03/24/2011 6:12PM

Fair Grounds Oaks sees McPeek's B team

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Barbara D. Livingston
Kathmanblu is passing on the Fair Grounds Oaks in favor of the Ashland.

He couldn't get that lucky, could he? Is it really that easy to replace a filly as good as Kathmanblu in the lineup for the Fair Grounds Oaks and still have the winner of the richest race of the meet for 3-year-old fillies?

Ken McPeek sure hopes so.

Saturday, McPeek will run Niji's Grand Girl in the Grade 2, $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks after having withdrawn the highly regarded Kathmanblu from consideration in favor of the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland in two weeks.

Niji's Grand Girl "is a really good filly and has a lot of talent in her own right," said McPeek. "If she's not Batman, at least she's Robin. She's classy and sure seems to be coming into this the right way."

Niji's Grand Girl, with Garrett Gomez to ride, will wear saddlecloth number 9 when she goes turf-to-dirt after finishing third as the favorite in the Florida Oaks last month. In her only prior start this year, Niji's Grand Girl, a daughter of Candy Ride, was a sharp winner of a main-track allowance at her winter home, Gulfstream Park.
Ten fillies were entered in the 1 1/16-mile Oaks, but only as many as nine will start after trainer Mike Stidham revealed earlier this week that Snow Fall (No. 7) will be scratched.

Starting next to Niji's Grand Girl in the far outside post will be Inglorious, a lukewarm 3-1 favorite on the Fair Grounds morning line. Inglorious, trained by Josie Carroll, won both starts at 2, then recovered from a poor start to finish second behind Kathmanblu in her only race so far at 3, the Rachel Alexandra last month at Fair Grounds.

A number of other fillies have shown enough to contend in this well-matched renewal of the Oaks. They include Grandacious, whose last race at Oaklawn Park seems forgivable in light of far better previous efforts; Daisy Devine and Little Miss Holly, the respective 2-3 finishers in the Silverbulletday earlier in the meet; and Switching Gears and St. John's River, the 1-2 finishers in what could be a key Feb. 25 allowance route.

First run in 1966, the Oaks long has been a major early-season race in the 3-year-old filly division, having been won in recent years by champions Silverbulletday (1999), Ashado (2004), Proud Spell (2008), and Rachel Alexandra (2009).

The Oaks is the eighth of 14 races, with post time set for 3:56 p.m. Central.