By Duane Fonseca
Undefeated Shadwell filly Malathaat is marginally favourite for this year’s Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on Friday, 30 April at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.
A daughter of Curlin, Malathaat is on a four win streak which more recently includes victory by a head in the 1700m Grade 1 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland on 3 April. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Malathaat drew post 10 for the 147th running of the race, which is contested over a slightly longer 1800m trip. That shouldn’t be a worry for Pletcher or her Hall of Fame rider John R Velazquez, who partnered her to success in the Grade 2 Demoiselle Stakes at Aqueduct, which was also run over 1800m.
Velazquez knows a thing or two about winning the Kentucky Oaks, having won the 2004 renewal with Ashado. He is well versed with Malathaat too, having first partnered her on her debut in a maiden win at Belmont Park in October. Joel Rosario rode her during the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes and delivered in impressive fashion getting Malathaat to make up two lengths in the stretch and by a head on her 3yo debut.
Speaking after the draw, Rick Nichols, the General Manager of Shadwell Farm, said: “We might have liked to have been a little bit closer to the inside at 7 or 8, but 10 is good.
“When you buy a filly like that you always have high expectations, but rarely do they ever pan out. Rarely do they ever pan out. Actually she has been beyond our expectations.”
Her biggest rivals Travel Column and Search Results leap out of posts six and 12 respectively. Trained by Brad Cox, Travel Column, daughter of Frosted, has won three of her five career starts all under Florent Géroux, who gets the ride again. Travel Column won the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks on her latest start under Géroux on 20 March. It was her second Grade 2 success for connections who have won two of the last three runnings of the Oaks with Monomoy Girl (2018) and Shedaresthedevil (2020).
Trainer Cox said: “She can perform from anywhere. Hopefully, she gets a good trip. I liked the race she ran at the Fair Grounds with a close, stalking trip. That’s what we would prefer.”
Chad Brown’s Flatter filly Search Results won the Grade 3 Gazelle early this month at Aqueduct under Irad Ortiz Jr., who will get the leg up yet again.
Trainer Ken McPeek has saddled three Oaks runner-ups, including last year second Swiss Skydiver. And he hopes his long shot Crazy Beautiful can finally helps him step up a notch. McPeek said: “She’s just steady. She had some issues as a 2yo that we’ve rectified, little niggling stuff, and she’s hitting on all cylinders this year. She’s right there in the thick of it. She’s going to make her presence felt.”