04/26/2017 2:26PM

Farrell looks super heading into Kentucky Oaks

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Barbara D. Livingston
Farrell breezes six furlongs in 1:13 under Channing Hill on Wednesday at Churchill Downs.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Trainer Wayne Catalano tends to know only what he needs to know. Foremost among that knowledge is that Farrell is thriving as the 143rd Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs nears. All else is superfluous.

“How many fillies have I run in the Oaks before?” Catalano asked, repeating a question asked of him. “I don’t know, two or three? I usually just remember the ones we win, like our three Breeders’ Cups and some of our other Grade 1s.”

For the record, Catalano has had four Oaks starters, none of whom finished any better than Dreaming of Anna, sixth in 2007. This time, however, the affable ex-jockey everyone calls Cat Man or Cat Daddy means business.

“I’ve never come into one with a filly this serious,” he said.

Farrell, bred and owned by the Coffeepot Stables of Bob Cummings and Annette Bacola, is among the core of favorites in what is shaping up as a terrific renewal of the Oaks next Friday, May 5. She has won her last four races without being seriously challenged, ending with the April 1 Fair Grounds Oaks, a prep that has produced eight of the last 20 Kentucky Oaks winners.

Farrell was the lone horse to breeze Wednesday at Churchill during the time slot reserved for Oaks and Derby horses, going six furlongs under regular rider Channing Hill in 1:13 under a warm sun. Hill is married to the former Shelbi Catalano and therefore happens to be the trainer’s son-in-law.

“He’s pretty hard to please,” Catalano said of Hill, “and he came back really impressed. She did it without him asking her for much. It was a beautiful work. We’re nine days out from the race and we’re really happy with the filly.”

A couple of the other Oaks favorites have the kind of early speed that Farrell will bring to the 1 1/8-mile race, most notably Miss Sky Warrior and Paradise Woods. In the Fair Grounds Oaks, Farrell rated willingly through the opening stages before prevailing by 3 1/4 lengths.

“I don’t know who else is in this race,” said Catalano, with typical nonchalance, “but you saw us the other day, right? We laid third. We don’t have to be on the lead. If they go, they go. We’ll be sitting there licking our chops.”

A big field of 3-year-old fillies is likely for the Grade 1, $1 million Oaks. Entries will be drawn Tuesday, with as many as 14 in the main body of the race, plus up to four also-eligibles. Scratch time for both the Oaks and Derby is 9 a.m. Eastern on Oaks Day.

As of Wednesday, according to Churchill, the likely Oaks field (in qualifying-points order) consists of Farrell, Miss Sky Warrior, Ever So Clever, Sailor’s Valentine, Paradise Woods, Salty, Abel Tasman, Daddys Lil Darling, Tequilita, Lockdown, Wicked Lick, Vexatious, and Jordan’s Henny. One other filly, Yorkiepoo Princess, has not been officially declared but has been termed doubtful. Other fillies farther down the points list might also surface.

All jockeys will wear pink pants in the Oaks in a recently announced move by Churchill to further heighten awareness of the company’s fundraising initiatives for breast cancer research.