Ava’s Grace scratched from Longines Kentucky Oaks; Update on other starters

April 28, 2021

Cypress Creek Equine’s Ava’s Grace has been scratched from the Kentucky Oaks field is and is being sent to Hagyard Equine Medical Institute for a full evaluation, according to her trainer Robertino Diodoro.

AVA’S GRACE – Cypress Creek Equine’s Ava’s Grace has been scratched from the Kentucky Oaks field is and is being sent to Hagyard Equine Medical Institute for a full evaluation, according to her trainer Robertino Diodoro.

“It’s just bad timing,” Diodoro said. “We’re not sure exactly what the problem is, so she’s going to Hagyard for a scan. I’m surprised it didn’t show up after her work. She had been doing so well. We’re disappointed, obviously.”

Ava’s Grace was listed as a 50-1 proposition on the Kentucky Oaks morning line.

CLAIRIERE, PAULINE’S PEARL – Stonestreet Stables’ homebreds Pauline’s Pearland Clairiere both galloped a mile around 8:30 Wednesday morning and stood in the starting gate, according to trainer Steve Asmussen’s assistant Scott Blasi.

COACH, TRAVEL COLUMN – Kueber Racing’s Coach and OXO Equine’s Travel Column had their penultimate gallop prior to Friday’s Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI).

The duo both schooled in the gate prior to galloping about 1 5/8 miles. 

COMPETITIVE SPEED – With owner John Minchello looking on, Competitive Speed galloped 1 3/8 miles under exercise rider Anthony Gallo.

Arriving Tuesday night from Boston, Minchello made his first visit to Churchill Downs this morning.

“I love it already,” said Minchello, who owns seven horses and purchased Competitive Speed for $5,000 at auction as a 2-year-old.

Competitive Speed is 50-1 on the morning line, “but she doesn’t know that,” Minchellosaid. “Initially, I thought she was a regular horse, but when you put her next to another horse, she’s very competitive.”

Trainer Javier Gonzalez said Competitive Speed may gallop a mile in the morning or take the day off should a forecast for heavy rain prove to be correct.

Competitive Speed completed her paddock schooling Tuesday afternoon to Gonzalez’s satisfaction.

CRAZY BEAUTIFUL – Phoenix Thoroughbred LTD’s Crazy Beautiful was on the track ahead of expected rain later Wednesday. The winner of the Gulfstream Oaks (GII) appeared along with other Derby and Oaks contenders, including stablemate King Fury, when the 7:30 a.m. training period began. She galloped a few lengths behind her stablemate, smoothly moving through the same 1 ½-mile regimen called for by trainer Kenny McPeek, with exercise rider Danny Ramsey aboard. 

 “They’re both doing well, easy stuff,” McPeek said.

MALATHAAT – Friday’s Kentucky Oaks morning-line favorite, the Curlin filly Malathaat, went trackside at 6 a.m. Wednesday and galloped a mile and a quarter under exercise rider Amelia Green. Trainer Todd Pletcher was a most interested observer trackside just inside the six-furlong gap.

With as much as three inches of rain threatening to be part of the picture Wednesday and Thursday in Louisville, the conditioner was asked if it would affect his training pattern heading to Friday’s “Run for the Lillies.”

“We’ll train tomorrow unless it’s unsafe to go outdoors (lightning)” he said.

The undefeated Malathaat was made the 5-2 favorite for the nine-furlong Oaks and will have Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez as her pilot. They’ll break from Post 10 in the 14-horse field.  

MARACUJA – Beach Haven Thoroughbreds’ Maracuja picked up the pace in her second day on the track since arriving Monday from Belmont Park for trainer Rob Atras, who is scheduled to arrive Thursday. The daughter of Honor Code, who was second to Search Results in Aqueduct’s April 3 Gazelle (GII), had a light jog Tuesday morning but galloped about 1 3/8 miles as part of a morning that also saw her visit the paddock, under the supervision of Atras’ wife and assistant Brittney.

