By Nicholas Godfrey
Churchill Downs: Kentucky Oaks G1 $1.25m, 1m1f, dirt, 3yo fillies
Malathaat (Todd Pletcher/John Velazquez)
In a sensational race, the determined Malathaat outfought Search Results to claim the 147th Kentucky Oaks in a poignant victory for the late Sheikh Hamdan’s Shadwell operation at Churchill Downs, where the crowds were back beneath the Twin Spires.
“She’s a special filly – we’ve always thought she was a special filly from day one,” said trainer Todd Pletcher after saddling his fourth winner of America’s senior race for three-year-old fillies.
He wasn’t wrong – but victory in the Kentucky Oaks for Malathaat had as much to do with her grit and determination as her undoubted talent as she took her unbeaten record to five by a neck over a resolute opponent.
A $1.05m daughter of Curlin, 5-2 favourite Malathaat had to overcome some serious adversity before claiming this $1.15m event. She missed a beat at the break and got squeezed, and then had to race four wide.
Indeed, she looked to be coming under pressure on the far turn behind front-running Travel Column before entering the firing line in the stretch where she and Search Results – also hitherto unbeaten – fought hammer and tongs, neither filly giving an inch.
Surprisingly there was no stewards’ inquiry as the pair got pretty close, with Malathaat leaning in on Search Results. However, there was no foul – indeed, the runner-up’s rider Irad Ortiz was quick to congratulate his Puerto Rican mentor John Velazquez after they crossed the line.
Final time was 1m48.99s. Official crowd figure at Churchill Downs was 41,472.
Todd Pletcher: “She’s a special filly – we’ve always felt she was a special filly from day one. We’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to train her. She’s a joy to train. She’s so professional.
“She got away from there just a bit slow, but Johnny moved her up and got her in a much better position. He had to lose some ground and go wide to do it, but it was the right thing to do. She wants a target to run at and she got one here.”
John Velazquez: “She didn’t get away the best, but I got a spot with her. She was running well and when I turned for home I had a target to send her after. We got up next to her and my filly went by. Then she waited a bit; she does that. The other filly came back but I could tell I was still in control. I never thought I was going to do anything but win.”
Royal Ascot entry Aunt Pearl bleeds behind Gift List
Churchill Downs: Edgewood Stakes G2 $300,000 1m½f, turf, 3yo fillies
Gift List (Brian Lynch/Javier Castellano)
Royal Ascot is presumably off the agenda for Aunt Pearl as the Breeders’ Cup winner reportedly bled as she finished only a dismal fifth behind former Karl Burke-trained Gift List.
Making her three-year-old debut after an unblemished juvenile campaign, the Coronation Stakes entry seemed to have everything under control, allowed to set tepid fractions up front before finding absolutely nothing in the stretch.
After the race, Florent Geroux suggested she may not have trained on but Liz Crow, who manages the owning partnership, revealed later in a tweet that Aunt Pearl had bled.
Gift List, who stormed home by 4½ lengths, is a daughter of Bated Breath who won minor auction events at Newcastle and Redcar last year in Britain. She was having her second US start after coming second at Keeneland four weeks ago.
Brian Lynch (trainer): “We were so happy with her US debut – she gave it a great run that day in a race that just had no pace in it, but she did close gamely. I had a good feeling going into this race, that if Aunt Pearl were to stub her toe, we’d have a good shot. She was a big obstacle, no doubt … but we all know, and I’ve run into it myself with Oscar Performance, some of them take to this course and some just don’t. It had a little bit of give in it today, and my filly had some good races on soft and heavy turf. Maybe that had something to do with it.”
Florent Geroux (Aunt Pearl’s jockey): “I had nothing. She was travelling great, going to the backside, she was relaxing, I just had no horse down the lane. She’s a very small filly. In my opinion I just don’t think she moved forward from two to three. She’s a very small-framed type of filly. She didn’t grow much. I don’t think she moved forward.”
Another G1 triumph on Oaks day for gutsy Shedaresthedevil
Churchill Downs: La Troienne Stakes G1 $500,000 1m½f, dirt, 4yo+ f/m
Shedaresthedevil (Brad Cox/Florent Geroux)
Carrying the Qatar Racing silks, last year’s Kentucky Oaks winner Shedaresthedevil was all heart as she fought off determined rival Envoutante in the stretch after making the running in this $500,000 contest. The Breeders’ Cup Distaff will be her long-term target.
Brad Cox (trainer): “She’s been training really well coming up to this. We freshened her up after the Spinster last year; we didn’t want to try and chase the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. It was obviously the right move – she’s moved forward at four. She’s shown that in her two starts. She has a lot of fight and determination down the lane.
“We’ll target the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and work our way back from that. There are some obvious races in New York and one at Del Mar we are thinking about.”
Godolphin star Maxfield back in winning groove
Churchill Downs: Alysheba Stakes G2 $400,000, 1m½f, dirt, 4yo+
Maxfield (Brendan Walsh/Jose Ortiz)
Godolphin’s Maxfield swept to the lead at the head of the stretch and drew away to score by more than three lengths to take his career record to six-from-seven. A G1 winner at two before injury derailed his career, the four-year-old will surely soon be back in G1 company.
Brendan Walsh (trainer): “Physically he is a stronger horse now. As time has gone on, he has gradually filled out and he is up to his full maturity, which is exciting. He loves this track, and he hasn’t done anything wrong. But actually he hasn’t done anything wrong at any track where he has run. He’s just a very good horse. He’s a remarkable horse and I’m blessed to have him.”
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