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Farrell Infallible in Fair Grounds Oaks

Coffeepot Stables’ homebred Farrell was pure class on Saturday afternoon at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, taking the Grade II $400,000 Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks for trainer Wayne Catalano by 3¼ lengths to catapult her into possible favoritism for the Grade I $1,000,000 Longines Kentucky Oaks on May 5 at Churchill Downs. Unlike five weeks ago in the Grade II Rachel Alexandra, Farrell did not have an easy lead this time. Hill instead rated her confidently in the clear in third around the first turn, keeping nothing in her way while losing ground in the four path. She galloped along comfortably and kindly for Hill in that path through the back stretch and around the far turn before cruising to the front and drawing clear in the stretch over five rivals. She finished up the 1 1/16 miles over the fast main track in 1:43.67. Despite switching leads after striding over the starting gate tracks in late stretch, she finished as much the best.

Lee Mauberret’s consistent Brendan Walsh trainee Wicked Lick, second two starts back to Farrell in the Listed Silverbulletday Stakes and fourth last out in the Rachel Alexandra after a tough trip, raced tenaciously up the rail under Brian Hernandez, Jr., to nail Calumet Farm’s Neil Drysdale-trained Vexatious, under Kent Desormeaux, by a nose for the place. It was another 7½ lengths astern that rival to Daria’s Angel, Corporate Queen and Queen Bernardina to complete the order of finish.

Sent to post as the 2-5 favorite, Farrell paid $2.80, $2.40 and $2.10, while Wicked Lick returned $6.20 and $2.80 and Vexatious returned $2.20 to show. She earned $240,000 to increase her career bankroll to $601,357, while winning her fourth consecutive stakes event and third at the Grade II level. She now owns a record of five wins and a third from seven tries for her three-time Breeders’ Cup-winning conditioner.

“Wayne and the barn have done a great job with a really good filly,” Hill said. “She’s terrific and just keeps getting better and better. She settled extremely well today. I didn’t ask her until we left the eighth pole, and I still had a ton of horse.”

“We feel very good [heading to the Kentucky Oaks],” Catalano added. “She’s doing everything we’ve asked her to do, and she’s coming around and she’s maturing. The way she’s settling down, she’s really learning.”

“She’s a nice filly to ride,” Hernandez said of the runner-up. “She keeps staying and the good thing is she keeps getting better and better. She keeps answering the question and each race she just steps it up more and more. She’s a great filly to ride because she just grinds it out and she wants to do her job, which makes it nice.”

“She’s Wicked Lick – she always tries,” Walsh added. “She ran great, she saved ground and she always shows up. It looks like ‘why not’ as far as the Oaks. She’s a good filly.”

“She stuck her neck out there and tried to be second,” Desormeaux said. “I was proud of her. I thought she had everything her way and she responded. It was a beautiful trip and she’s getting faster. She’s a little keen, but not out of control and should improve.”