05/05/2012 10:25AM

Churchill Downs: Believe You Can targets Alabama Stakes after Kentucky Oaks victory

Barbara D. Livingston
Jockey Rosie Napravnik and trainer Larry Jones (left) celebrate Believe You Can's victory in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Believe You Can emerged from her victory Friday in the 138th Kentucky Oaks in good shape, said trainer Larry Jones, who will keep the filly based primarily at Churchill Downs when pointing her to major stakes on the East Coast this summer.

Jones, who trains Believe You Can for breeder-owner Brereton C. Jones (no relation), said the ultimate summer goal is the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes, the same race that Oaks winner Proud Spell narrowly captured in 2008 as a deciding factor in her eventually being voted 3-year-old champion.

“I’d like to follow a very similar schedule like we had with Proud Spell,” said Jones, meaning the Mother Goose and Delaware Oaks are possible stepping-stones to the Alabama at Saratoga. “We’re not going to get in a hurry with her, because she’s shown she races well fresh and distance isn’t a problem.”

Believe You Can, always close to the lead as a 13-1 shot, prevailed by a hard-fought three-quarters of a length over front-running Broadway’s Alibi when ridden by Rosie Napravnik, who became the first female jockey to win either the Derby or Oaks.

Believe You Can won the Fair Grounds Oaks in her final prep for the Kentucky Oaks and thus became the fifth filly in the last eight years to win both races, with her predecessors being Ashado (2004), Summerly (2005), Proud Spell (2008), and Rachel Alexandra (2009). And the Fair Grounds Oaks was not even run in 2006 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Both Joneses were addressing the media at the post-race conference when they stopped to cheer on Napravnik in winning the 12th and last race of the Oaks card aboard another of their 3-year-old fillies, Totally Tucker. Right after leaving the winner’s circle for that race, Napravnik, who grew up around horses in New Jersey, took her turn at the conference and bent over backward in crediting other people for her phenomenal success.

“My mother is one of the two greatest horsewomen I’ve ever known,” she said. “The other being my sister Jazz. They both were a big part of bringing me up in horses and otherwise. My mother taught me from the bottom up . . . I was brought up with the great influences when it came to horses.”

Meanwhile, Churchill reported no serious problems with any of the other fillies that finished behind Believe You Can, including Broadway’s Alibi, who will return to New York with trainer Todd Pletcher and also will be pointed to major races in the East. Likewise, Grace Hall, third as the 5-2 favorite, will head back East with Tony Dutrow.

For the most part, the Oaks was cleanly run, with the possible exception of first-turn traffic where Eden’s Moon had to check sharply when behind longshot Colonial Empress. Eden’s Moon, one of three Grade 1 winners entering the race (with Grace Hall and Karlovy Vary), never ran much after that, finishing last of 14. Trainer Bob Baffert said Saturday morning that the filly was fine physically and that she would return to Southern California to regroup.