Malathaat outlasts aggressive stretch battle to win 2021 Kentucky Oaks

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Malathaat, the 5-2 morning-line favorite, delivered in the 2021 Kentucky Oaks (G1) to stay undefeated after a tense chase down the homestretch with Search Results. The Kentucky Oaks is run at a distance of 1 1/8 miles at Churchill Downs with a purse of $1.25 million and is limited to 3-year-old fillies.

This is the fourth career Oaks win for trainer Todd Pletcher, who fields Known Agenda, Bourbonic, Dynamic One and Sainthood in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. Last year’s Derby winner John Velazquez was in the irons, picking up his second Oaks victory. He will ride Bob Baffert’s Medina Spirit in the Kentucky Derby.

Travel Column, fielded by Brad Cox and Florent Geroux of last year’s Oaks-winning duo behind Shedaresthedevil, set the pace early. Malathaat recovered from a bumpy start to make her way through the pack. She and Search Results, trained by Chad Brown, flew around the final turn before separating themselves from the rest of the field and battling all the way to the wire.

“[Malathaat] has an innate talent to really target a horse,” Pletcher told NBC Sports’ Kenny Rice right after the race. “She’s just a pure-class filly.”

Malathaat paid $7 to win, $4.60 to place and $3.40 to show. Search Results (5-1), who took second, paid $6.80 to place and $5.60 to show. This was her first career loss. Third-place finisher Will’s Secret (26-1) paid $9.60 to show.

All eyes turn to the 147th Kentucky Derby, where Champion 2-Year-Old Male Essential Quality looks to stay undefeated against a field of 18 other horses.

The 2021 Kentucky Derby will air on Saturday, May 1 from 12 to 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Coverage is also available to stream live on NBCSports.com and on the NBC Sports app.

Watch the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 1 from 12 to 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Full coverage is also available on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

Taiba wins $1 million Pennsylvania Derby for Baffert

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BENSALEM, Pa. – Taiba won the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby by three lengths for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

Ridden by Mike Smith, Taiba ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.67 and paid $4.80, $3 and $2.60.

It was Baffert’s fourth win in the Grade 1 event at Parx Racing. He also won in 2014, 2017 and 2018. Smith won the race for the third time, all aboard Baffert horses.

Zandon returned $3.80 and $2.60. Cyberknife was another 3 3/4 lengths back in third and paid $3 to show.

Taiba was coming off a second-place finish in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth in July. The colt was 12th in the Kentucky Derby under Tim Yakteen, who took over training him while Baffert was serving a 90-day suspension.

“He had a little bit of a rough trip in the Haskell, but we had some time to get him ready for this one,” Baffert said from his base in California. “He proved today he is a good horse. He is getting better and better.”

Baffert Taiba will be pointed toward the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic in November. The colt has three wins in five starts this year.

Kentucky Derby modifies qualifying, elevates prep races

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Churchill Downs has modified paths to the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, awarding points to the top five finishers in qualifying races and increasing significance for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and late prep season events.

Most Derby prep races during the qualifying series for 3-year-olds will award points on a 10-4-3-2-1 sliding scale after using a 10-4-2-1 system since 2013. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, run during the season-ending championships on Nov. 4 at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky, will increase points from 20-8-4-2 to 30-12-9-6-3 to differentiate the Grade I event from others during prep season.

Select prep races for the 20-horse Derby field have elevated points from a 10-4-2-1 scale to 20-8-6-4-2 to increase their importance and motivate hopefuls to begin their 3-year-old campaigns earlier in the season, track officials stated in a release.

“We believe these modifications adhere to and amplify our goal of assembling the finest group of 3-year-olds in the starting gate for a race at the classic distance of 1\ miles on the first Saturday in May,” Churchill Downs vice president/general manager Mike Ziegler said.

The 149th Kentucky Derby and Oaks for fillies will be held on May 5-6, 2023. Derby qualifying season begins with Saturday’s $300,000, Grade III Iroquois for 2-year-olds at Churchill Downs.

The point changes apply to Oaks qualifiers.

Elevated Derby preps include the Lecomte at Fair Grounds in Louisiana; Southwest at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas; Withers at Aqueduct in New York; Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park in Florida; Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita in California; Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs; and John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park in Kentucky.