Shadwell Stable’s Malathaat edged Search Results by a neck after a stretch battle of undefeated fillies to win the 147th running of the $1.25 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) for 3-year-old fillies before a crowd of 41,472 on a sun-drenched Friday afternoon at Churchill Downs.
Trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by John Velazquez, Malathaat covered the 1 1/8 miles on a fast main track in 1:48.99. The victory is the fourth in the Oaks for Pletcher and the second for Velazquez.
Pletcher’s previous victories came with Princess of Sylmar in 2013, Rags to Riches in 2007 and Ashado in 2004, the latter with Velazquez aboard.
Shadwell Stable is owned by the late Sheikh Hamden bin Rashid al Maktoum who passed away in March.
Travel Column and Moraz led the field of 13 through opening fractions of :23.60 and :47.47 and 1:11.21 as Search Results with Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard tracked in third and Malathaat a bit further back in fifth.
Nearing the final turn, Travel Column disposed of Moraz but was soon joined by Search Results to her outside and Malathaat three-wide.
By the three-sixteenths pole, the battle was down to Search Results with her perfect 3-for-3 mark on the line against Malathaat who entered the Oaks 4-for-4. Malathaat stuck her neck in front but Search Results refused to yield as they dueled to the wire.
“She got away from there just a bit slow, but Johnny (Velazquez) moved her up and got her in a much better position,” said Pletcher. He had to lose some ground and go wide to do it, but it was the right thing to do. She wants a target to run at and she got one here. Delighted with the outcome.”
(Pletcher watched the race with family from the Churchill paddock on their big screen. When it finished and Malathaat won, he threw his arms straight up in the air and shouted “Yes.”)
The victory puts Pletcher and Velazquez in position to make some history Saturday in the $3 million Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (GI).
No trainer since Ben Jones in 1952 has won the Oaks and Derby in the same year. Jones also did it in 1949 and Dick Thompson did it in 1933.
Seven riders have won the Oaks and Derby in the same year with the most recent being Calvin Borel in 2009.
Malathaat is a Kentucky-bred daughter of Curlin out of the A.P. Indy mare Dreaming of Julia. The victory was worth $713,000 and increased Malathaat’s earnings to $1,125,150 with five wins in five starts.
Rick Nichols, manager for Shadwell said, “Sheikh Hamdan, to racing, was such an influence, in England, in Ireland, in the United States. He was so supportive. He loved the sport. Even in his advanced years, he didn’t lose his passion for it. I remember last year, when he was talking about his good sprinter and comparing him with Dayjur. You could just see the passion coming out of him; that he was sure Dayjur was better than his good sprinter last year because Dayjur was a 3‑year‑old.
But personally, June 1st, I have worked for him 36 years. He was a very, very close friend. He was a lot of times a father figure, sometimes like a brother, sometimes like a friend. But he was always the boss. I loved him dearly. He’ll always be missed.”
Sent off as the favorite in the field of 13, Malathaat returned $7, $4.60 and $3.40. Search Results returned $6.80 and $5.60 with Will’s Secret finishing another 2 ¾ lengths back in third and returning $9.60 to show under Jon Court.
Malathaat’s dam Dreaming of Julia won the Frizette Stakes (G1) as a juvenile and the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) as a 3-year-old and finished fourth in the Kentucky Oaks. Dreaming of Julia is a half sister to stakes iwnner and stallion Atreides and Grade 3 stakes winner Dream Pauline.
Completing the field in order were Clairiere, who was a nose back in fourth, Travel Column, Millefeuille, Maracuja, Pauline’s Pearl, Coach, Crazy Beautiful, Moraz, Pass the Champagne and Competitive Speed.