Updated on 09/17/2011 11:25AM

Bird Town crashes Oaks

Email
Horsephotos
Bird Town, ridden by Edgar Prado, wins the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks by 3 1/4 lengths before more than 100,000 fans at Churchill Downs.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Trainer Nick Zito is always disappointed when he is without a starter for the Kentucky Derby. But Zito was philosophical during Derby week about missing the race, saying he still could get a thrill by running two fillies in the Derby's sister race, the .

Friday, before an ontrack crowd of 100,523 at Churchill Downs, Zito got his first Oaks win to go with his two Derby victories when Bird Town, ridden by Edgar Prado, charged from well behind to upset 11 other 3-year-old fillies at 18-1 in the 129th running of the Grade 1 Oaks.

Zito was ecstatic with the victory in large part because of his close ties with longtime client Marylou Whitney, the famed socialite who bred and owns Bird Town.

"This is the queen of racing," Zito said. "She's a sweetheart."

Bird Town stumbled at the start of the 1 1/8-mile Oaks but quickly righted herself, then settled into eighth into the first turn. As Elloluv, the 2.70-1 second choice, was pressed first by longshot Tempus Fugit, then Lady Tak, through fractions of 23.09 seconds, 46.08, and 1:10.15, Prado allowed his filly to lope along while gradually making up ground.

Turning for home, as Lady Tak and Santa Catarina drew abreast of Elloluv, Bird Town swung out to the middle of the track and surged past with surprising ease, prevailing by 3 1/4 lengths. She completed the distance in 1:48.64 over a fast track and returned $38.40 to win.

Santa Catarina finished a head in front of Yell, and Elloluv held fourth, another three-quarters of a length back.

Mrs. Whitney was married for 34 years to the late C.V. "Sonny" Whitney, whose horses won the Oaks four times (1936, '58, '73, '75). She spoke at a post-race press conference about how much winning the Oaks with a homebred meant to her. Bird Town is by Cape Town out of Whitney's mare Dear Birdie.

Bird Town came into the Oaks with two wins from seven starts, with the ungraded Charon Stakes being her lone previous stakes win. She had finished second to My Boston Gal in her previous start, the Beaumont Stakes at Keeneland. She earned $355,756 from a purse of $573,800.

Zito, who won the Derby in 1991 and 1994, said he may run Bird Town next in the June 6 Acorn at Belmont Park.

After Elloluv, the order of finish was My Boston Gal, Lady Tak, Island Fashion, Holiday Lady, Atlantic Ocean, In Case of Wind, Tempus Fugit, and Go for Glamour.

Lady Tak, the 2.60-1 favorite under Jerry Bailey, had one of the roughest trips when sandwiched between rivals entering the first turn. "There was only room for three horses, and four were trying to get in there," Bailey said. "I think we took the worst of it."

The victory continues an amazing run in Kentucky this spring for Prado, the Peru native who now makes New York his primary base. At the Keeneland meet in April, he won the Blue Grass, Lexington, and Commonwealth Stakes.

The Oaks attendance was fifth-largest in race history.

The 5-11 exacta paid $332.20 and the 5-11-6 trifecta paid $2,202.60.