Rachel's Valentina is favored in today's Kentucky Oaks
LOUISVILLE, KY. >> Without Songbird to worry about, Steve Asmussen sees a wide-open Kentucky Oaks where nothing would shock him.
"It just got everybody thinking things we weren't thinking a month ago," says Asmussen the newly named Hall of Fame trainer who will be sending out Terra Promessa (10-1), Royal Obsession and Taxable (both 20-1). "She was just a dominant filly."
Rachel's Valentina is the 7-2 morning-line favorite and something of a sentimental choice as the daughter of 2009 Preakness champion and Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra by 2006 Preakness winner and champion colt Bernardini.
One of two fillies in the Oaks trained by Todd Pletcher, Rachel's Valentina won the Grade 1 Spinaway at Saratoga. Runner-up finishes to Songbird in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and Weep No More in the Ashland followed as a 3-year-old.
John Velazquez will ride Rachel's Valentina, who drew the No. 11 post position in the 14-horse field. Pletcher is eager to see how she'll maintain the promise shown as a 2-year-old.
"Right from the start, she did everything right," he said this week. "She learned quickly. She's been a pleasure, and that makes my job easier."
Pletcher's other entry is Mo d'Amour (30-1), a daughter of Uncle Mo who has three wins and two thirds in six starts.
Weep No More surprised many by rallying past the favorites as a 30-1 longshot in the Ashland for her first graded stakes win in her 2016 debut. Back at Churchill Downs for the first time since running eighth in her debut Nov. 28, she is the co-second choice but must break from the No. 2 post with Corey Lanerie aboard.
"I thought she'd be 8-1," said Jack Bohannon, assistant to trainer Rusty Arnold. "But I'm not a handicapper."
Cathryn Sophia trainer John Servis acknowledges that his horse probably wouldn't be in the Oaks if Songbird was running.
But after running third in the 1 1/16 mile Ashland, he's curious to see how she'll handle the longer distance that's now there for the taking. Cathryn Sophia starts from the No. 12 post with Javier Castellano aboard.
"As good as she ran in the Ashland, especially with Songbird being out," Servis said, "I think she definitely deserves a chance."
Land Over Sea is a 5-1 choice starting from the No. 13 spot with Lewis Bay listed at 8-1 from the No. 3 post.
Post time for the 1 1/8-mile race is 5:49 p.m. EDT.
The Kentucky Oaks field: 1. Terra Promessa, 2, Weep No More, 3. Lewis Bay, 4. Go Maggie Go, 5. Dream Dance, 6. Mokat, 7. Mo d'Amour, 8. Royal Obsession, 9. Paola Queen, 10. Venus Valentine, 11. Rachel's Valentina, 12. Cathryn Sophia, 13. Land Over Sea, 14. Taxable, 15. Dothraki Queen.
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