LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Trainer John Servis was thinking about running Cathryn Sophia in the Eight Belles on the Kentucky Oaks undercard after a second-place finish in the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland. When he heard that Songbird, the talented 3-year-old filly, would miss training due to a fever and skip the Kentucky Oaks, those plans changed in a hurry.
The daughter of Street Boss out of a Mineshaft dam took advantage of Songbird’s absence to win the 142nd running of the$1 million Grade 1 Longines Kentucky Oaks by 2-3/4 lengths covering the 1-1/8 miles in 1:50.53. It was the first graded stakes winner for Servis since Round Pound won the G3 Azeri Handicap at Oaklawn in 2006.
Jockey Javier Castellano continued his onslaught on Grade 1 races capturing his first-ever Kentucky Oaks win before a record-breaking crowd of 124,589 for owner Cash is King LLC. The ownership group also owned 2005 Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner Afleet Alex.
Servis could hardly contain himself after the race and lauded Castellano’s ride. “Javier rode her great. I'm so happy. I saw (Castellano) had horse (coming into the stretch) and when he inched up three wide on the outside, I knew he had horse. Oh my God, to have the Derby and Oaks on my resume, and to have only run one each time, it's fantastic."
Servis became the 26th trainer to win both the Kentucky Derby and Oaks. His concerns with distance limitations after the Ashford made him think about skipping the Oaks for the Eight Belles, but the decision was made much easier upon Songbird’s defection.
“I knew my filly was bringing her A game. I knew she was going to run well. And if we got beat, we got beat. It’s nice to know that you are going into a race like the Oaks or the Derby with a little powder in the gun,” said Servis.
Cathryn Sophia, who returned $11.40 to her backers for the win, took over at the top of the stretch sweeping past Lewis Bay and early front-runner Terra Promessa and was never threatened by second-place finisher, Land Over Sea. The winner paid $5.40 to place and $3.80 to show. Post Time selection Land Over Sea paid $6.60 to place and $5.20 for the show. Lewis Bay hung on for third and paid $4.60 to show.
Jockey Mario Gutierrez, who will ride the favorite Nyquist in tomorrow’s Derby, was pleased with Land Over Sea’s race and second-place finish. “I got a clean trip, a little bit of traffic but not enough to say it cost me the race,” said Gutierrez. “She broke a little bit slow, but besides that I got a good trip.”
Land Over Sea’s trainer Doug O’Neill echoed Gutierrez’ post race comments. “Mario did a great job, a ground-saving trip and no traffic trouble,” said O’Neill. “She got beat by a great filly. I wouldn’t mind trying this one more time, because I think our filly could possibly beat the filly that won. We’re extremely proud of her.”
O’Neill has a very big day tomorrow when he will saddle the favorite Nyquist in the Kentucky Derby. He is planning a quiet evening in anticipation of tomorrow’s big race. “We’ll celebrate and have a good dinner, hopefully Nyquist rests and has a good dinner, tomorrow’s going to be a big day,” said O’Neill.
Trainer Chad Brown was pleased with his promising young filly’s effort. Lewis Bay came into the race of a big effort at Aqueduct in the Gazelle. “I thought my horse ran well. I thought she ran great. She got a good trip saving ground. She just got nailed for second. The winner was clearly best today."
With the Oaks complete, the $1 Oaks-Derby double will-pays can be found below:
$1 Will Pays
|1||Trojan Nation||$ 817|
|4||Mo Tom||$ 166|
|5||Gun Runner||$ 99|
|6||My Man Sam||$ 182|
|7||Oscar Nominated||$ 752|
|12||Tom's Ready||$ 530|
|17||Mor Spirit||$ 108|
|19||Brody's Cause||$ 147|
|20||Danzing Candy||$ 217|
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.