By Steve Sherack
LOUISVILLE, KY – His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum is smiling somewhere tonight.
Shadwell Stable's 'TDN Rising Star' Malathaat (Curlin) outslugged Search Results (Flatter) by a neck in a battle of unbeatens in a GI Kentucky Oaks for the ages Friday at Churchill Downs. It was another 2 3/4 lengths back to Will's Secret (Will Take Charge) in third.
Sheikh Hamdan, who campaigned countless champions and Classic winners across the globe, passed away at 75 in late March.
“A million things have been going through my mind,” Shadwell Stable's Vice President and General Manager Rick Nichols said. “You know, losing the boss the way we did and him coming off a great year–he was the leading owner in Europe last year. And we have many good horses in our stable this year. And having Malathaat step up and give him an Oaks win is, you know, more than we could ask for.”
Nichols continued, “He loved the sport. Even in his advanced years, he didn't lose his passion for it. 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.”
Favored at 5-2, the $1.05-million Keeneland September Yearling purchase was squeezed and bumped at the start as the lively and pinked-out Oaks day crowd of 41,472 let out a roar as the field of 13 was on its way beneath sun-splashed skies.
Malathaat, who made it four-for-four in a hard-fought GI Central Bank Ashland S. victory at Keeneland last out Apr. 3, recovered nicely, and got into a good rhythm beneath Johnny Velazquez heading into the clubhouse turn in a four-wide fifth as Travel Column (Frosted) led through a :23.60 opening quarter.
Search Results, heroine of the GIII Gazelle S. Apr. 3, sat in third, meanwhile, ready to pounce with Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the irons as Malathaat was two spots back in fifth through a half mile in :47.47.
Search Results and Malathaat both began to rev up three and four wide to take on the pacesetter approaching the quarter pole and the stage was set.
Search Results briefly held a narrow advantage in the stretch and fought on bravely from the inside, but just couldn't withstand Malathaat, who ground her way by for the lilies.
In a touching moment just past the wire, Ortiz gave his highly respected elder statesman several pats on the back as the two galloped out in tandem.
“She didn't get away the best, but I got a spot with her,” Velazquez said. “She was running well and when I turned for home, I had a target [Search Results] to send her after. We got up next to her and my filly went by. Then she waited a bit; she does that. The other filly came back, but I could tell I was still in control. I never thought I was going to do anything but win.”
It was the fourth Oaks win for Pletcher and the second for Velazquez, who teamed with the future Hall of Famer to take the 2004 renewal with Ashado. Pletcher's other two Oaks victories were with Princess of Sylmar in 2013 and Rags to Riches in 2007.
Malathaat's ultra-talented dam Dreaming of Julia (A.P. Indy) was an unlucky fourth for Pletcher as the favorite in the 2013 Oaks.
“I commented coming over that her dam finished fourth in this race and got off to a really poor start, got basically eliminated,” Pletcher said. “When she didn't jump real well the first stride or two and then got jostled around, I was concerned we were going to have the same misfortune we had with her dam.”
Pletcher continued, “I thought Johnny made a key decision to quickly try to get her back into position after that. And I felt a lot better after about a sixteenth of a mile once he got to a good stalking position, had her in the clear, and had her in a rhythm. Then it was just a matter of hopefully there was enough pace on up front that they would come back to her a little bit. It was great ride for a great filly and a great team. We are very fortunate to have her.”
Pletcher began training for Shadwell just last year when longtime trainer and fellow former D. Wayne Lukas assistant Kiaran McLaughlin announced his retirement.
“I remember three or four days after the sale, I saw Kiaran McLauglin,” Pletcher said. “And I said, 'Kiaran, are you getting to get that Dreaming of Julia filly?' He said, 'I think so, yeah.' And I said, 'Man, great, I love that filly.' When I met with Rick and his team at Shadwell before we started training for them, I saw the filly was on the roster. I was really hoping she would come our way.”
Malathaat, a 'Rising Star' debut winner at Belmont last October, stretched to a one-turn mile with a flashy, runaway victory in Aqueduct's Tempted S. a month later. She made her two-turn debut a winning one, concluding her juvenile campaign with a 3/4-length tally in the GII Demoiselle S. Dec. 5. Originally ticketed to kick off her season in the GII Gulfstream Park Oaks, Malathaat was re-routed to the Ashland while observing a 10-day mourning period for Sheikh Hamdan.
Friday, Churchill Downs
LONGINES KENTUCKY OAKS-GI, $1,250,000, Churchill Downs, 4-30, 3yo, f, 1 1/8m, 1:48.99, ft.
1–MALATHAAT, 121, f, 3, by Curlin
1st Dam: Dreaming of Julia (GISW, $874,500), by A.P. Indy
2nd Dam: Dream Rush, by Wild Rush
3rd Dam: Turbo Dream, by Unbridled
'TDN Rising Star' ($1,050,000 Ylg '19 KEESEP). O-Shadwell Stable; B-Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC (KY); T-Todd A Pletcher; J-John R Velazquez. $713,000. Lifetime Record: 5-5-0-0, $1,125,150. Werk Nick Rating: A+++ *Triple Plus*. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Search Results, 121, f, 3, by Flatter
1st Dam: Co Cola (GSP), by Candy Ride (Arg)
2nd Dam: Yong Musician, by Yonaguska
3rd Dam: Alljazz, by Stop the Music
($310,000 Ylg '19 KEESEP). O-Klaravich Stables Inc; B-Machmer Hall (KY); T-Chad C Brown. $230,000.
3–Will's Secret, 121, f, 3, by Will Take Charge
1st Dam: Girls Secret, by Giant's Causeway
2nd Dam: Well Monied, by Maria's Mon
3rd Dam: Queen of America, by Quiet American
O-Willis Horton Racing LLC; B-Willis Horton Racing LLC (KY); T-Dallas Stewart. $115,000.
Margins: NK, 2 3/4, NO. Odds: 2.50, 5.70, 26.50.
Also Ran: Clairiere, Travel Column, Millefeuille, Maracuja, Pauline's Pearl, Coach, Crazy Beautiful, Moraz, Pass the Champagne, Competitive Speed. Scratched: Ava's Grace.
Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by TVG.
Malathaat is one of 14 Grade I winners for the mighty Curlin, who was represented two races earlier by GII Eight Belles S. winner Obligatory. She is bred on the same cross as last year's
Malathaat is the third foal–first to race–out of Dreaming of Julia, a daughter of MGISW Dream Rush. Dreaming of Julia has a 2-year-old colt by Medaglia d'Oro, a yearling full-sister to Malathaat and foaled a Medaglia d'Oro filly earlier this spring.
The ultra-talented Dreaming of Julia, a Stonestreet homebred and Pletcher-trained 'TDN Rising Star' herself, registered a career high in Belmont's GI Frizette S. at two. Her resume also included a 21 3/4-length victory in the GII Gulfstream Oaks, good for an astronomical 114 Beyer Speed Figure, a runner-up finish in the GI Mother Goose S. and a third-place finish in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.