Seven years ago, her mother rewrote history with her 20¼-length victory in the Kentucky Oaks.
Should Rachel’s Valentina remotely emulate her Hall of Fame dam when the nation’s premier test for 3-year-olds fillies goes to post Friday, she will add a new stamp to the record books in the race’s 142-year history.
Rachel’s Valentina, daughter of 2009 Horse of the Year and Kentucky Oaks heroine Rachel Alexandra, was installed as the lukewarm 7-2 morning-line favorite in a field of 14 entered Tuesday for the 1 1/8 -mile Oaks.
Last week, Rachel Alexandra was elected into the 2016 class of racing’s Hall of Fame. The brilliant racemare now has a chance to become the first Oaks winner to produce an Oaks winner thanks to the exploits of the filly who will probably go down as her final foal.
Never miss a local story.
After producing a colt by Curlin — now named Jess’s Dream — in 2012, Rachel Alexandra had to undergo surgery for foaling complications after delivering Rachel’s Valentina, a daughter of Bernardini, the following year.
The strain of almost losing the champion distaffer is such that owner Barbara Banke of Stonestreet Stables has stated her prized mare will probably never be bred again. The homebred bay filly that resulted from that final mating has proven a magnificent representative of her mother, winning the Grade I Spinaway Stakes last September in her second career start and running second to unbeaten champion Songbird in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies last Oct. 31.
“You would think everything about her suggests that two turns and a mile and an eighth will be what she’s been bred for and would be one to do for her whole life,” said Todd Pletcher, trainer of Rachel’s Valentina. “She’s got a pedigree to handle the distance and a pedigree to handle Churchill Downs as well.”
Rachel’s Valentina finished second by a neck to Weep No More during her season debut in the Grade I Ashland Stakes at Keeneland on April 9. The top three finishers from that race stand as the top three betting choices on the morning line with Weep No More and Ashland third-place finisher Cathryn Sophia the co-second choices at 9-2.
A maximum of 14 will contest the $1 million Kentucky Oaks. Dothraki Queen was entered as an also-eligible.
Lani puts in 5-furlong move
With trainer Mikio Matsunaga looking on, UAE Derby winner Lani worked 5 furlongs in 1:01 over a fast track after the renovation break at Churchill Downs on Tuesday morning. The move was the third fastest of 18 at the distance.
“The rider did a very good job. It was a nice work,” Matsunaga said through spokesman Keita Tanaka. “I think he is fast enough and happy enough to run in the Derby.”
Lani has raised eyebrows since arriving at Churchill Downs with his studdish behavior each morning and peculiar work patterns. The son of Tapit has been called lazy by his camp and had to be severely urged to turn in a 3-furlong move in :37.40 last Wednesday.
“He had just put in a big race (in Dubai) and I wanted to give him time to relax the past three weeks to be fresh to run in the Kentucky Derby,” Matsunaga said. “He is doing very well.”
Kentucky Oaks field
1. Terra Promessa, 10-1
2. Weep No More, 9-2
3. Lewis Bay, 8-1
4. Go Maggie Go, 12-1
5. Dream Dance, 30-1
6. Mokat, 20-1
7. Mo d’ Amour, 30-1
8. Royal Obsession, 20-1
9. Paola Queen, 30-1
10. Venus Valentine, 30-1
11. Rachel’s Valentina, 7-2
12. Cathryn Sophia, 9-2
13. Land Over Sea, 5-1
14. Taxable, 20-1
15. Dothraki Queen, 30-1