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Stakes Advance: Fair Grounds Oaks

There may be eight sophomore fillies in the Grade II $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks and seven of them have stakes experience, but only one filly is the talk of the town – and that is Fletcher and Carolyn Gray’s I’m a Chatterbox.  Undefeated in two starts since being turned over to trainer Larry Jones this winter, the daughter of Munnings will look to not only sweep all three major 3-year-old filly stakes of the meet, but if successful will try to become the seventh filly in the previous 11 runnings of the Fair Grounds Oaks to emulate their victorious form in the Grade I $1,000,000 Kentucky Oaks on May 1.

            After three starts in a six-week period as a juvenile under the care of Kenny McPeek – including a victory on debut at Keeneland and a fourth-place finish in the Grade II $200,000 Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs – the chestnut filly came out swinging in her 2015 debut for Jones, going gate to wire in a sensational eight-length procession in the Listed $125,000 Silverbulletday Stakes over a mile and 70 yards under a confident Florent Geroux.  Next out, the athletic filly displayed her stylistic versatility when closing from last place in the Grade III 175,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes at the Fair Grounds Oaks’ 1 1/16-miles distance to finish first by a comfortable 2½ lengths.  Seemingly flourishing since, she has put in two rapid sub-1:00 five-furlong works over the local surface.  Geroux returns to try to make it three-for-three with the filly from post six. 

            Regally bred and improving, Charles Fipke’s homebred Forever Unbridled will try to turn the tables on her rival I’m a Chatterbox when the daughter of Unbridled’s Song and Kentucky Oaks winner Lemons Forever takes on that adversary once again in Saturday’s 48th running of the marquee local race for 3-year-old fillies.  Breaking from the rail under regular rider Brian Hernandez, Jr., the tall athletic charge enters the race off a good third in the Rachel Alexandra – losing by 2¾ lengths – one effort after finishing second in the Silverbulletday.  Trainer Dallas Stewart has been very pleased with the track work of this full-sister to Unbridled Forever, who was third in both the Kentucky and Fair Grounds Oaks in 2014, including a bullet five-furlong move on Mar. 21 in 1:00.60.

Two fillies with collective talent as undeniable as their underachievement are Don't’ Tell My Wife Stables’ Keith Desormeaux-trained Danette and Regis Racing’s Steve Asmussen-trained Shook Up.  Danette, a maiden in nine career starts, was an unlucky fifth – beaten only 1½ lengths – in the Grade I $2,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies last fall.  One race prior, she was a rallying third in the Grade I $300,000 Chandelier Stakes, also at Santa Anita.  Since, she has done little to substantiate that form and recently was a dull sixth in a failed turf attempt in maiden company.  Regular rider Kent Desormeaux rides from post five.

Shook Up was the buzz filly early in the meet after sending quakes thorough the local ranks with a  13½-length razing of a mile and 70-yard Fair Grounds maiden field.  Since, she has dropped two decisions – including a flat fifth last out in the Rachel Alexandra – and remains an enigma, especially with her penchant for running greenly.  By champion sire Tapit out of Grade I winner Sugar Shake, she retains a great deal of upside in what will be only her fifth career start and her connections decision to enter her back in this spot corroborates that viewpoint.  Robby Albarado rides again from post seven. 

The remainder of the Fair Grounds Oaks field consists of Desert Valley (Colby Hernandez, post two), Jugni (James Graham, post three), Audrey’s Double (Richard Eramia, post four) and Tacchiello (Miguel Mena, post eight).