Kentucky Derby notebook: Longshot filly wins Oaks to give Pletcher shot at weekend sweep
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A filly that trainer Todd Pletcher waffled on entering in the Kentucky Oaks has him poised to complete a rare double Saturday in the Kentucky Derby.
Princess of Sylmar, a 38-1 long shot, rallied with a huge stretch run to win the $1 million Grade 1 Oaks on Friday at Churchill Downs.
One of four fillies trained by Pletcher, she upstaged stablemate and 3-2 favorite Dreaming of Julia, who finished fourth. Unlimited Budget, another Pletcher entry, ran third behind 2-year-old filly champion Beholder.
The win positioned Pletcher for a weekend sweep if he can claim the 139th Run for the Roses, where he has a record-tying five entries Saturday.
Pletcher aims to become the first trainer since Ben Jones in 1952 to pull off the Oaks/Derby double and the fourth overall.
• Long shot Black Onyx was a late scratch for the Derby because of a chip in his left ankle, leaving 19 horses to vie for the roses. The scratch occurred after early wagering for the race had opened, so Black Onyx's No. 1 post position will be left empty Saturday. The remaining horses will stay in their original starting gate positions.
• There is a 70 percent chance of rain in Louisville for Derby day, with accumulation up to half an inch. Vyjack and Itsmyluckyday are the only horses in the Derby field to win stakes races over a wet track. A Daily Racing Form metric that examines the performance of a horse's sire and broodmare sire while running on wet tracks identified these five, in order, as having the most promising mud-running pedigree: D. Wayne Lukas' Oxbow (30-1), Normandy Invasion (12-1 choice trained by Chad Brown), Pletcher's Revolutionary (a 10-1 shot, with three-time Derby winner Calvin Borel aboard), Will Take Charge (Lukas' other horse and a 20-1 choice) and morning-line favorite Orb, trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey. Orb has probably the hottest jockey in the country, as Joel Rosario has won more than a third of his past 130 races. Second-favorite Verrazano (4-1), also trained by Pletcher, will be ridden by John Velazquez, who actually took Orb to the Florida Derby winner's circle but opted to stay with the undefeated winner of the Wood Memorial.
• Oxbow's jockey, Gary Stevens, will be pulling double-duty Saturday. He'll ride in his first Derby since ending a seven-year retirement earlier this year, and then return to his job as a racing analyst on NBC's telecast.