Kentucky Derby notes: Lovely Maria wins Kentucky Oaks

Santa Anita Oaks winner Stellar Wind finishes fourth in Kentucky Oaks

Brereton Jones, former governor of Kentucky, has named race horses for people he has met over the years at a hotel in Florida.

One of those people was a young woman named Maria, who is developmentally disabled.

"She is a lovely person with some problems, some serious problems, problems that her family has been able to help her with," Brereton said. "But those problems will always exist."

Brereton said he met Maria and "she was a lovely, lovely girl. So we named [the horse] Lovely Maria. And now she's done better than all the others before her."

Lovely Maria continued to perform Friday, winning the $1-million Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks for female horses at Churchill Downs before an announced record crowd of 123,763.

"She's a filly just doing good," trainer Larry Jones said.

Lovely Maria went off at 6-1. She was in fourth place at the half-mile, closed to third, then took over the lead in the stretch to finish 2 3/4 lengths ahead of Shook Up and I'm A Chatterbox, who is also trained by Jones.

Jockey Kerwin Clark, 56, won his first Grade 1 race last month aboard Lovely Maria in the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland. His second gave Brereton Jones his third Kentucky Oaks victory.

Lovely Maria paid $14.60, $7.80 and $5.40.

Stellar Wind, winner of last month's Santa Anita Oaks, started as the favorite but finished fourth.

"She broke just a bit slow and that was a problem," jockey Victor Espinoza said. "I tried to stay up with the horse next to me, but we were getting outrun.

"Then when we went into the first turn and the dirt was flying back, she started jumping up and down. This wasn't her day."

Trainer John Sadler said Stellar Wind "just got banged up out of the gate."

"Sometimes you get a bad trip so there's nothing you can really do," he said. "We'll take her back to California, freshen her up and then decide what to do with her next."

El Kabeir scratched

The Kentucky Derby field was reduced to 19 horses Friday when El Kabeir was scratched.

El Kabeir was one of three horses owned by Ahmed Zayat in the race. Favorite American Pharoah and Mr. Z are the others.

El Kabeir did not train Friday morning, reportedly because of a sore left hind foot.

El Kabeir was the second scratch in two days, but the move was made after Friday's 9 a.m. deadline, so the no alternate was added to the field.

El Kabeir was in the No. 7 starting position. The horses in starting positions 1 through 6 will move one spot to the right, leaving open the No. 1 position along the rail.

Stevens ready

Gary Stevens had knee replacement surgery in July 2014.

On Saturday, he will be aboard Firing Line and aiming for his fourth Kentucky Derby victory.

"It took a while for people, I think, to have confidence that I was back and not only back but probably better than I'd been in the past 20 years," he said.

Stevens, 52, likes his chances. Firing Line narrowly lost to Dortmund in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita and the Los Alamitos Derby.

"It's kind of nice to be flying under the radar a little bit," he said.

Good experience

Carla Gaines, trainer for Bolo, is the 16th female trainer to start a horse in the Kentucky Derby.

Bolo, at 30-1, probably won't make Gaines the first woman to win the Derby, but the trainer is looking forward to seeing how her horse competes against the deep and talented field.

"We're going a distance that will suit him and the surface will suit him," she said.

Etc.

Sarah Sis, ridden by Stevens, did not finish the Kentucky Oaks and was vanned off the track after the race. Veterinarian Keith Laston said Sara Sis was treated for mild heat exhaustion and "should be just fine." Stevens said that at the three-16ths pole, "she just stuck her feet in the ground. She went from runner to stopper. I had to pull her up." … The previous attendance mark for the Kentucky Oaks was 116,046.

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