Sunday, February 18, 2018
Sports

Trainer Pletcher has four fillies in Kentucky Oaks

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Todd Pletcher has a whole bunch of chances to win the Kentucky Oaks, too.

The trainer with a record-tying five horses in Saturday's Kentucky Derby sends out four fillies in today's $1 million Kentucky Oaks, including 3-1 favorite Dreaming of Julia.

Pletcher's other fillies in the 10-horse field are unbeaten Unlimited Budget, Silsita and Princess of Sylmar.

"We're all good," Pletcher said.

Also good to go is John Velazquez, who returned to riding Thursday after a layoff because of an injury and is set to be aboard Dreaming of Julia, who drew the No. 8 post for the 1⅛-mile Oaks.

Pletcher is looking to win the Oaks for the third time — his two winners are Ashado in 2004 and Rags to Riches in 2007 — but he has plenty of competition.

Close Hatches has won all three of her races for trainer Bill Mott, and Midnight Lucky is 2-for-2 for trainer Bob Baffert. Beholder and Rose to Gold each has five wins on her resume.

Dreaming of Julia has won four of six career starts and served notice she is one tough filly with a 22-length victory in the Gulfstream Oaks in March.

Win streak on line: Rick Pitino became a basketball Hall of Famer and an NCAA champion on the same day last month. Now the Louisville basketball coach is positioned to become a Kentucky Derby-winning owner, with 5-1 third favorite Goldencents in Saturday's field.

Pitino bought 5 percent of the colt for $3,100 and has called it the best investment he has made.

"It's anybody's ball game," he said of the race during a visit to Churchill Downs on Wednesday. "It's not like basketball, where you can look at a team and say they've got a little bit more firepower. You just don't know in the Derby because you don't know who's going to get into racing trouble."

LONESOME: While the other Derby horses have been acclimating at Churchill Downs, Lines of Battle remained isolated in quarantine Thursday after a 14-hour trip from Ireland.

T.J. Comerford, assistant to trainer Aidan O'Brien, said the colt has settled in nicely since arriving Wednesday. He was scheduled to gallop today after his quarantine release.

"We're used to traveling our horses," Comerford said. "There's not a problem. He's 100 percent."

Home improvement: Churchill Downs has had face lifts, upgrades and minor touch-ups over the past decade that amount to the most significant changes since the twin spires were erected in the late 19th century. This year's big renovation is a new VIP section known as the Mansion for Derby fans willing to shell out $7,000 to $12,500 to watch the race. Churchill Downs spent about $3 million on the 10,000-square-foot section, which was built inside the former media center. It seats about 300 and is open only on Kentucky Oaks and Derby days.

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