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On Saturday at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, Richard Perkins’ Oeuvre will run for her second consecutive victory in the $100,000 Nelson J. Menard Memorial Stakes.
Going 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf, she’ll be opposed by eight formful fillies and mares, one each from Bill Mott and Peter Eurton.
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The biggest challenge the versatile 14-time winner trained by Chris Block must overcome is one of her own making. Having developed a bad habit of bolting out, Oeuvre needs to run straight.
“She’s done it in her last three starts,” Block said. “I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know what’s making her do it. It’s not a soundness issue. The pattern seems to be that it happens at the eighth pole. If you watch her last three races, it’s exactly the same point that she starts in doing it. I’m hoping it doesn’t come into play because it will cost her. In these kinds of races you can’t trip at any point, you’ve got to stay on course.”
Though she caused her own trouble near the end, Oeuvre still racked up two wins and a game third in her three recent contests.
At Kentucky Downs, she survived a rider’s objection to win an allowance going 6 1/2 furlongs. Going one mile on the turf at Keeneland, Oeuvre proved distance is not an issue, beating an allowance field by nearly 2 lengths.
On the dirt but staying at one mile in the Chilluki (G3) at Churchill Downs, the Shackleford mare got nosed-out for second against a much-the-best Hot and Sultry.
“I was shocked when she bolted at Kentucky Downs,” Block said. “I hung it on the fact she was looking at the jumbotron. If you watch, you’ll see she turns her head to the left a little. In the race at Keeneland she was about to win quite easily, instead she almost went to the outside fence. She did it again in the Chilluki, and getting out at the end cost her second.”
After going longer in her last three races, the Illinois-bred 5-year-old cuts back to the Menard’s 5 1/2 furlong sprint distance. She is three-for-three at Fair Grounds, with two wins coming on the Stall-Wilson turf course.
On Saturday, Dec. 23, Oeuvre breezed five furlongs in 1:00.60–second fastest of 74 that morning at that distance.“I was going to try to back off on her and freshen her a little, wait until February to run her,” Block said. “When we got her down (to Fair Grounds), she was full of herself. She’s matured a lot in the last six months. At times she has gotten a little washy in the post parade. At Keeneland in the paddock she was really good. At Kentucky Downs she was well within herself. Everything has been hitting on all cylinders with her.”
Drawing in post 5 and installed at 7-2 in the morning line, Oeuvre will receive the guidance of regular rider Jareth Loveberry.
Last year’s filly turf sprint series at Fair Grounds was swept by Oeuvre, but after skipping the Pan Zareta in favor of the Chilluki, it’s Carimba’s chance to run the table.
John Donaldson’s lightly-raced Carimba asserted herself over two Menard foes when beating them by nearly two lengths in November’s Pan Zareta. Trained by Rey Hernandez, the 6-year-old Kantharos mare proved her tactical versatility, sitting behind an inner foe through most of the first half mile.
“She had won before from off the pace,” Hernandez said. “She’s the kind of horse where you can do whatever you want with her. She was training really well going into that race.”
Putting in four breezes at The Thoroughbred Center in preparation for the Menard, Carimba’s sharpest drill came on Dec. 29 when she fired a bullet going four furlongs.
“She did it pretty easy,” Hernandez said. “I was happy with that breeze. It’s a tough race. Those other fillies deserve a lot of respect. Mott’s filly has won a Grade 3. We’re going to see what happens. I think my filly is a really nice filly, too.”
Made the 3-1 favorite in the morning line, Carimba drew post 3 and Marcelino Pedroza Jr. will be back aboard.
Two rivals who look dangerous in the Menard will be making their first starts at Fair Grounds.
Having won the Intercontinental (G3) at Belmont this summer, the three-time stakes winner Poppy Flower ships in for trainer Bill Mott. Owned by Arnmore Thoroughbreds, the 5-year-old mare has finished in the exacta five of her six tries at the Menard distance.
Making her second start for trainer Peter Eurton, Bran Jam Stable and Ciaglia Racing’s Brandon’smylawyer ships to Fair Grounds from Sant Anita in search of her fist stakes win.
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