Catching The Eye: Turnerloose ahead of The Kentucky Oaks

Profile Picture: Kevin Kilroy

April 21st, 2022

Hearing interesting things about Turnerloose’s April 15 workout set me to watch her races back.  Working as Zozos’ target, Turnerloose was given a one-length lead the other morning, going five furlongs in 1:00.8 (1:00.2 for Zozos). Both three-year-olds were in hand, but word around Churchill Downs is Zozos looked ready to explode past her. They evened up at the seven-eighths pole.

One of the questions I have about Turnerloose is tactics — and thinking through this workout setup has helped me assess her chances in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1). If we take this setup at face value, Zozos is working on rating (he took the lead in the Louisiana Derby), and Turnerloose is working on relaxing while fighting off challengers. But does that mean she will send? It’s unlikely considering the pack of early pacesetters, but it is not out of the question. 

Florent Geroux has taken the reins for all six of her mounts and in every race but the Rachel Alexandra (G2), which she won, Flo has put Turnerloose into the race as sharp as possible, pressing or going to the lead.

The four races of her two-year-old season were on the turf. Cox has said they made this decision because Turnerloose is a lighter-framed filly. She broke her maiden at Ellis Park, professionally pressing right off the frontrunner throughout, drawing off while fighting off game foes. 

Next she headed to Kentucky Downs and dominated the Aristocrat Juvenile Fillies S., winning by five lengths after pressing inside this time, in hand, and taking over in the uphill climb to draw off.

Her third race produced her top Brisnet Speed number (84); although, she has repeated this number in both her three-year-old starts. In the Jessamine (G2), she led throughout, fought hard dueling to stay in front but got nipped at the finish line by a stalker and closer.

Her last turf start was in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Filly Turf (G1), where she pressed the game frontrunner, but could never get the lead, and was swallowed up coming for home by late kickers. Cox said she wasn’t herself that day — she never really grabbed the bridle or took the jock anywhere.

In the Rachel Alexandra, Flo gave a heads-up ride when seeing the other speed send, settling to the rail and letting three horses tire out front. This is the farthest back she had been through the early calls, and the best late effort, passing foes and galloping out really well. She ran a completely different pace line: 77 (Early Pace 1) 74 (Early Pace 2) 95 (Late Pace). 

In the Fair Grounds Oaks, it was back to a keen early effort, inserting herself into the Echo Zulu, Hidden Connection conversation, even though everyone knew both of these foes would send. And she kept up with them early, but couldn't contend late. Her pace line — 85 (E1) 90 (E2) 79 — was slightly lower than two-year-old efforts, but had the same frontrunning shape. 

Will she rate like the Rachel? Yes. I think the Zozos setup is teaching her to relax with horses on her heels, so she doesn’t keen up and fly off.

Can she get the distance? Yes, again. Nyquist (Uncle Mo) on top and unraced Goaltending (AP Indy) on bottom.

Do Cox’s younger horses move up between races? You bet they do, and having won this race with Momonomy Girl and Shedaresthedevil, Cox knows how to crank his fillies for the first Friday of May. Watching her run, I tell you what: she’s got something — that natural run and tenacity. Even though it would take a big step to get the speed figures the other probables have, with the right trip she has a shot and is a definite include underneath in the exotics.