“We don’t really paddock school during the races, so today we backed up to the paddock, put her in her stall and she was great, very quiet,” Atras said. “Tuesday we went really nice and easy but she picked it up a bit more today and seems to be handling the track nicely.”

Maracuja began her career at Aqueduct in December and has made all four career starts at the South Ozone Park, New York oval, so her trip to Louisville was her first venture away from home as a racehorse. However, she handled a van ride up from Florida as a 2-year-old like a seasoned pro, which gave her connections no reason to fret.

“Last May, when she came up from Florida, she was obviously only 2 but she got off the van and was like ‘Great, OK, this is where I live now,’” Atras said. “Her groom Mario Cordero rode with her here and said she really didn’t do anything different. She handled it well and she likes the attention, so she’s happy with it. I was happy Mario was able to come because if we go for a small race, it’s just one of us, so she’s happy there’s a few of us with her.”

MILLEFEUILLE – Juddmonte Farms’ Millefeuille galloped 1 3/8 miles under exercise rider Ailsa Morrison during the 7:30-7:45 training window for Kentucky Derby and Oaks horses.

“She had a good gallop this morning,” said trainer Bill Mott, whose Churchill Downs headquarters has been Barn 19 since 1980 and from which he has sent out the majority of his 735 winners beneath the Twin Spires.

Morrison, who has ridden as an apprentice in Canada, has been with the Mott barn for about a year and has been the regular morning partner for Millefeuille for a little more than a month.

“Her energy is up and so is mine,” Morrison said. “You can feel it. It is all good.”

MORAZ – Just as she had the day before, Kentucky Oaks starter Moraz went about her training business during the special Derby/Oaks training period between 7:30-7:45 a.m. 

Once more trainer Mike McCarthy’s daughter of Empire Maker had exercise rider Olha Krushevska in the tack and once more she galloped about a mile and one half. The trainer is happy with her preparations as she continues to move forward toward her date in Friday’s $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks.

“She’s already (afternoon) paddocked,” the conditioner added. “But we plan to take her over there again at some point today.”

And what of the impending rain that appears likely to go all Wednesday night and into Thursday morning?

“We’ll still train her tomorrow morning,” McCarthy said. “Some rain is not going to change our plans.”

PASS THE CHAMPAGNE – Trainer George Weaver ponied R.A. Hill Stable’s Pass the Champagne to the track during the special 7:30 a.m. training time and then watched as his filly galloped 1 ½ miles with his wife, Cindy Hutter, on board. 

“She had a good gallop,” Weaver said. “She’s doing well. Everything is nice and smooth.”

The Kentucky Oaks will be the fourth career start for the Flatter filly, who most recently finished second by a head to Oaks favorite Malathaat in the Ashland Stakes (GI) at Keeneland. 

“She ran a big race in the Ashland,” Weaver said. “I’ll talk it over with (jockey) Javier (Castellano), but she’s a real kind filly with tactical speed. We’ll just play the break and go from there.”

Pass the Champagne will maintain her same training schedule Thursday heading into Friday’s race.

SEARCH RESULTS – Klaravich Stables’ Search Results again galloped 1 3/8 miles Wednesday morning for trainer Chad Brown.

WILL’S SECRET – Willis Horton’s Honeybee (GIII) winner Will’s Secret galloped about 1 ½ miles under Dallas Stewart’s exercise rider Lee Guidry at 7:30 a.m.

Will’s Secret was accompanied on track by Stewart’s 19-year-old son Cole, who transitioned into a role at his barn following his high school graduation in 2020.


1. Pauline’s Pearl (Ricardo Santana Jr., 20-1)

2. Maracuja (Kendrick Carmouche, 20-1)

3. Clairiere (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 scratched

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. Search Results (IradOrtiz Jr., 3-1)

13. Competitive Speed (Chris Landeros, 50-1)

14. Millefeuille (Joel Rosario, 20-1)

All starters will carry 121 pounds.

Churchill Downs Press Release

Photo: Undefeated Malathaat (Churchill Downs/Coady Photography)

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