Last-to-first Venus Valentine shocks Rachel Alexandra at 74-1
Ridden by Corey Lanerie for trainer Tom Asmoss, the Congrats filly broke in last and stayed in that spot as the field headed into the first turn and down the backstretch. Venus Valentine was as much as 14 lengths behind Lovable Lyss, who was head-to-head with Finley’sluckycharm on the lead through the opening half-mile in :23.02 and :46.33.
Meanwhile, 3-5 favorite Stageplay was biding her time outside of Midnight On Oconee and followed that one as she began her move entering the final bend. It was Finley’sluckycharm, Lovable Lyss, Midnight On Oconee and Stageplay across the track for a brief moment before the early leaders began backing up.
Stageplay also couldn’t seem to go with Midnight On Oconee, who appeared ready to earn her first stakes win.
Suddenly, down on the rail, Venus Valentine burst into the picture. The Kentucky-bred lass powered up the inside and easily passed Midnight On Oconee before galloping out well ahead of the field past the wire.
Venus Valentine scored by a length while stopping the clock in 1:45.24 over Fair Grounds’ fast main track. She was sent off the 74-1 longest shot in the nine-filly field and returned $150.40 to her faithful, but few, backers.
Midnight On Oconee took second by a half-length over Shaken, who just stuck her neck in front of Royal Obsession for third.
Venus Valentine now tops the Kentucky Oaks (G1) leaderboard, as the Rachel Alexandra opened the Championship portion of the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series of points races. She took home 50 points to bump undefeated champion Songbird from the number one spot.
Midnight On Oconee earned 20 points and took up the third spot in the leaderboard, while Shaken was awarded 10 points and Royal Obsession garnered five.
Venus Valentine added a first stakes win to her resume in this spot, having run fourth in her only other try in the Arlington-Washington Lassie last August. That followed her only other win, a 3 1/4-length maiden victory at Ellis Park in late July.
The filly closed out her juvenile campaign at Fair Grounds with a fifth-placing on a sloppy, sealed track, then opened her three-year-old campaign with a fourth-placing in a one-mile allowance/optional claimer on the good turf.
Venus Valentine is now 5-2-0-0, $145,185, in her career. She is the first registered winner out of Grade 3-placed multiple stakes victress Valentine Fever and comes from the same female family as 1995 Kentucky Oaks queen Gal in a Ruckus.
Venus Valentine photo courtesy of Alexander Barkoff/Hodges Photography
RACHEL ALEXANDRA QUOTES
Corey Lanerie, jockey Venus Valentine, winner: “They told me she was a longshot today but she was doing really good and to just let her run her race.”
Tom Amoss, trainer Venus Valentine, winner: “She’s been a bit of a guessing game. She won her first start for us and we knew she had great raw talent. She was tying up and cramping up a lot muscle-wise. We solved this problem…we felt she had a real chance based on how she was coming into the race.”
James Graham, jockey Midnight on Oconee, second: “She got an easy lead last time, but she did what she had to do today. She was floating her ears up back and forth and I just sat as long as I could.”
Brian Hernandez Jr., jockey Shaken, third: “We had a beautiful filly for only her second start. She dug in and got graded stakes placed in only her second start. She missed the break a little, but you have to expect that with this being only her second start. She even got a little tired late, but she kept digging in and giving me more. She's a nice filly.”
Florent Geroux, jockey beaten favorite Stageplay, fifth: “We were wide all the way and did all the dirty work for the winner.”