (Nyquist) (Julien Leparoux) and Dorth Vader (Girvin) (Irad Ortiz Jr.).

Another Breeders’ Cup winner marking her return to the races at Churchill Friday, GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf heroine Hard to Justify (Justify) heads a field of 14 in the GII Edgewood S.

Trained by Chad Brown, Hard to Justify won all three of her 2023 starts that also included a victory in the GII Miss Grillo S. Breaking from post 9, the Wise Racing-campaigned filly will be partnered by Flavien Prat, who has been aboard in all three starts. She will face Rigney Racing’s Buchu (Justify), who finished sixth behind Hard to Justify in the Breeders’ Cup. Trained by Phil Bauer, Buchu, last season’s GII Jessamine winner, took her 2024 debut in Keeneland’s Appalachian S. Apr. 6. Martin Garcia has the mount from post 4.

Whisper Hill Farm and Gainesway Stable’s Tapit Trice (Tapit) kicks off the season in Friday’s GII Alysheba S. Victorious in the GIII Tampa Derby and GI Blue Grass S., the $1.3 million Keeneland September yearling purchase finished seventh at Churchill in the Kentucky Derby before coming home third in the GI Belmont S. Fifth in Monmouth’s GI Haskell, the grey concluded the season with a third in the GI Travers S.

Red, White and Blue Racing’s Denim and Pearls (Into Mischief) returns to Churchill Downs for the GII Eight Belles S. Trained by Brad Cox, she comes into the seven-furlong test off a runaway 9 1/4-length win at Keeneland in the GII Beaumont S. Apr. 7. Exiting post 7, she will be reunited with Flavien Prat.

Also included in Friday’s graded action is the GIII Unbridled Sidney S. and the GIII Modesty S.

The post Tarifa, Leslie’s Rose, Just F Y I Headline Loaded Oaks Day Card appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

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