Malathaat is 5-2 choice in Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs

Pat McDonogh / Courier Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC
1 Comment

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Malathaat is the 5-2 morning-line favorite and will start from the No. 10 post for Friday’s 147th Kentucky Oaks.

The race for 3-year-old fillies at Churchill Downs comes a day before the Kentucky Derby.

Trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by John Velazquez, Malathaat has won all four starts. Pletcher is going for his fourth Oaks victory and first since 2013 with Princess of Sylmar.

“I’m basically fine with the draw,” Pletcher said. “I probably would have preferred to be a bit more toward the middle. But if it was a case of drawing inside or outside, I’ll take the outside. It’ll work out fine.”

Search Results, winner of all three races and trained by Chad Brown, and Travel Column, trained by Brad Cox, are co-second choices at 3-1. They drew, respectively, the No. 12 and No. 6 posts Monday for the 1 1/8-mile race. Clairiere, trained by Steve Asmussen, is the 5-1 third choice from the No. 3 post in the $1.25 million race.

Malathaat’s victories include the Ashland at Keeneland on April 3 in which she beat fellow Oaks entrant Pass the Champagne by a head with Joel Rosario aboard. Rosario has Millefeuille, a 20-1 choice from the No. 14 and last slot.

Cox, a Louisville native, has two chances to earn his second consecutive Oaks victory and third in four years. He is also saddling Coach, who will start from the No. 9 post as one of three 50-1 longshots.

Travel Column finished 18 points behind in second to Search Results on the Oaks trail and has a Churchill Downs win among three in her career, with a second and a third in five starts.

Cox figures to have the Kentucky Derby favorite in Essential Quality when that 20-horse field is drawn Tuesday.

In the Oaks, he believes Travel Column can navigate from her post with jockey Florent Geroux. He says the filly has enough speed and doesn’t necessarily need to be on the lead.

“But we’ll see how it unfolds and what other horses are doing,” he said. “Florent knows her very well and how she gets away. We’re in a good position with her.”

Clariere has alternated victories and seconds in her four starts, including two this year. She won the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds in February and finished 2 } lengths behind Travel Column in the Fair Grounds Oaks on March 20.

Post time is 5:51 p.m. EDT.

Kentucky Oaks entrants by post position, with jockey and odds from the rail out:

1. Pauline’s Pearl (Ricardo Santana Jr.), 20-1; 2. Maracuja (Kendrick Carmouche), 20-1; 3. Clariere (Tyler Gaffalione), 5-1; 4. Crazy Beautiful (Jose Ortiz), 15-1; 5. Pass the Champagne (Javier Castellano), 15-1; 6. Travel Column (Florent Geroux), 3-1; 7. Ava’s Grace (David Cohen), 50-1; 8. Moraz (Flavien Prat), 30-1; 9. Coach (Luis Saez), 50-1; 10. Malathaat (John Velazquez), 5-2; 11. Will’s Secret (Jon Court), 30-1; 12. earch Results (Irad Ortiz Jr.) 3-1; 13. Competitive Speed (Chris Landeros), 50-1; 14. Millefeuille (Joel Rosario), 20-1.

Watch the Kentucky Oaks on Friday, April Friday, April 30 from 12 to 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

Flightline, Pletcher, Godolphin lead way at Eclipse Awards

eclipse awards
Pat McDonogh/USA TODAY NETWORK
1 Comment

PALM BEACH, Fla. — Flightline ran away in all six of his races, and ran away with top honors at the Eclipse Awards on Thursday night.

And trainer Todd Pletcher, for the first time in nearly a decade, received the sport’s top prize as well.

Flightline – the now-retired winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic to cap an unbeaten six-race career – won Horse of the Year as well as the Eclipse as top Older Dirt Male. It was no surprise that Flightline took home both awards, and he’s now standing stud.

“We’ll hope that his future is as bright as his past,” co-owner Kosta Hronis said.

