Filly doubleheader begins countdown to Kentucky Oaks
First up will be the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) with an approximate post time of 5:25 p.m. (all times EDT) quickly followed by the $250,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) at roughly 5:35 p.m. Each race will award points on a 100-40-20-10 scale and takes place at 1 1/16 miles.
Each event also drew eight runners, with I’m a Chatterbox (Munnings) appearing to tower over her Fair Grounds rivals and Ekati’s Phaeton (Tale of Ekati) rematching with Birdatthewire (Summer Bird) and Eskenformoney (Eskendereya) at Gulfstream.
Looking at the Fair Grounds Oaks, I’m a Chatterbox really is tops in the field. The chestnut miss recorded back-to-back 96 BRIS Speed ratings for her eight-length romp in the Silverbulletday S. and 2 1/2-length score in the Rachel Alexandra S. (G3) in her past pair.
I’m a Chatterbox was sent off the 8-1 fourth choice in the Silverbulletday before leading gate-to-wire, and proved her versatility next out in the Rachel Alexandra. That latter event saw the three-year-old trail in the rear of the field early, go about four wide on both turns, but still rally down the center of the track to overcome her far outside 10 post and score as the 3-1 favorite.
I’m a Chatterbox began her career with trainer Kenny McPeek in Kentucky, but has blossomed since being transferred to Larry Jones in New Orleans. Any kind of duplication of her prior two efforts will see the filly sweeping Fair Grounds’ three major sophomore filly races.
As for the rest of the field, Jugni (Colonel John) and Audrey’s Double (Pulpit) are the only other runners exiting a win. Jugni got her victory against allowance/optional claiming rivals while sprinting six furlongs and will be stretching out past that distance for the first time in the Fair Grounds Oaks. Audrey’s Double is facing winners for the first time here, having just earned her initial career score at the track in mid-February.
Forever Unbridled (Unbridled’s Song) and Shook Up (Tapit) have already tasted defeat at the hooves of I’m a Chatterbox, finishing third and fifth, respectively, in the Rachel Alexandra. Desert Valley (Desert Party) was well-beaten in the Honeybee S. (G3) three weeks ago, while Danette (Curlin) is still trying to break her maiden in her 10th career start. Tachiello (Colonel John) could move forward slightly if the track comes up sloppy, as the only time she’s won has been over a sloppy, sealed surface.
The Gulfstream Park Oaks could prove a lot more exciting than the Fair Grounds Oaks if the anticipated battle between Ekati’s Phaeton, Birdatthewire and Eskenformoney takes place.
Those three were only separated by two necks, in that order, in the Davona Dale S. (G2) on February 21. That followed Birdatthewire getting the win by 3 3/4 lengths over Ekati’s Phaeton’s fourth-place effort in the Forward Gal S. (G2) one month earlier.
The duo earned identical 104 BRIS Speed ratings for their Davona Dale efforts, but Birdatthewire has a slight advantage in this spot having run three previous times at the Gulfstream Park Oaks distance of 1 1/16 miles. She actually broke her maiden at that distance and could overtake Ekati’s Phaeton with the extra bit of ground on Saturday.
Ekati’s Phaeton will be trying two turns for the first time, but the talented miss is no stranger to shocking the betting public. The dark bay lass easily captured her first two career races, proved her utter disdain for turf next out against stakes rivals, and two races later earned her initial stakes victory in the Old Hat S. (G3) at 7-1. She was sent off at 10-1 for her Forward Gal fourth, and was a jaw-dropping 28-1 in the Davona Dale, where she paid $55.60 for the win.
Ekati’s Phaeton is listed at 4-1 on the Oaks morning-line and it’s likely she won’t reach double-digit odds this time around, but the filly could still offer a nice payout.
Eskenformoney is the 5-2 morning-line favorite and, like her two rivals, also earned a 104 BRIS Speed rating for the Davona Dale. That one-mile contest was Eskenformoney’s stakes bow, and she chased the early pace in second before just missing on the wire. Any kind of progression could see her schooling both of her foes on Saturday.
Devine Aida’s (Unbridled’s Song) performance could end up relying on the track. The gray lass is riding a four-race win streak that includes a grass stakes score and an off-the-turf black-type victory. That latter one came by 6 3/4 lengths going 1 1/16 miles in the downgraded Herecomesthebride S. at Gulfstream, so an off track on Saturday might see Devine Aida in the winner’s circle.
The rest of the field really doesn’t appear to have a chance. Holywell (Exclusive Quality) and Sweet Swingin (Street Sense) were both well beaten in their former races while Cristina’s Journey (Any Given Saturday) and Danessa Deluxe (Summer Bird) are each making their sophomore bows in this spot.
Photo 1: I'm a Chatterbox (Amanda Hodges Weir/Hodges Photography)
Photo 2: Ekati's Phaeton, Birdatthewire, Eskenformoney (Leslie Martin/Adam Coglianese Photography)