(Updated at noon Eastern to reflect status of Exuberance)
With entries being taken tomorrow (Monday) at 11 a.m. Eastern in the Aristides Lounge at Churchill, the final lineup for the Grade 1, $1 million Kentucky Oaks is still undergoing a few tweaks.
BLAMED and RED RUBY are out, while Mac Robertson, trainer of AMY'S CHALLENGE, has not yet announced a decision on whether the speedy filly will be entered in the Oaks or be diverted instead to the Grade 2 Eight Belles on the Friday undercard.
Blamed, a 6 1/4-length winner of the March 25 Sunland Park Oaks in her last start, emerged from a half-mile Saturday breeze at Churchill with what trainer Joel Marr described to track publicity as a small hairline fracture of her right hind pastern. The injury was not diagnosed until this morning.
“She’s walking fine but was a little off when we jogged her,” said Marr, adding he believed the injury likely will require 60-90 days stall rest and no surgery.
Red Ruby, who suffered superficial leg wounds that required stitches in early April in a barn accident at Oaklawn Park, will live to fight another day, said trainer Kellyn Gorder. The gray Tiznow filly, winner of the Martha Washington in February, is owned by Sandra Sexton and Brandi Nicholson.
“The owners and I talked (Saturday evening) and decided to target some races a little later in the year,” said Gorder. “We just feel we have missed a bit too much training to expect Red Ruby to be 100 percent while facing the best fillies in the country. There’s a lot of racing on down the road. Obviously we are all disappointed but it’s great to train for owners who put the horse first.”
As of Sunday morning, and in order of preference through qualifying points, these are the 14 3-year-old fillies who lead the list for the Oaks: Midnight Bisou, Monomoy Girl, Sassy Sienna, My Miss Lilly, Chocolate Martini, Coach Rocks, Rayya, Wonder Gadot, Eskimo Kisses, Take Charge Paula, Amy’s Challenge, Patrona Margarita, Classy Act, and Exuberance.
Churchill racing officials were attempting Sunday to determine the intent of trainer Ian Kruljac with EXUBERANCE, who would have been on the Monday equine charter flight from California if she comes except that "it's full," Kruljac told DRF. "We're working on it." Exuberance most recently was a distant fourth in the Santa Anita Oaks.
The Monday charter will be transporting the Derby favorite (Justify) and possible Oaks favorite (Midnight Bisou), along with other horses who will race here on the Oaks and Derby cards.
An also-eligibles list of up to four fillies can be listed on the program for the Oaks, with scratch time set for 9 a.m. Eastern on Friday. If Amy’s Challenge or Exuberance or any other filly defects, HEAVENHASMYNIKKI would be the first alternate in – and although Ron Paolucci wants to run in the Oaks, he said automatically being assigned the outside post if the filly had to make the race off the AE list would be no bargain.
“Even if I can get in, I may run against (Rushing Fall) on turf (in the Grade 3 Edgewood on the Friday undercard) if it’s a short field,” said Paolucci. “Let’s see how it all plays out.”