Godolphin was also a double winner, sweeping the Eclipses as top owner and top breeder for the second consecutive year. It was also the third consecutive top-owner Eclipse for Godolphin.

“This is truly a golden era for Godolphin racing,” said Michael Banahan, the stable’s director of bloodstock. “And these awards and accolades recognize how special it is.”

It was Pletcher’s eighth Eclipse, extending his record for the most by any trainer, and his first since 2014. It was one of the few close races in the voting; Pletcher got 108 first-place votes, while four-time Eclipse winner Chad Brown got 95 and finished second.

“This really is not an individual award. This is a team award,” Pletcher said. “This is an award about the owners, and most importantly, the horses.”

Irad Ortiz Jr. won the Eclipse as top jockey for the fourth time in the last five years; he tied Pat Day and Javier Castellano for third-most in history, behind only seven-time winner Jerry Bailey and five-time winner Laffit Pincay Jr.

Ortiz led all jockeys with more than $37 million in purses in 2022.

“Wow,” Ortiz said. “It’s been an amazing year for me.”

Forte won the Eclipse as 2-year-old male, and will enter this year’s Triple Crown season as one of the early favorites.

“We’re all in this game for a horse like Forte,” said Mike Repole, the horse’s co-owner along with Florida Panthers owner Vincent Viola and Teresa Viola. “We’re all in this game to one day maybe own a 2-year-old that has a chance. It’s great to have the Kentucky Derby favorite. … Forte’s an incredible horse.”

Epicenter won the 3-year-old male Eclipse, after running second at both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, then winning the Jim Dandy and Travers at Saratoga over the summer.

Wonder Wheel was the winner as 2-year-old filly, while Nest won the Eclipse in the 3-year-old filly division. Malathaat was the Eclipse winner for older dirt female, Goodnight Olive for female sprinter and Regal Glory for female turf horse.

Elite Power was picked as the top male sprinter, Modern Games won the Eclipse for male turf horse, and Hewick was the Eclipse winner in the steeplechase division.

Jose Antonio Gomez won as top apprentice jockey.

The Eclipse Awards are voted on by members of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the Daily Racing Form and National Turf Writers And Broadcasters.

Trainer Bob Baffert’s ban from racing in New York is over

bob baffert
Courier Journal/USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

Bob Baffert can once again enter horses at New York’s major tracks.

The Hall of Fame trainer’s one-year ban by the New York Racing Association ended Wednesday, allowing him to enter horses as soon as Thursday.

“I was disappointed they even did it, but it’s water under the bridge,” Baffert told The Associated Press by phone.

He was suspended last June for repeated medication violations, although none of them occurred in New York. He was barred from Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga. A panel credited Baffert for time served for an initial suspension, which allowed him to return this week.

Aqueduct is currently holding its 44-day winter meet that runs through March 26. Baffert doesn’t typically run horses this time of year in New York; he targets the biggest stakes races at Belmont in the spring and Saratoga in the summer.

Baffert remains under a two-year ban by Churchill Downs Inc., which sidelined him after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for a substance that is not allowed on race day. The penalty expires shortly after the Kentucky Derby in May. However, Baffert is fighting the suspension in federal court.

The Southern California-based trainer has a big weekend coming up around the country, although not in New York.

He has horses running at three tracks on Saturday.

Defunded is entered in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream in Florida, where Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes will be on hand.

Arabian Knight goes into the $750,000 Southwest Stakes as the early favorite at Oaklawn in Arkansas. Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby prep race a record-tying five times and will travel to Hot Springs to watch the 3-year-old colt.

“It’s going to be a good test for him. The only way to find out is to run him long,” he said. “It’s going to take a superior horse to do that and I’m hoping that he is.”

The Southwest offers Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top five finishers. Arabian Knight won’t receive any points regardless of his placing because of Baffert’s Derby ban.

Hopper will run in the $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita.

On Sunday at the same track, Baffert has entered four of the five horses set to run in the $200,000 San Vicente Stakes for 3-year-olds.