04/26/2011 1:29PM

Churchill Downs: Kentucky Oaks candidates fine-tuning

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Bob Coglianese
R Heat Lightning, with John Velazquez riding, wins the Davona Dale.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – While their Kentucky Derby counterparts, as usual, get most of the attention at Churchill Downs, the fillies being pointed to the Kentucky Oaks also are undergoing final preparations as a sizable field takes shape for the May 6 classic.

R Heat Lightning, who figures as the Oaks favorite over Joyful Victory and Kathmanblu, will have her final workout Saturday after breezing here the previous Saturday.

“She’s a tough filly,” said trainer Todd Pletcher. “She came out of her last work well, and she’s training enthusiastically, as she always does. Everything is on schedule with her.”

Kathmanblu also will work Saturday, while Joyful Victory breezed five furlongs here Monday in 1:01.80.

Three Oaks fillies worked here Tuesday: Daisy Devine went a bullet five furlongs in 59.60 seconds before dawn and under the lights, while Plum Pretty went seven furlongs in 1:28.40 and Holy Heavens went five furlongs in 1:03.60, both after the regularly scheduled harrow break.

Meanwhile, trainer Steve Margolis said he has settled on Bouquet Booth for the Oaks, while Street Storm is more likely to go instead in the Edgewood Stakes on the Oaks undercard.

As many as 14 3-year-old fillies will be allowed to run in the 1 1/8-mile Oaks, with Suave Voir Faire, trained by Speedy Smithwick, the latest to come under consideration. Entries will be taken Tuesday, May 3.

Ruler On Ice staying away

Ruler On Ice was one of the few, if only, prospects for the Derby Trial who theoretically could have run back in the Derby by winning Saturday night – but even that’s a moot point now.

Trainer Kelly Breen said Tuesday at Churchill that he won’t enter Ruler On Ice as he had hoped.

“I need to give him a little more time,” said Breen, who still will have Pants On Fire in the Derby. “He’s in New Jersey.”

Ruler On Ice has $96,000 in graded earnings from finishing third in the Sunland Derby, and with the purse for the Grade 3 Trial being $200,000-added, he conceivably could have made the 20-horse cutoff. Ruler On Ice and Pants On Fire are both owned by George and Lori Hall.

Entries were to be drawn Wednesday for the one-mile Trial, with the remaining top prospects being Dominus, Indian Winter, J J’s Lucky Train, Machen, Runflatout, and Travelin Man.

First Dude works for Alysheba

First Dude, one of a handful of big-name horses being pointed to the Grade 3 Alysheba Stakes on the May 6 Kentucky Oaks undercard, was among the early workers here Tuesday, going six furlongs in 1:17.20.

First Dude, second in the Preakness last year, easily won an allowance race on the April 9 Santa Anita Derby undercard in his last start and has earned nearly $930,000. He is trained by Bob Baffert.

With the Alysheba purse having essentially been doubled from $150,000-added in 2010 to $300,000-added for the 2011 running, the race is attracting one the deepest fields of older handicap runners so far this year. Other probable starters include Mission Impazible, Giant Oak, Wise Dan, and Demarcation, while a number of other top horses are on the nominations list of 45 older horses.

◗ Along with moving the Saturday opener to night for the first time (post time, 6 p.m. Eastern), Churchill will make another break with tradition by not having racing here on what would have been the first Sunday of the meet. Instead, following two dark days, racing will be held here Tuesday and on through Derby Day.

Churchill historically had run on the Tuesday of Derby week before eliminating that date last year. The Sunday after the Derby is always dark.

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