September 26, 2023

Daddys Lil Darling, Tequilita ready for Kentucky Oaks at Keeneland

Salty (c) Churchill Downs/Coady Photography

Daddys Lil Darling and Tequilita each readied for the 143rd running of the May 5 Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Keeneland on Friday before the morning renovation break.

Daddys Lil Darling breezed a bullet, best of 71, half-mile in :47.40 under jockey Robby Albarado for trainer Kenny McPeek. The Scat Daddy filly was caught in splits of :23.60 and :47.40, and she galloped out five furlongs in 1:00.80.

“She went really good; a nice maintenance move,” Albarado said. “I hope she gets some pace to run at in the Oaks. If so, she will be fine. I am positive she will be staying on at the end.”

Daddys Lil Darling was last seen missing by only a half-length in the Ashland Stakes (G1) at Keeneland on April 8. The bay lass is no stranger to Churchill, having captured the Pocahontas Stakes (G2) last September under the Twin Spires.

Daddys Lil Darling is scheduled to have her final Oaks work at Keeneland next weekend before shipping to Churchill on May 1.

“She has trained and run there,” McPeek said. “(Once at Churchill) she will jog and gallop and school in the paddock.”

Forward Gal Stakes (G2) winner Tequilita clocked five furlongs in 1:02.40 with exercise rider Jo Saville in the saddle for trainer Michael Matz.

“She will go to Churchill on Wednesday and have her final work for the Oaks there,” Matz said.

Tequilita earned her shot at Kentucky Oaks glory when taking the Forward Gal and running second in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2).

Salty, winner of the Gulfstream Park Oaks, worked at Churchill on Friday ahead of her Kentucky Oaks engagement.

The Mark Casse-trained daughter of Quality Road breezed five furlongs in 1:00.40 under exercise rider Janelle Castonguay. Salty worked in company with Summer Luck, establishing splits of :13, :24.80 and :36.60. She galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.40 and seven furlongs in 1:27.60.

“Salty is one of those horses that gets me excited,” assistant trainer Norman Casse said. “She did everything well within herself and looked great cooling out at the barn.”

On Thursday at Churchill Downs, multiple Grade 2 heroine Miss Sky Warrior readied for the Kentucky Oaks with a half-mile breeze in :49 under jockey Paco Lopez.

The duo recorded splits of :12 and :23.80 before galloping out five furlongs in 1:02.60 and three-quarters in 1:16.20.

“It was an easy maintenance breeze,” trainer Kelly Breen said. “She did everything easy and is doing very well. Right now I don’t think we need to do any more serious conditioning with her. She’ll have one more easy breeze next weekend.”

Miss Sky Warrior brings a five race-win streak in the Kentucky Oaks. The First Samurai filly ran fourth in her career debut last September at Belmont Park but has since captured the Tempted Stakes (G3), Demoiselle Stakes (G2), Davona Dale Stakes (G2) and Gazelle Stakes (G2).

“She’s always has done well at Aqueduct,” Breen said. “We ran her at Gulfstream Park in March but I thought the cold weather would do her well and help condition her for the Oaks.”

Paradise Woods, who captured the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) by a record 11 3/4 lengths on April 8, covered a half-mile in :47.60 on Friday over the fast dirt at Santa Anita Park. Regular rider Flavien Prat was aboard for the move.

“Beautiful,” trainer Richard Mandella said. “She’ll have a more serious work next Thursday or Friday and ship to Kentucky on May 1.”

Four of the top 14 fillies on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks Leaderboard are stabled at Churchill: Farrell, Miss Sky Warrior, Ever So Clever and Salty. Two on the outside – Vexatious and Jordan’s Henny – are No. 15 and 16, respectively, on the Leaderboard and hope to get in the race should there be any defections.