04/21/2017 2:40PM

Miss Sky Warrior settles in, breezes for Kentucky Oaks

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Debra A. Roma
Miss Sky Warrior, the romping winner of the Grade 2 Gazelle Stakes, worked a half-mile for the Kentucky Oaks on Thursday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Four of the major contenders for the May 5 Kentucky Oaks already have settled in at Churchill Downs, with Miss Sky Warrior among those sent here in time to have a couple of serious breezes over the local surface.

Miss Sky Warrior arrived Monday from south Florida and breezed Thursday, going a half-mile in 49 seconds.

“In watching the weather, I wanted to get in a little early,” trainer Kelly Breen said Friday. “She’ll have one more work next week. I just want to get her as good as I can possibly get her.”

As a winner of her last five starts, ending with four graded stakes, Miss Sky Warrior figures to be among the core of favorites for the 143rd running of the Grade 1, $1 million Kentucky Oaks. Other top contenders already on the grounds are Farrell, a winner of her last four races, all stakes; Ever So Clever, the winner of the Fantasy Stakes; and Salty, the winner of the Gulfstream Park Oaks.

Paradise Woods, who became one of the favorites for the Kentucky Oaks with an 11 3/4-length romp in the Santa Anita Oaks, will not be flown here from California until May 1. The Union Rags filly breezed a half-mile Friday in 47.60 seconds at Santa Anita.

With two weeks until the race, Churchill racing officials on Friday were listing the following 14 3-year-old fillies as those currently in the 1 1/8-mile Oaks, based on the points system in effect since 2013: Farrell, Miss Sky Warrior, Ever So Clever, Sailor’s Valentine, Paradise Woods, Salty, It Tiz Well, Abel Tasman, Daddys Lil Darling, Chanel’s Legacy, Tequilita, Yorkiepoo Princess, Lockdown, and Ghalia.

As many as four fillies will be put on an also-eligibles list, with scratch time set for 9 a.m. Eastern on the morning of the race. In points order, these are the current alternates: Wicked Lick, Vexatious, Jordan’s Henny, Benner Island, Someday Soon, and Mopotism.

Entries for the Oaks will be drawn May 2. Salty and Yorkiepoo Princess were not among the early nominees and will have to be made eligible by way of a $1,500 supplementary payment at time of entry.

Sharp juveniles aplenty

Wesley Ward isn’t the only trainer who can win a 4 1/2-furlong race in the spring with a 2-year-old. Races at Keeneland this week showcased precocious babies from several other barns, with John Hancock tying Ward for the most wins in the category (three) by sending out winners on back-to-back days.

Hancock won Wednesday with Amberspatriot and Thursday with Waki Patriot. He also won a 2-year-old race on April 13 with Flat Drunk.

Hancock, who has his primary base in western Kentucky but currently has a stable of 18 at Keeneland, said Friday that outside parties have taken “serious interest” in purchasing all three of his winners.

“There’s been a lot of back-and-forth and some vetting out, but so far, nothing’s left the barn,” said Hancock, 55.

Ken McPeek also unveiled a very flashy colt Wednesday, when Ten City drew off by seven lengths. Although not known in recent years for his work with juveniles, McPeek recalled that two of his former stars, Tejano Run and Take Charge Lady, both began their careers with April wins at Keeneland as 2-year-olds.

Also, Steve Asmussen – who a decade or so ago frequently won early-season 2-year-old races at Keeneland before refitting his stable – sent out Buy Sell Hold to a 4 1/2-length triumph Thursday.

Memorial service for Whiting

A memorial service to honor trainer Lynn Whiting will be held at Churchill Downs on a date to be determined after the Kentucky Derby, the family announced Thursday. The service will be open to the public.

Whiting, 77, died Wednesday at his Louisville home of complications from a chronic blood disorder and a stroke suffered in late February. His death came less than two weeks before the 25th anniversary of his victory in the 1992 Kentucky Derby with Lil E. Tee.