Churchill Downs is a sea of pink today with the focus on the fillies and breast cancer awareness. In honor of the day, Churchill Downs is decked in all things pink, including pink tractors. The Kentucky Oaks and its partner charities, Susan G. Komen for the Cure® and Horses and Hope have asked patrons to dress in pink. A view of the crowd from the sixth floor confirms that the crowd is obliging. Prior to the running of the Oaks race, a parade of 137 breast cancer survivors will lead the way for fillies as they make their way from the backside to the paddock. The parade participants were chosen through an online nomination and selection process to represent all those touched by the disease.
The fillies that will run for the lilies this year, will likely be led by the morning line favorite, Joyful Victory. Larry Jones, the trainer of Joyful Victory, is going for his second Oaks win after winning the race in 2008 with Proud Spell. The
slender, light gray filly is two for two this year and turned in a bullet work earlier this week.
Although Joyful Victory will likely be a heavy favorite, she is not unbeatable. Her speed figures show that she has not yet broken one hundred, but three competitors in the field have--Zazu, Plum Pretty, and Kathmanblu. Zazu hit a 103 Equibase speed figure in the Santa Anita Oaks, finishing second behind Turbulent Descent. Plum Pretty reached a 107 with her victory in the Sunland Park Oaks and Kathmanblu hit 102 when she won the Golden Rod Stakes last November. Although Summer Soiree has not broken the century mark either, she drew a 99 speed figure in her Bourbonette Oaks win over Harlan's Ruby. Rounding out the field of thirteen are Lilacs and Lace, Suave Voir Faire, Her Smile, Bouquet Booth, Daisy Devine, Street Storm, Holy Heavens, and St. John's River.
My money will be on Kathmanblu, who is small and feeble in stature which will likely help her maneuver through the crowded field with ease. She's a winner on both turf and dirt and finished third over the synthetic, plus she's fast. The Kenny McPeek trained runner will also have jockey Julien Leparoux aboard, who already has three wins on today's card.
Photo: Courtesy Kentucky Oaks