May 25, 2024

Ashland, Gazelle and Santa Anita Oaks key preps for Kentucky Oaks

Jaywalk and jockey Joel Rosario capture the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Churchill Downs on "Future Stars Friday," November 2, 2018 (c) Coady Photography/Churchill Downs

Contenders for the May 3 Kentucky Oaks (G1) will compete in three major prep races Saturday.

The $500,000 Ashland (G1) at Keeneland features an anticipated match-up between two-year-old filly champion Jaywalk and unbeaten Grade 3 winner Feedback. West Coast leader Bellafina, a five-time stakes heroine, heads a field of five in the $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks (G1). Always Shopping and Espresso Shot, the respective winners of the Busanda and Busher last out, will square off in the $300,000 Gazelle (G2) at Aqueduct.

As part of the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series, each race offers points on a 100-40-20-10 scale to the top four finishers.

Jaywalk has been installed as the 8-5 morning line favorite among eight rivals in the 1 1/16-mile Ashland. A smashing 5 1/2-length winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Churchill Downs, the John Servis-trained daughter of Cross Traffic will try to rebound from a fourth in her 2019 opener, the March 2 Davona Dale (G2). Javier Castellano picks up the mount from Joel Rosario, who will be at Santa Anita Park.

Feedback turned heads when debut with an eight-length romp in a fast time at Saratoga last summer and came from a 5 1/2-month hiatus to capture the February 2 Forward Gal (G2) at Gulfstream Park. The Violence filly will make her second start back for Chad Brown and keeps Irad Ortiz Jr. in the saddle.

Juvenile Grade 1 winner Restless Rider, runner-up in the Golden Rod (G2) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in her last two outings, will open her sophomore season for Kenny McPeek. Brian Hernandez Jr. rides. Honeybee (G3) winner Chocolate Kisses and unbeaten multiple stakes Bell’s the One add more depth.

Bellafina will stretch back out to 1 1/16 miles in the Santa Anita Oaks after opening this year with wins in the Santa Ynez (G2) and Las Virgenes (G2). Flavien Prat rides the daughter of Quality Road for Simon Callaghan and the 2-5 morning line favorite will take some beating, but Bellafina will face a dangerous foe in Chasing Yesterday.

Winner of the Starlet (G1) in her juvenile finale, Chasing Yesterday stretched her stakes-winning streak to four when returning with a comfortable triumph in the March 24 Sunland Park Oaks. Mike Smith retakes the reins for Bob Baffert, who will also send out promising maiden scorer Flor de La Mar, who didn’t care for a sloppy track when making her last start.

Espresso Shot has been tabbed the 9-5 morning line favorite for the 1 1/8-mile Gazelle. A New York-bred stakes winner, the Mission Impazible filly switched to the open company with a rallying tally in the March 9 Busher at Aqueduct. Eric Cancel retains the mount for Jorge Abreu.

Always Shopping overcame a stumbling start to just miss against maiden rivals at Aqueduct two starts back and earned her first career win when trying stakes opponents in the February 3 Busanda, scoring from just off the pace by a widening 1 1/4-length margin. Manny Franco will be up for Todd Pletcher.

A total of six fillies will head to the starting gate and Positive Spirit will look to rebound from a disappointing last-place finish in the February 16 Rachel Alexandra (G2) at Fair Grounds. The Rudolphe Brisset pupil showed an affinity for Aqueduct when posting a 10-length victory in the Demoiselle (G2) two starts back and Jose Ortiz will be up.