09/29/2011 2:52PM

Hoosier Park: Top pair in Oaks need return to form

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ANDERSON, Ind. – A Z Warrior was a Grade 1 winner last fall but didn’t progress sufficiently for Bob Baffert to make the Kentucky Oaks, which Baffert won anyway with Plum Pretty.

Daisy Devine earned a spot in the Oaks with a terrific winter campaign in Louisiana, but little has gone right for her since. She was seventh in the Oaks, then ran even worse when she was drubbed as an odds-on favorite in her only subsequent start.

Saturday at Hoosier Park, A Z Warrior and Daisy Devine both will be looking to return to form when they start from opposite ends of the starting gate in a small field of 3-year-old fillies in the 16th running of the Grade 2, $200,000 Indiana Oaks.

A Z Warrior, winner of the Frizette last October for Zayat Stables, had a much-needed last out in the Grade 3 Victory Ride, a six-furlong race on the Aug. 27 Travers undercard at Saratoga, and Baffert is looking for the Bernardini filly to improve substantially when she stretches out to a more preferred distance of 1 1/16 miles.

“This distance should be a lot better for her,” said Baffert, who was on hand in winning this race last year with Always a Princess. “That last one was her first race in almost six months, so yeah, she really should move up off it.”

Trainer Andrew McKeever said Daisy Devine, winner of the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks in March, “had some pretty serious foot issues” when exiting the June 25 Iowa Oaks.

“It’s taken us time to get everything back into place,” said McKeever, adding that Daisy Devine has “been back on the track doing great for the last month” in training at Keeneland. “I’m pretty much sure that the bad race in Iowa” was because of underlying foot problems that since have been addressed, he said.

A Z Warrior will be ridden by Martin Pedroza breaking from the outside post in a field of six, while Daisy Devine will have Jimmy Graham aboard when she leaves from post 1.

The balance of the Oaks field is Nasty Rumor (post 2), a winner in 3 of her last 4 races at her home base of Calder for trainer Marty Wolfson; Juanita (post 3), whose trainer, Mike Maker, won six races last Saturday, including four stakes; and outsiders Perfectly Candid (post 4) and Withgreatpleasure (post 5).

The Oaks goes as the 11th of 12 races, with post time set for 5:19 p.m. Eastern.