04/16/2009 11:00PM

Justwhistledixie breezes for Oaks


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Justwhistledixie, who has emerged as the likely second choice to Rachel Alexandra in the Kentucky Oaks, worked five furlongs in 1:00 with her Kiaran McLaughlin-trained stablemate Fitz Just Right on Friday morning at Keeneland.

Both 3-year-old fillies are owned by the West Point Thoroughbreds partnership.

Justwhistledixie is the more accomplished of the two. She most recently won the Bonnie Miss Stakes at Gulfstream Park for her fifth consecutive victory.

"She went an easy half-mile last week," Neal McLaughlin, the top assistant to his brother, said back at the barn following Friday's work. "This week, we wanted to do something a little more serious, so we had her breeze in company.

"I had to grab a hold of her coming down the hill, she was so happy."

The McLaughlin barn is in a small valley downhill from the racetrack.

McLaughlin said Justwhistledixie would remain at Keeneland until midway through next week, then go to Churchill Downs to begin final preparation for the Grade 1, $500,000 Oaks on May 1.

"We'll get some nice Polytrack for a few more days, then breeze her at Churchill next week on Friday or Saturday," McLaughlin said.

In addition to Justwhistledixie and Rachel Alexandra, the Oaks field is expected to include Be Fair, Flying Spur, Gabby's Golden Gal, Hooh Why, Nan, Stardom Bound, and War Kill.

Fitz Just Right is a possibility for the Oaks, but likely will await the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico on May 15, according to Jeff Lifson of West Point Thoroughbreds.

"We talked to Kiaran and Neal and decided, for now, to keep our options open," Lifson said. "I know it's pablum, but she seems to be blossoming here. She's put in two wonderful breezes here. But the last time I checked, the Oaks was a lot tougher race than the Black-Eyed Susan, and we'd like to get her a graded stakes win."

McLaughlin said that Apple Blossom winner Seventh Street, who could run in the Humana Distaff, will also head to Churchill Downs next week.

Indescribable wins Doubledogdare

Indescribable ($5.40), making her first start since November, captured the Grade 3, $100,000 Doubledogdare Stakes for older fillies and mares by 2 1/4 lengths at Keeneland on Friday. She completed 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack in 1:42.40. Serenading finished second, with Tejida third.

With Kent Desormeaux aboard, Indescribable sat third during the early going. She began her rally three paths wide on the turn, drew clear at midstretch, and was never threatened in the final furlong.

Bill Mott trains Indescribable for the Courtlandt Farms of Donald Adams. Indescribable finished third in the Doubledogdare last year. Later in the year, she won the Arlington Matron on Polytrack, and finished the year with a win in the Cardinal Handicap on the Churchill Downs turf.

Now age 5, Indescribable has won 6 of 17 starts, and she is 4 for 8 on synthetic surfaces. She has finished in the money in all four of her starts at Keeneland, where she has won twice.

Churchill tries to boost field size

In an attempt to bolster field size, Churchill Downs is offering incentives to horsemen throughout its spring meet, as well as more lucrative bonuses on the Kentucky Oaks and Derby programs.

In any Churchill non-stakes race that draws 10 or more starters, the owner of horses that finish sixth or worse will receive 0.5 percent of the purse. For example, in a race with a $40,000 purse, the also-rans would get $200 for their trouble.

On Oaks and Derby days (May 1-2), the owner of horses that finish sixth or worse in non-stakes races will receive $1,000 if 10 or more horses start.

"Obviously it's getting tougher for owners and trainers to ship their horses," said Churchill racing secretary Ben Huffman. "We thought we should make it worthwhile for everyone who makes an effort to run here, to at least partially offset their jockey mounts, travel, and other expenses. Not only are we in some tough economic times, but there is competition from other tracks all around us."

The new payout policies have been altered from last year. Although Churchill will continue to pay 1 percent for horses that finish sixth or lower in all stakes - a policy that went into effect last spring - they have dropped the "supercharged" concept on Oaks and Derby days, when purses for non-stakes races were raised by an additional $10,000 each. The races "weren't a hit like we had hoped," said Huffman.

Full fields clearly are the aim of racetracks everywhere. In general, larger fields tend to attract larger handle, which in turn begets larger purses.

Churchill is particularly conscious of its fields on Oaks and Derby days, given the extraordinary amount of attention those days attract. Churchill recently announced it was expanding the Oaks and Derby day programs by one race each, to 12 and 13, respectively.

The Churchill spring meet starts next Saturday, April 25, and runs through July 6.

Pletcher breaks up monopoly

Finally, somebody else won a 2-year-old race at Keeneland.

The first five 2-year-old races at the spring meet had been won by Wesley Ward, who saddled the winners of the first two, or by Steve Asmussen, who sent out the winners of the next three, including the Thursday opener with Western Smoke ($5.40).

The two-man monopoly even appeared set to continue in the fifth race Thursday when Grand Times, trained by Ward, opened a big lead in the 4 1/2-furlong dash. But then Mission Impazible, a first-timer trained by Todd Pletcher, launched a huge rally down the middle of the track to defeat Grand Times by a length. Mission Impazible returned $4 as the favorite.

Cruguet to visit Churchill

Jean Cruguet, who swept the 1977 Triple Crown aboard Seattle Slew, will be an integral part of the "Derby Experiences" ontrack program being offered by Churchill on Oaks and Derby weekend. Cruguet, 70, will interact with guests and provide handicapping insights. More information is available on derbyexperiences.com.

Of the 10 jockeys who have won the Triple Crown (Eddie Arcaro won it twice), only Cruguet and two others, William Saunders (Omaha, 1935) and Warren Mehrtens (Assault, 1946), are not enshrined in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame.

- additional reporting by Marty McGee