New Orleans, LA – Heading into her expected start in Saturday’s $400,000 Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), Winchell Thoroughbreds and Thomas Reiman, William Dickson, and Debbie Easter’s Finite will carry with her the weighty expectations that come with being her division’s pro tem leader. It is a reputation she earned when she handily defeated champion British Idiom in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes presented by Fasig-Tipton (G2) on Feb. 15 and it is one she can put an emphatic stamp on should she run up her to ability once more against five rivals in the third and local prep for the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1).
Contested at 1 1/16-miles, the Fair Grounds Oaks is worth 100-40-20-10 points to the top four finishers towards the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1), the premier race in the country for 3-year-old fillies. Never worse than second in her career, Finite left zero doubt her form was moving forward when she stalked the pace en route to capturing the Rachel Alexandra by 4 ¾ lengths, handing Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) winner British Idiom her first career defeat in the process.
That outing marked the fifth straight victory for the Finite, who was deemed the 3-5 morning-line favorite by Mike Diliberto for the Fair Grounds Oaks. After capturing the Golden Rod Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs Nov. 30 to close out her juvenile season, the Steve Asmussen-trainee got her year off to an auspicious start when she prevailed by a neck in the Silverbulletday Stakes at Fair Grounds on Jan. 18.
She came into the Rachel Alexandra in the shadow of British Idiom’s Eclipse Award glory. After seeing her triumph despite herself in the Silverbulletday, however, Finite’s connections were quietly confident she was capable of shifting the balance of divisional power in her favor.
“Actually, going into (the Rachel Alexandra) I was feeling pretty good,” said David Fiske, manager of Winchell Thoroughbreds, who bred and co-owns Finite. “Her previous race in the Silverbulletday appeared to be the worst race of her career. It was probably her worst race numbers wise and she didn’t act like her usual self in the paddock or in the post parade – she was pulling down the backstretch, she was three-wide on the first turn, it wasn’t exactly the recipe for winning at Fair Grounds. And I thought, you know, if she can run the worst race of her life and still win, hopefully in the Rachel Alexandra she will behave better and all that kind of stuff. So I was cautiously optimistic, like you are in horse racing. And it worked out.”
A versatile runner who broke her maiden on the turf at Kentucky Downs and won over a sealed, sloppy track in the Golden Rod, Finite has won five of seven career starts with $638,349 in earnings. Winchell Thoroughbreds has twice pulled off the Fair Grounds Oaks-Kentucky Oaks double with Summerly (2005) and Untapable (2014), a recipe for success that Finite appears to have all the necessary ingredients to replicate.
“I think her typical demeanor is what probably contributes to as much success as she’s had at the moment because she tends to be pretty unflappable about things,” Fiske said. “I think in the Rags to Riches Stakes (on Oct. 27), she was in the saddling stall at Churchill and the filly who ended up going off as the favorite was next to her and was just losing her mind. And Finite was standing next to her like she was about to fall asleep. I saw that and was thinking ‘Huh, we might have a better chance here than anyone is giving us credit for’. That is one of her attributes that makes her successful, she is calm and she will relax.”
Finite, who has a leading 70 qualifying points already on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks, will break from post six under regular pilot Ricardo Santana, Jr. on Saturday.
The only other stakes winner in the Fair Grounds Oaks field is Godolphin homebred Antoinette, who will be making her first start since taking the off-the-turf Tepin Stakes at Aqueduct last Dec. 5 in her third career outing. Trained by Bill Mott, Antoinette will break from the rail on Saturday under Junior Alvarado.
The Dallas Stewart-trained Tempers Rising sits as the 9-2 second choice on the morning line following a fourth-place run in the Rachel Alexandra. The daughter of Bayern also chased Finite while finishing third in the Silverbulletday Stakes but broke her maiden going 1 1/16-miles at Churchill Downs last Nov. 22.
Tempers Rising will have Julien Leparoux in the irons out of post 3 on Saturday.
The always formidable Brad Cox barn will aim for the upset in the Fair Grounds Oaks with Juddmonte Farms homebred Bonny South. The daughter of Munnings has won two of three starts and will be trying stakes company for the first time on the heels of her victory going 1 1/16-miles in an allowance optional claiming race at Oaklawn Park Feb. 15.
“She got a really good speed figure out of the Oaklawn race and I think it is very comparable to the favorite (Finite),” Cox said. “If she can get a good trip and move forward a little bit, I think this filly is going to make some noise. I’ve always liked her.”
Bonny South broke her maiden at Fair Grounds last Dec. 22 when she was elevated to victory via disqualification and was the workmate of the late, undefeated fellow Juddmonte homebred Taraz.
“She always held her own,” Cox said. “This filly doesn’t want to be rushed. She showed that last time. She is pretty honest and she seems to have some stamina about her and stays on. She is coming into this race in good shape and really excited about giving her a shot at this level.”
Calumet Farm homebred French Rose, who will be making her 11th career start on Saturday, and maiden winner Stop Shoppin Tammy round out the Fair Grounds Oaks field.
As the first leg of their “Road to the Kentucky Derby” coverage, NBCSN will broadcast both the Fair Grounds Oaks and Louisiana Derby LIVE from 5 to 6 p.m. EDT. Ahmed Fareed, Jerry Bailey and Randy Moss will anchor the coverage.