Tuesday, May 02, 2017
Fantasy Stakes Winner Ever So Clever Draws the Rail for the Kentucky Oaks
After winning the biggest race for 3-year-old fillies this year at Oaklawn, Ever So Clever drew the rail Tuesday morning for the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) at 1 1/8 miles Friday at Churchill Downs.
Ever So Clever was a 1 ¾-length winner of the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) April 14 at Oaklawn under Luis Contreras, who retains the mount Friday. Vexatious, a troubled third in the Fantasy, is also entered in the Kentucky Oaks and scheduled to break from post 6 under Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux.
Both Ever So Clever and Vexatious are 20-1 on the morning line for the Kentucky Oaks, which drew a full field of 14 and one also-eligible. The race is limited to 14 starters.
Ever So Clever warmed up for the Oaks by working an easy half mile in :49 4/5 Sunday.
“It was spot on,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. “It's a good race, but the filly is doing wonderful. She's very comfortable here at Churchill and has run solid over the racetrack. We feel that she has that going for her. And, obviously we were impressed with today's move.”
The Medaglia d'Oro filly, who broke her maiden last spring at Churchill and then finished third in the Golden Rod (GII) last fall, enters the Oaks off her victory in the Fantasy. The win followed two fifth-place finishes in the Martha Washington and Honeybee Stakes.
“She was geared up for the Fantasy,” Asmussen said. “She's a nice, laid back filly and she was just coming back. She was sharp enough for the Fantasy, but maybe still a little flat in the Honeybee.”
Post positions for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby will be drawn Wednesday.
The maximum 20-horse field is expected to include at least five Oaklawn-raced horses: Arkansas Derby winner Classic Empire (Julien Leparoux to ride), Hence (Florent Geroux), Lookin At Lee (Corey Lanerie), Sonneteer (Desormeaux) and Untrapped (Ricardo Santana Jr.).
A sixth Oaklawn-raced horse, Royal Mo, is 21st in points used to determine starting eligibility if the race, as expected, oversubscribes and needs one defection to make the field.
Royal Mo would be ridden by Hall of Famer Gary Stevens.
Oaklawn maiden graduate Smokin Now was a 2 ¾-length winner of the $65,000 Golden Circle Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters Friday night at Prairie Meadows. Owned by Mercedes Stable and trained by Robertino Diodoro, Smokin Now ran 6 furlongs over a muddy track in 1:10.40 and paid $4.60 as the favorite.
Diodoro was Oaklawn’s second-leading trainer this year with 31 victories, including a Jan. 14 score by Smokin Now, a son of Tiznow.
Golden Circle runner-up Reckling won an entry-level allowance/optional claimer April 13 at Oaklawn for Hall of Famer and eight-time Oaklawn training champion Steve Asmussen.
The Asmussen-trained Vertical Oak was a 7 ¾-length winner of the $67,925 Goldfinch Stakes for 3-year-old filly sprinters Saturday at Prairie Meadows. Under Ramon Vazquez, Oaklawn’s second-leading rider the last three years, the filly ran 6 furlongs over a sloppy track in 1:09.77 and paid $3.40 as the heavy favorite.
Vertical Oak’s previous two starts had been at Oaklawn, where she finished fourth in the $125,000 Dixie Belle Stakes Jan. 21 and third in the $150,000 Purple Martin Stakes March 25.
Vertical Oak races for the trainer’s longtime clients, J. Kirk and Judy Robison.
Karl Broberg, who finished 13th in the Oaklawn trainer standings this year, won 14 races during a three-day span last week.
He had one victory Friday at Prairie Meadows and Evangeline Downs. On Saturday, he won four races at Lone Star and two races at Prairie Meadows and Evangeline Downs. On Sunday, Broberg had a triple at Prairie Meadows and another victory at Lone Star.
Broberg led the country in victories the last three years and ranks second nationally in 2017 to Asmussen. Asmussen had 118 victories through Monday, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Broberg had 103. Broberg tops the standings at Evangeline and Prairie Meadows and is second to Asmussen at Lone Star.
Broberg won 10 races this year at Oaklawn.
Robertino Diodoro, Oaklawn’s second-leading trainer this year, won with his first starter at the Belmont spring/summer meet when Set the Trappe captured Friday’s second race for 3-year-old $16,000 claimers. Set the Trappe (through a race-related disqualification) broke his maiden Jan. 21 at Oaklawn for Asmussen. Asmussen finished with 41 victories this year at Oaklawn, 10 more than Diodoro, who has a string at Belmont. … Asmussen is Lone Star’s early leader with 16 victories from 40 starts. Darren Fleming oversees Asmussen’s Oaklawn and Lone Star divisions. … Chief Cicatriz, who finished fourth in the $400,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) April 15 at Oaklawn, is now under the care of Mike Johnson at Churchill Downs and a candidate for the track’s $100,000 Aristides Stakes (G3) June 3, the trainer said. Chief Cicatriz had based earlier this year with trainer Shawn Davis at Turf Paradise in Arizona before shipping to Oaklawn to run in the $125,000 Hot Springs Stakes March 11. Chief Cicatriz, who suffered his first career loss in the Hot Springs, had been under Johnson’s care for most of the last six weeks of the Oaklawn meeting.