In a Kentucky Oaks (Grade 1) that looked on paper to be loaded with speed and begging for a closer to come from off the pace, jockey Jose Ortiz out thought the rest of the riders on speed horses and hustled Serengeti Empress to a clear lead from her wide post. Jose and his filly controlled the pace setting splits of 23.25, 46.65, 1:11.26, 1:36.70 and finished the mile and an eighth in 1:50.17. The Grade 1 Longines Kentucky Oaks looked to be in jeopardy mid-stretch when Liora under Channing Hill drew up to the leader and looked poised to go bye. Serengeti Empress responded to Jose Ortiz and dug in despite her early efforts and pulled ahead again to win by half a length. The winner paid a healthy $28.00 but Liora paid even more for place at $32.60. Trained by Tom Amoss, Serengeti Empress has not been very consistent, but when she runs her race she is a tough customer. After winning the Twin Spires Turf Sprint earlier Manny Franco was unseated out of the gate aboard Positive Spirit, but horse and rider appeared to be fortunately uninjured. After the race winning rider Jose Ortiz said;
“It is really great to add a race like the Kentucky Oaks to my career.”
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World of Trouble had anything but disposing of the field in the Grade 2 Twin Spires Turf Sprint as the odds on favorite. Manny Franco used World of Trouble’s speed to take the lead early, and he never relinquished it cruising home by 3 and a quarter lengths in 1:03.97 for the five and a half furlong test. World of Trouble was coming off a win in the Grade 1 Carter handicap at Aqueduct on the dirt. Trainer Jason Servis has turned World of Trouble into a top sprinter on both turf and dirt.
In the Grade 2 Eight Belles Stakes, Break Even used her speed to clear the field and maintain a nice lead throughout going wire to wire under Shaun Bridgmohan. The Brad Cox filly remained undefeated going four for four. After the race Bridgmohan was thankful to Cox and the connections for putting him back on the fleet filly after missing a ride on her due to a broken collarbone.
The much anticipated return of Newspaperofrecord did not go according to plan. Prior to the race trainer Chad Brown stated;
“I am excited.”
As expected Newspaperofrecord set the pace in the Grade 3 Edgewood Stakes over a wet turf course from morning rains. Irad Ortiz Jr. moved her to the middle of the course and she seemed to be on cruise control. She went clear in the stretch but was run down by a game charge from Concrete Rose under Julien Leparoux. The odds on favorite who is being considered for a trip to Royal Ascot held on to a clear second place finish.
Once Mike Smith got McKinzie off the rail, the race was over. McKinzie blitzed the field in the Grade 2 Alysheba Stakes finishing the mile and a sixteenth in 1:41.01, the second fastest running of the Alysheba ever. After the race winning trainer Bob Baffert stated;
“If there was one horse I knew would win this weekend it was him.”
Hear from the winning Alysheba connections:
Trainer Steve Asmussen looked like the happiest man at Churchill Downs when his She’s a Julie took the Grade 1 La Troienne under Ricardo Santana Jr. The filly who has really blossomed of late is named after Asmussen’s wife who has battled an illness recently. When asked if he had spoken to her in the winners’s circle Steve said;
She’s a Julie had to dig down in the stretch to get past Secret Spice who opened up on the field when they turned for home.
This makes two in a row for She’s a Julie who took the Grade 3 Bayakoa at Oaklawn Park last out. She is also two for two on the year and now a Grade 1 winner.
More on She’s a Julie’s victory:
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KENTUCKY OAKS PRESS CONFERENCE:
Serengeti Empress and The Kentucky Oaks: