From John Asher, Churchill Downs' Vice President of Racing Communications
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – Fox Hills Farms' Joyful Victory, runaway winner of Oaklawn Park's Honeybee (Grade III) and Fantasy (GII) in her past two starts, tops a stellar cast of 13 3-year-old fillies entered to compete in Friday's 137th running of the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (GI) at Churchill Downs.
The Oaks, run at 1 1/8 miles on the main track, will be the centerpiece of a 12-race program beginning at 10:30 a.m. (all times Eastern) that also features the Churchill Downs return of 2010 Kentucky Oaks winner Blind Luck in the $300,000-added La Troienne Presented by Blackberry/RIM (GII) and the eighth running of the $300,000 Alysheba Presented by Besilu Stables (GIII) earlier on the card. The Oaks will go as the 11th race Friday with a 5:45 p.m. post time.
The Kentucky Oaks, which carries a $1 million purse for the first time, will be televised live on VERSUS from 5-6 p.m.
Joyful Victory, who is trained by Larry Jones, comes into the Oaks off a 7-length victory in the Fantasy and an 8 ¾-length score in the Honeybee in her only 2011 starts. Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith, who was aboard for those two triumphs, has the call Friday as he seeks his first Kentucky Oaks victory.
The gray daughter of Tapit, fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) here last fall in her lone Churchill Downs appearance, drew the rail post and was made the 5-2 morning line favorite by Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia. All fillies will carry 121 pounds.
Jones will be seeking his second Oaks victory to go with the 2008 triumph by Proud Spell.
Co-second choices on the morning line at 4-1 are Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Moss' Zazu and Five D Thoroughbreds and Wind River Stables' Kathmanblu.
Trained by John Sadler, Zazu is the only Grade I winner on dirt in the Oaks field, having taken the Las Virgenes in February at Santa Anita. Joel Rosario, who has been aboard Zazu in her past three starts, has the Oaks riding assignment on the daughter of Tapit who will break from post position six.
Trained by Ken McPeek, Kathmanblu romped to an 8 ½-length victory at Churchill Downs last fall in the Golden Rod (GII) and is coming off a troubled third-place finish in the Central Bank Ashland (GI) over synthetic Polytrack at Keeneland. Julien Leparoux, who was aboard for the Golden Rod triumph, will ride Kathmanblu on Friday and will exit post position four.
In addition to Jones, two other trainers will be seeking a second Kentucky Oaks victory: Bob Baffert, who won the race in 1999 with Silverbulletday and Todd Pletcher, who won the race in 2007 with Rags To Riches.
Baffert will send out Peachtree Stable's Plum Pretty, a 25-length winner of the Sunland Park Oaks in her most recent start on March 27. Martin Garcia, who was aboard for that victory at 1-20 odds, has the return call Friday. Listed at 5-1 on the morning line, Plum Pretty will break from post position 12.
Pletcher will saddle Bobby Flay's Her Smile, second in the Comely (GIII) at Aqueduct on April 9 in her most recent start. Garrett Gomez, who won the Oaks in 2007 on Rags To Riches, has the mount on Her Smile, who will break from post position seven and open at morning line odds of 20-1.
Also seeking a second Oaks victory is Gabriel Saez. Saez, winner of the 2008 Oaks on Proud Spell, has the assignment on Team Valor International's Summer Soiree, who will break from post position three. Summer Soiree is 5-1 on the morning line.
The other Grade I winner in the field is Lilacs and Lace, who captured the Central Bank Ashland at Keeneland on April 9. Owned by James Covello, Judy Hicks and Kathryn Nikkel, Lilacs and Lace is trained by John Terranova and will be ridden by Javier Castellano. Lilacs and Lace, 12-1 on the morning line, will break from post position two.
The field for the 137th Kentucky Oaks, from the rail out, is as follows: Joyful Victory (Mike Smith, 5-2), Lilacs and Lace (Javier Castellano, 12-1), Summer Soiree (Gabriel Saez, 5-1), Kathmanblu (Julien Leparoux, 4-1), Suave Voir Faire (Miguel Mena, 50-1), Zazu (Joel Rosario, 4-1), Her Smile (Garrett Gomez, 20-1), Bouquet Booth (Robby Albarado, 20-1), Daisy Devine (James Graham, 20-1), Street Storm (Shaun Bridgmohan, 50-1), Holy Heavens (Kent Desormeaux, 50-1), Plum Pretty (Martin Garcia, 5-1) and St. John's River (Rosie Napravnik, 30-1). All starters will carry 121 pounds.
Churchill Downs, the world's most legendary racetrack, has conducted Thoroughbred racing and presented America's greatest race, the Kentucky Derby, continuously since 1875. Located in Louisville, the flagship racetrack of Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN) also operates Trackside at Churchill Downs, which offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. Churchill Downs will conduct the 137th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 7, 2011. The track's 2011 Spring Meet is scheduled for April 30-July 4. Churchill Downs has hosted the Breeders' Cup World Championships a record seven times and the event will return to the track for its next renewal on Nov. 4-5. Information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at www.churchilldowns.com.