The backside of Churchill Downs seemed devoid of its usual hustle and bustle the morning of May 1 as the calm before the storm that is the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) settled over the Louisville, Ky., track.
Outside trainer Todd Pletcher’s Barn 42, the mood was also quiet. The fanfare of Malathaat ‘s win in the April 30 Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) had ebbed, but evidence of the revelries was still present as the blanket of lilies lay draped in the sunshine outside the winning filly’s stall.
“She came out of the race in excellent shape today,” said Pletcher, who was riding the high of his fourth Kentucky Oaks win into Saturday.
His four Oaks victories tie him for second-most all-time with D. Wayne Lukas and “Plain” Ben Jones. Woody Stevens has the record with five.
Pletcher, a likely inductee into the Hall of Fame this year, will send out a plurality of runners in Saturday’s 1 1/4-mile test, saddling four 3-year-olds in the 19-horse field: Known Agenda , Sainthood , Dynamic One , and Bourbonic .
A victory from any of the quartet would place Pletcher in select company. Only trainers Herbert J. “Derby Dick” Thompson and Jones have won the Oaks and Derby in the same year, the latter having done so twice, most recently in 1952.
Following Malathaat’s Oaks win, both owner Shadwell Farm and Pletcher said that they could consider running the filly against the boys in the season’s remaining classics. Pletcher said initially that he and the filly’s connections had considered running the unbeaten daughter of Curlin in the Kentucky Derby. The main hurdle, Pletcher said, lies with the lack of a filly’s ability to score points toward a berth in the classics in the early half of the year.
“The way it currently is set up is, if you don’t run against colts prior to the Derby, you’re not going to get any points,” Pletcher said. “So you can take a shot and run against the colts, but if you don’t do well, you can jeopardize your chances of getting into the Oaks because you’re not getting any (Oaks) points that way.”
Pletcher previously ran an Oaks winner in a later Triple Crown race. In 2007 Rags to Riches won the filly classic before she upset Curlin in the Belmont Stakes (G1), the third and final leg of the series.
Oaks runner-up Search Results, owned by Klaravich Stables and trained by Chad Brown, will be considered for the $500,000 Acorn Stakes (G1) and the $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) for her next start, her trainer said. The former race is a one-turn mile contest at Belmont Park June 5 while the latter is a two-turn 1 1/8-mile test July 24 at Saratoga Race Course.
“She came back good and will ride back to New York on Monday,” Brown reported.
Search Results saw her unbeaten streak end at 3 but lost nothing in defeat, having battled the undefeated Malathaat through the stretch. The daughter of Flatter, under Irad Ortiz Jr., tracked early leader Travel Column three wide throughout, made first run off the far turn, and refused to yield to the winner until the final strides.
“It was a huge race,” Brown said. “The two undefeated fillies threw down in the lane, and that was the way it was probably supposed to be.”