In a battle of undefeated fillies down the long Churchill Downs stretch, Malathaat maintained her perfect record, while handing Search Results her first defeat, by a neck in a thrilling renewal of the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) on Friday.
Squeezed a bit leaving the gate under John Velazquez, Malathaat, the 5-2 favorite, soon recovered and worked her way into sixth entering the first turn and in the clear and out of trouble into fifth on the backside.
“I think Johnny made a key decision recovering that position getting into the first turn. That made a huge difference,” said Todd Pletcher, who was winning his fourth Kentucky Oaks following prior scores with champions Ashado (2004) and Rags to Riches (2007), as well as Princess of Sylmar (2013).
Travel Column, who broke in and bumped rivals leaving the gate, was hustled to the front and set the pace, with longshot Moraz outside of her in second and Search Results racing three deep in third. Malathaat was four wide and only about three lengths behind down the backside.
Around the far turn, Travel Column came under stronger pressure from Search Results as Moraz weakened in between them. Malathaat also began to commence her rally.
At the top of the stretch, a weakening Travel Column bumped slightly with Search Results as the latter ranged up outside. Search Results moved past and was soon joined by Malathaat, who poked her head in front at the eighth pole and edged a little more clear by the finish while giving Velazquez his second Oaks victory, 17 years after riding Ashado.
“Obviously, I thought that I was probably there a little too soon. And when she put the head in front, she was just waiting,” Velazquez said. “So the fight looks like a lot worse on your end watching from here. I thought it was pretty comfortable that she put the head in front, and the other horse was not going back at her. She was literally waiting for the other horse.”
Owned by Shadwell Stable, whose founder, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, passed away March 24, Malathaat paid $7 after completing 1 1/8 miles over a fast track in 1:48.99. Search Results was 2 3/4 lengths ahead of Will’s Secret, who nosed out Clairiere for third. Travel Column faded to fifth.
The order of finish was rounded out by Millefeuille, Maracuja, Pauline’s Pearl, Coach, Crazy Beautiful, Moraz, Pass the Champagne, and Competitive Speed.
Malathaat won all three starts as a juvenile, beginning with a 1 3/4 length maiden win at Belmont Park on Oct. 9. She next captured both of Aqueduct’s major stakes for two-year-old fillies, the one-mile Tempted S. by 7 3/4 lengths, and the Demoiselle (G2) over 1 1/8 miles by three parts of a length over a sloppy track she had some difficulty over.
She made one prep prior to the Kentucky Oaks, edging Pass the Champagne by a head in the April 3 Ashland (G1) at Keeneland. She’s now earned $1,125,150.
Bred by Stonestreet Thoroughbreds and sold for $1.05 million at Keeneland September, Malathaat is by Curlin and out of Dreaming of Julia, a Grade 1-winning daughter of A.P. Indy who finished fourth to Princess of Sylmar as the 3-2 favorite in the 2013 Kentucky Oaks. Dreaming of Julia in turn was produced by multiple Grade 1 winner Dream Rush.