05/03/2007 11:00PM

Rags to Riches romps in Kentucky Oaks


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The weather at Churchill Downs was gray and drab Friday, but the performance by favored Rags to Riches in the 133rd running of the Kentucky Oaks was anything but.

With jockey Garrett Gomez making the right moves at every juncture, Rags to Riches surged to a 4 1/4-length triumph in the filly classic before a rain-soaked crowd of 100,075, the eighth-largest in Oaks history. Owned by Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith and trained by Todd Pletcher, Rags to Riches took over from Dreaming of Anna and Mistical Plan turning for home, and drew off to an impressive score over her Pletcher stablemate Octave.

"It was an unbelievable performance," said Pletcher who won his second Oaks, following Ashado in 2004. "She's a true superstar, an extremely special filly."

Rags to Riches, a chestnut A.P. Indy filly, returned $5 to win after finishing 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.99 over a muddy track.

Rags to Riches appeared to labor early but still was able to lay several lengths off the pace, with Gomez ensuring striking position as the field bent through both turns. By the time the 14 3-year-old fillies straightened for home, Rags to Riches was right there, and her most powerful strides came down the stretch. Gomez kept her to a hard drive down, and after crossing the wire he gave the crowd a highly enthusiastic pump of his right arm.

Octave, a 6-1 shot ridden by John Velazquez, rallied from seventh to get second by 3 1/2 lengths over High Heels, who was 10th in the early going. Dawn After Dawn ran on late to be fourth, while Dreaming of Anna, the 5-1 choice, faded to sixth.

Velazquez said Octave "ran really well."

"The other one is just a really good filly," he said.

The victory put Pletcher in the highly enviable position of having the opportunity to be the first trainer in 55 years to win both the Oaks and the Kentucky Derby, following the legendary Ben Jones. Pletcher had five starters among a field of 20 ready for Saturday's 133rd Derby.

Rags to Riches earned $332,428 from the total purse of $589,200. She won the Grade 1 Las Virgenes and Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks, both at Santa Anita, before the Kentucky Oaks.

Pletcher and Tabor did not preclude having Rags to Riches challenge males in the May 19 Preakness, although neither appeared inclined immediately after the Oaks to do so.

With earlier longshots prevailing on the Oaks card, the pick six carryover for Saturday was $288,768.