04/23/2009 11:00PM

Fitz Just Right will miss Oaks


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - As big as the field for the Kentucky Derby is, that's how small the field for the Kentucky Oaks has gotten.

Another filly was forced to drop from consideration for the Grade 1 Oaks when Fitz Just Right exited a Friday workout at Churchill Downs with chips in her right front ankle, according to Jeff Lifson, spokesman for the filly's owners, the West Point Thoroughbreds syndicate. Her defection leaves just six likely starters for the Oaks, which is set for Friday at Churchill.

Fitz Just Right breezed a half-mile at Churchill just minutes after her West Point stablemate, Justwhistledixie, had worked the same distance shortly after the track opened following the regularly scheduled harrow break. Both fillies went in 49 seconds over a fast surface, with exercise rider Danny Wright aboard both for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.

After getting her bath, Fitz Just Right "began to cool out poorly," Lifson said, with subsequent X-rays finding the chips. The Seattle Fitz filly is scheduled to undergo surgery Monday at the Woodford veterinary clinic just west of Keeneland near Lexington, Ky., and the injury is not believed to be career-threatening.

West Point and McLaughlin will still have Justwhistledixie as a solid second choice in the Oaks to heavily favored Rachel Alexandra. Fitz Just Right, a winner of 3 of 5 starts, figured to be a fairly long price in the Oaks.

Rachel Alexandra is scheduled to have her final prerace workout Monday under regular rider Calvin Borel.

Besides the two favorites, other probables for the 1 1/8-mile Oaks are Be Fair, Flying Spur, Gabby's Golden Gal, and Nan.

A field of six fillies would be the smallest in the Oaks since 1996, when Pike Place Dancer, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, ran down Escena to win by a neck. My Flag finished fifth as the odds-on favorite in a field of six that year.

The maximum Oaks field is 14. The Derby limit is 20, which probably will have to be enforced yet again this year.

Entries for the Oaks Day card will be drawn Tuesday. Other stakes that day are the Grade 2 Louisville Distaff, the Grade 3 Alysheba, the Grade 3 American Turf, the Grade 3 Aegon Turf Sprint, and the Edgewood.

Churchill has expanded both the Oaks and Derby Day cards by one race each for this year, with 12 set for Friday and 13 for Saturday. First post will be 10:30 a.m. Eastern on both days.

Three allowances on Sunday card

Besides a turf allowance featuring Inca King and Nistle's Crunch, two other allowances are carded for Sunday at Churchill.

The sixth race, for $55,300 at seven furlongs on the main track, drew a solid field of stakes-seasoned older horses, including Coal Play, runner-up to Big Brown in the Haskell Invitational last summer.

The seventh, for $52,700 at a mile on the turf, is one of the better wagering races on the card. Remoulade, with Julien Leparoux riding for trainer Michael Matz, looks like one of the main contenders.

HRTV expands Churchill coverage

HRTV will have a major onsite presence at Churchill through the Derby, with "Pursuit of the Crown," a half-hour show focusing on Derby news and preparations, scheduled to emanate daily from the track. Laffit Pincay III, Jeff Siegel, Gary Stevens, Scott Hazelton, and Carolyn Conley will be providing coverage and commentary throughout the week.

HRTV also will have coverage of the Derby post-position draw at noon Eastern Wednesday. The full programming schedule is available at hrtv.com.