By Duane Fonseca

 

Shadwell’s Malathaat justified her top billing with a show of determination as she produced the grittiest performance of her career to win the 147th running of the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs Friday.

In winning, Malathaat stretched her unbeaten run to five races, while bringing Shadwell a first success in the race. Her trainer Todd Pletcher collected a fourth Oaks success, while it turned out to be a second win for rider John Velazquez, who won the 2004 edition with Ashado, also a Pletcher trainee.

Travel Column tried to win trainer Brad Cox a third Kentucky Oaks in the last four years as she set pace early on in the 1800m run under Florent Geroux. However, as Chad Brown’s unbeaten Search Results started to pile the pressure under Irad Ortiz Jr. she yielded. Malathaat, a daughter of the mighty Curlin, was fifth halfway in the race, but with Velazquez starting to ride hard, she started to quickly eat up ground and hunted Search Results after turning for home. The pair battled all the way to the finish with Malathaat doing more than enough to earn victory by a neck in 1:48.99.

It was a second Grade 1 victory for Malathaat, who won the Ashland Stakes earlier this month by a head at Keeneland. Dallas Stewart’s Will’s Secret took third under Jon Kenton Court.

Winning rider Velazquez said: “She didn’t leave the gate well, but what a horse she is and when I asked her she went so quick.”

Winning trainer Pletcher added: “There were a lot of concerns at the start as she didn’t jump well, but Jonny was able to recover and get in a good position. She is a special filly; she has an innate talent of targeting a horse and going past it.”