Malathaat proved a worthy 2021 Kentucky Oaks favorite and outbattled the equally determined Search Results at Churchill Downs on Friday (April 30) for trainer Todd Pletcher. There was a closely-fought duel, involving contact, that started after they turned into the stretch and continued all the way to the wire. Both fillies were heroic in their efforts but Malathaat prevailed by a neck under John Velazquez giving him a second win in the race, denying Irad Ortiz and Chad Brown. Her victory gave Pletcher a fourth Kentucky Oaks score.
Dallas Stewart’s Will’s Secret outran his starting price of 27/1 to take third, three lengths behind the winner under Jon Kenton Court. The much more popular Clairiere saddled by Steve Asmussen was beaten a nose into fourth and finished three lengths ahead of Brad Cox’s Travel Column, the second favorite. Travel Column had scored twice at the track, beating Clairiere in the grade 2 Golden Rod Stakes over a slightly shorter distance in November.
Kenny McPeek’s Crazy Beautiful was disappointing, sent off at 8/1 she never got close to the action and finished with only Moraz, Pass The Champagne and Competitive Speed behind her in that order in the field of 13. McPeek was hoping that she could provide some consolation as he was forced to scratch Fury Road from the Kentucky Derby. The colt had been working well on the track but developed a fever after his Friday morning exercise.
In contrast Travel Column gave her followers a run for their money but appeared to be found wanting on the stamina front after a ground saving ride by Florent Geroux. She seemed slightly upset in the preliminaries but broke well from stall six and surged into the lead going into the first turn.
Geroux took the shortest possible route on the rail and controlled the race from the front setting fractions of 23.60, 47.47 and 1.11. Travel Column was closely pursued by the long shot Moraz and Search Results but easily maintained her advantage until the gas started to run low at the top of the stretch.
Search Results passed the long-time leader first whilst Malathaat continued to close and got her head in front a furlong from the wire. Search Results refused to give up and galloped on gamely on her inside. Neither filly deserved to lose but it was Malathaat who posted a winning time of 1.48.99. Ortiz showed his sportsmanship and respect for Velazquez by giving him a congratulatory pat on the back immediately after they crossed the wire.
This daughter of Curlin bred by Stonestreet out of their grade 1 winning mare, Dreaming Of Julia, was a $1,050,000 purchase for Shadwell as a yearling. She is not the most physically imposing individual but has done nothing but please her owners and trainer ever since, winning all her four starts. They include the grade 1 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland in April and the grade 2 Demoiselle Stakes over this distance in November.
Malathaat’s Kentucky Oaks win was particularly impressive as things did not go well for her from the start, literally. When the gates opened the filly to her left broke right and the filly to her right went slightly left, a combination of moves that left Malathaat with no space to run in. The inevitable bumping could have ruined the race of a less mentally robust filly but she survived the squeeze and was able to take fifth going into the first turn. Velazquez was forced to race three wide as a result of the slow start but Malathaat was still able to assert her superiority, gradually closing when asked for an effort approaching the turn.
The filly had not had an easy time but had a spring in her step as she walked back and did not appear to be tired by the experience. When approached with winner’s garland Malathaat decided lilies were not to her liking and jumped violently away from them leaving Velazquez with only air beneath him. Fortunately he landed on his feet with the reins in his hand and was able to keep hold of her. Closely surrounded by connections and cameramen, it could have been dangerous.
Pletcher has reported that Malathaat has come out of the race in great shape as her behavior after it suggested. He admitted that the Kentucky Derby had been considered for her but the risk of missing the opportunity to run in the Oaks if it did not work out on the points front made them aim her at the race. Malathaat may well be seen taking on the colts at the top level next.