As I previously warned you, from here through early May, it’s going to be all Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), all the time on my blog. Throughout the next few weeks, I hope to provide you with some insight into the Oaks contenders and their connections, as well as some behind-the-scenes views of the spectacle leading up to the first Friday in May.
One of the many fillies currently reaching for the lilies is John Oxley’s Dancinginherdreams. I had been wondering about her status, since she skipped one of the traditional Oaks prep races last weekend—the Gulfstream Park Oaks (gr. II), which seemed like it should have been her most logical next step along the trail.
But trainer John Ward, who has had a master plan in mind all along for the daughter of Tapit, assured me that all is well.
“She arrived at Churchill Downs on Sunday (Mach 3), and she is going to be entered in the (April 9) Central Bank Ashland (gr. I),” said Ward, adding that that filly had worked three times since her second-place effort to R Heat Lightning in the Feb. 26 Davona Dale (gr. II) at Gulfstream.
Bred in Kentucky by Nancy Shuford and bought for $330,000 by Oxley at the 2009 Keeneland September yearling sale, Dancinginherdreams launched her career with a five-length victory in her debut last fall, followed by a 5 1/4-length score in the Pocahontas (gr. II) two weeks later. She then had a three-month rest before running a close second in the Jan. 30 Forward Gal (gr. II).
Dancinginherdreams winning the Pocahontas; photo courtesy of Reed Palmer/Churchill Downs
When asked why he didn’t run Dancinginherdreams in the April 3 Gulfstream Park Oaks, Ward said, “She ran a two-race series at Gulfstream (Jan. 30 Forward Gal and Feb. 26 Davona Dale), and I would have rather not come back as soon down there. I wanted to put six weeks of rest into her instead of five weeks and come back on the 28 or 29-day routine where I didn’t have to do as much work in the spring in Kentucky when you’re not sure what your surfaces are going to be.”
Dancinginherdreams was soundly beaten by R Heat Lightning in the Davona Dale when she trailed by 7 ¼ lengths, but Ward thinks she’ll have no trouble bouncing back from that loss.
“When you look at the Davona Dale on the handicapping side, we were giving R Heat Lightning weight; I think we gave her six pounds,” said Ward. “During the course of the race, we were a little bit wide with (R Heat Lightning) right next to us, and she cut the corner and went inside, and we had to go around outside.
“R Heat Lightning ran a very good effort. I wouldn’t say we had a lack of a performance; we just had a lot of things to overcome. In the turn, (Dancinginherdreams) wasn’t comfortable and she was in a deeper part of the racetrack. (Jockey) Julien Leparoux had to get to get into his drive a little too soon.”
Ward, who has named Leparoux to pilot the filly once again in the Ashland, believes the 1 1/16-mile event will suit Dancinginherdreams well, even though she has never raced past a mile.
“I’ve felt very good about her (since the Davona Dale). She’s not a sprinter; two turns is what we want to do,” said Ward of the filly, who will face dual graded stakes winner Kathmanblu in the race. He noted that in the Forward Gal, when Dancinginherdreams got beat a quarter of a length by Pomeroy’s Pistol, she “had to go wide, got hung up, had everything against her, and we were giving everybody weight in that race. (In the Ashland) we’re back to even weights, going around two turns, where if everything comes to hand, she should be at her best.”
I wish the best of luck to Dancinginherdreams and Ward as they venture forth toward the Ashland and the Oaks. And especially to John Oxley, who will have an additional Ashland entrant in Delightful Mary.
Who are some of your early favorites for the Oaks?