LOUISVILLE — Todd Pletcher has won the Kentucky Oaks three times, the most recent being with long-shot Princess of Sylmar in 2013.
Today, he’ll send out morning-line favorite Malathaat in the 1 1/8-mile 147th Longines Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs. Post time is scheduled for 5:51 p.m.
Malathaat’s mother, Dreaming of Julia, was also trained by Pletcher and ironically beaten in that same 2013 Oaks. Malathaat won each of her three starts last year, including the Demoiselle Stakes at Aqueduct in New York. In her only start this year she won Keeneland’s Ashland Stakes by a head over Kentucky Oaks-rival Pass the Champagne. Malathaat should be forwardly placed, close to the pace and may improve with her second start off the layoff.
Chad Brown is seeking his first Kentucky Oaks win with Search Results. Unraced as a 2-year-old, this Flatter filly broke her maiden at Florida’s Gulfstream Park in early January and then moved on to Aqueduct where she won both the Busher Invitational and the Gazelle Stakes, a Grade 3 race. Although she earned the most points on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard, which determines entry into the Oaks field, Search Results is yet to face the caliber of runners she will see today.
The undefeated duo of Malathaat and Search Results may be the ones taking all the wagers, but don’t overlook Rachel Alexandra winner Clairiere. The Stonestreet homebred, trained by Steve Asmussen, is a daughter of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin out of the Grade 1-winning mare Cavorting. But it’s not just her pedigree that is impressive.
Clairiere’s record will show she has only won twice in four career starts, but one of those was when she took down Travel Column, the race favorite, in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes at Fair Grounds Racecourse. She earned victory by a mere head, but the fact that she chased down the front-running Travel Column after having to dart around others in the stretch is what makes the win much more meaningful.
When the pair faced a rematch a month later in the Fair Grounds Oaks, Clairiere again fought traffic from the back of the field and was forced to maneuver around others deep into the stretch. She was unable to garner enough momentum in the final strides to catch Travel Column and finished nearly three lengths back in second.
Travel Column is trained by two-time Kentucky Oaks winner Brad Cox for Oxo Equine LLC. She has three wins in her five-race career and has never finished out of the money. She is also 2-for-2 at Churchill Downs. She prefers to be on, or near, the lead, which is the exact opposite of Clairiere’s stalking style.
Clairiere broke her maiden at Churchill Downs and finished second in the Golden Rod last fall at Churchill Downs, a length behind (you guessed it) Travel Column. So, if you’re tracking the tit-for-tat, it’s Clairiere’s turn to beat Travel Column and if she can avoid traffic problems, she just might do it.
A long-shot to consider is Kenny McPeek’s 15-1 Crazy Beautiful, whose dappled gray coat certainly is crazy beautiful. In seven starts she’s really only had one bad performance, which was the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile when she never got out of sixth place. Crazy Beautiful won the Gulfstream Park Oaks over Millefeuille and Competitive Speed in her last start. And McPeek has finished second three times and fourth three times in the Kentucky Oaks, so even if he doesn’t win it today, odds are good he’ll finish in the money again.
With the scratch of long-shot Ava’s Grace, due to an undetermined injury, a field of 13 fillies will break from the gates this afternoon.
LONGINES KENTUCKY OAKS
5:51 p.m. today at Churchill Downs,
Horses, with jockeys and odds in parenthesis , are listed from the rail out.
1. Pauline’s Pearl (Ricardo Santana, Jr., 20-1), 2. Maracuja (Kendrick Carmouche, 20-1), 3. Clairiere (Tyler Gaffalione, 5-1), 4. Crazy Beautiful (Jose Ortiz, 15-1), 5. Pass the Champagne (Javier Castellano, 15-1), 6. Travel Column (Florent Geroux, 3-1), 7. Moraz (Flavien Prat, 30-1), 8. Coach (Luis Saez, 50-1), 10. Malathaat (John Velazquez, 5-2), 11. Will’s Secret (Jon Court, 30-1), 12. Search Results (Irad Ortiz, Jr., 3-1), 12. Competitive Speed (Chris Landeros, 50-1), 14. Millefeuille (Joel Rosario, 20-1).