Favorites live up to hype in Oaks preps

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Jen Caldwell

March 29th, 2015

I’m a Chatterbox (Munnings) and Birdatthewire (Summer Bird) lived up to the betting public’s expectations when taking Saturday’s Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) and Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2), respectively.

I’m a Chatterbox tracked just off pacesetter Jugni’s (Colonel John) flank on the backstretch before easily overtaking that rival entering the final turn of the Fair Grounds Oaks. Shook Up (Tapit) was making her move at that point as well and stuck to I’m a Chatterbox on the outside until midstretch, when the eventual winner finally began separating herself a bit.

By winning the Fair Grounds Oaks, I’m a Chatterbox swept the track’s series of three-year-old filly stakes leading up to the May 1 Kentucky Oaks (G1). She’s positioned herself as one of the favorites, if not the favorite, thanks to her stellar three-for-three mark this year.

Shook Up galloped out past the winner after the wire, but jockey Florent Geroux knows what he is doing and was probably trying to conserve as much as possible with I’m a Chatterbox for the Kentucky Oaks. That’s also displayed in her BRIS Speed number, which dropped four points to 92 from her previous 96 recorded for both the Silverbulletday S. and Rachel Alexandra S. (G3) scores.

Shook Up continues to progress nicely following her stakes bow fifth-placing in the Rachel Alexandra. The Steve Asmussen charge is coming along at just the right time to make an impact on the Kentucky Oaks.

Birdatthewire was just as an impressive winner as I’m a Chatterbox. The bay filly was forced to take up sharply on the backstretch, split horses, and then found herself widest of all rounding the final turn. Once getting clear, she ran down Eskenformoney (Eskendereya) while out in the center of the track.

The Dale Romans pupil wasn’t drawing away by much, but she still continued to put some distance between herself and the others, even remaining in front during the gallop out.

Birdatthewire was awarded her second highest BRIS Speed rating to date, a 97, and has yet to finish worse than fourth in her short seven-race career. The three-year-old looms a serious Kentucky Oaks contender thanks to her closing style of running, which could come in very handy as the race inevitably draws a couple of speedsters hoping to wire the contest.

One of those on or near the lead in the Kentucky Oaks could turn out to be Eskenformoney, who tracked pacesetter Ekati’s Phaeton (Tale of Ekati) in third about three wide before moving up to take over rounding the turn Saturday. The filly was battling with Danessa Deluxe (Summer Bird) when Birdatthewire appeared on the outside and ran on past.

Eskenformoney has proven a very game filly. She just made her stakes bow last out in the Davona Dale and earned a 104 BRIS Speed rating for finishing only a half-length back in third. She finished second in the Gulfstream Park Oaks, garnering a 95 BRIS Speed figure this time around.

As for Ekati’s Phaeton, that filly just never seemed comfortable on Saturday. Jockey Luis Saez had a tight hold on her early, but even then her stride appeared short and choppy as compared to the beautiful way she extended in the Davona Dale last out.

Eventually eased to be last under the wire, Ekati’s Phaeton will likely bypass the Kentucky Oaks if trainer Bill Kaplan has anything to do about it. Kaplan said after the race they would probably return to sprints with the dark bay miss.

Photo 1: I'm a Chatterbox (Alexander Barkoff/Hodges Photography)
Photo 2: Birdatthewire (Lauren King/Adam Coglianese Photography)