The Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) is one of the better races for 3-year-old fillies in North America, if not the best, drawing elite fillies from all parts of the country.
This year’s race May 6 at Churchill Downs is shaping up as particularly talent-laden, expected to lure unbeaten fillies Echo Zulu and Kathleen O. , invaders from California, and Secret Oath , the talented miss who ran third against males in the Arkansas Derby (G1).
As Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ president and founder Aron Wellman, a co-owner in Nest, noted following the Ashland, “It’s a killer cast of fillies lining up for the first Friday in May.”
His filly showed in the Ashland that she belongs on that murderers’ row.
After rating in fourth early in the Ashland, she overcame a wide trip to reel in pacesetting Interstatedaydream late on the second turn. Then, she accelerated away from the competition for a handy victory under Irad Ortiz Jr. The Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Repole Stable, and Michael House-owned Curlin filly raced 1 1/16 miles on a wet-fast track in 1:44.16, paying $5.40 as the slight favorite.
“That was nice. She was traveling perfect the whole time,” said Ortiz, who won Friday’s three final races on the 10-race card at Keeneland. “She moved great. At the three-eighths pole, I asked her a little bit, and she moved forward, more than what I wanted to.”
The early move took nothing out of her. Despite not being asked for her best down the lane, she completed the final sixteenth of the Ashland in six seconds.
Cocktail Moments rallied from seventh to grab second by a nose over Interstatedaydream, who weakened late after being hounded on the lead by stretch-out sprinter Happy Soul through moderate splits of :24.24, :48.82, and 1:13.25. Awake At Midnyte was another 2 3/4 lengths back in fourth.
The top four finishers earned qualifying points toward the Kentucky Oaks, distributed on a 100-40-20-10 scale. The winner and runner-up have enough points to make the Oaks field, with 120 and 52 total points. Interstatedaydream (20) and Awake At Midnyte (24) may not have sufficient Oaks points to secure entry in the 14-horse race.
Interstatedaydream’s trainer Brad Cox said immediately after the Ashland that he was initially inclined to pursue an easier race than the Oaks with his twice graded stakes-placed filly.
Kenny McPeek, trainer of Dixiana Farms’ Cocktail Moments, said he was pleased with his filly’s effort.
“We could have easily run in an allowance race and probably been fine,” he said. “Anytime you can run and become grade 1 placed, it’s a big deal for this filly. Very happy.”
Asked about running in the Oaks, McPeek said he would consult with the filly’s ownership before deciding.
Nest improved to 4-for-5 in taking the Ashland, her first grade 1. Last year’s Demoiselle Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct Racetrack had been her most prestigious victory, and she added the ungraded Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in her Ashland tune-up.
“Man, this was the performance we were hoping to see,” Wellman said. “Again, all credit goes to Todd (trainer Pletcher). He’s just the master. When he’s got a target, he doesn’t miss the bull’s eye too often.”
Eclipse previously won the COVID-19-postponed Ashland in partnership with Madaket Stables with the Michael McCarthy-trained Speech in 2020. Speech later was awarded third place in the 2020 Kentucky Oaks upon the disqualification of Gamine for a medication infraction.
The next target for Nest in four weeks is the Kentucky Oaks, a race Pletcher has won four times, including last year’s edition with Shadwell Stable’s Malathaat , winner of the 2021 Ashland.
Pletcher said Nest is a filly “bred to run as far as they write them.” The Oaks is a sixteenth longer than the Ashland at 1 1/8 miles.
“It looks like a super-deep group, a lot of high-quality fillies,” Pletcher said of the Oaks picture. “I think she put herself towards the top of the list with that performance today.”
Nest was bred in Kentucky by Ashview Farm and Colts Neck Stables. She was sold to Eclipse Thoroughbreds and Mike Repole for $350,000 as a yearling via Ashview Farm’s consignment to the 2020 September Yearling Sale at Keeneland.
Out of the stakes-winning A.P. Indy mare Marion Ravenwood , Nest is a full sister to 2021 Santa Anita Handicap (G1) hero Idol and a half sister to the twice stakes-placed Dr Jack (Pioneerof the Nile). Four of the dam’s six foals are winners from five starters. Her only foal yet to start is a 2-year-old colt by Violence named Lost Ark.
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