Oaks Day Back Where It Belongs

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The lilies adorn popular Oaks heroine Monomoy Girl | Coady

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LOUISVILLE, KY – Now, this is much more like it.

With a forecast calling for sunny skies and temperatures in the low 70s, the GI Kentucky Oaks returns to its traditional spot on the calendar Friday.

While last year's delayed GI Kentucky Derby and Oaks were both conducted spectator-free over Labor Day weekend due to the COVID-19 pandemic, limited crowds of between 40,000-50,000–health and safety protocols in place and all-are expected to be on hand at Churchill Downs this weekend.

Following the withdrawal of Ava's Grace (Laoban) earlier this week, a field of 13 sophomore fillies will line up, headed by undefeated 'TDN Rising Star' Malathaat (Curlin). The Shadwell Stable colorbearer and $1.05-million KEESEP graduate punched her ticket to Louisville for Todd Pletcher just getting up for a narrow victory over Pass the Champagne (Flatter) in the GI Central Bank Ashland S. at Keeneland Apr. 3.

Malathaat, the 5-2 favorite on the Oaks morning line, is a daughter of the brilliant Dreaming of Julia (A.P. Indy), who finished a troubled fourth as the favorite in the 2013 Oaks.

The aforementioned lightly raced Pass the Champagne has made a nice appearance during the special training session reserved for Derby and Oaks runners this week for the husband-and-wife team of George Weaver and Cindy Hutter. Aboard his stable pony, Weaver has accompanied Pass the Champagne to the track while his other half is in the irons aboard the chestnut.

Like Malathaat, Search Results (Flatter) also heads to the Oaks with an unblemished record. The Klaravich Stables representative made it a perfect three-for-three for Chad Brown with a good-looking score in Aqueduct's GIII Gazelle S. Apr. 3.

'TDN Rising Star' Travel Column (Frosted) and Clairiere (Curlin) will renew their rivalry once again with the former currently holding a 2-1 advantage. Travel Column got the better of Clairiere in the GII Golden Rod S. Nov. 28 as well as the GII Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks last time Mar. 20. Clairiere defeated Travel Column by a neck in the GII Rachel Alexandra S. Feb. 13, respectively.

In addition to Travel Column, two-time Oaks winning-trainer Brad Cox, represented by last year's upsetter Shedaresthedevil (Daredevil), will also saddle longshot Coach (Commissioner). Cox, of course, also trains the favorite for Saturday's GI Kentucky Derby, unbeaten 2-year-old champion Essential Quality (Tapit).

Juddmonte homebred Millefeuille (Curlin) wasn't done any favors drawing wide in post 14 (she'll move in a slot), but is another who has caught the eye during training hours beneath the Twin Spires this week. She was second behind Crazy Beautiful (Liam's Map) after leading in the stretch in the GII Gulfstream Park Oaks Mar. 27.

Friday's loaded Oaks program also features: the popular Maxfield (Street Sense) in the GII Alysheba S.; returning GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf heroine and 'TDN Rising Star' Aunt Pearl (Ire) (Lope de Vega {Ire}) in the GII Edgewood S.; last year's Oaks heroine Shedaresthedevil in the GI La Troienne S.; GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies runner-up Dayoutoftheoffice (Into Mischief) in the GII Eight Belles S.; and a field of 11 for the GII Twin Spires Turf Sprint S.

Six hours of live Kentucky Oaks coverage begins Friday at 12 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

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