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Coach gets nod as favorite with Kentucky Oaks in mind

by PETE PERKINS SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE | January 30, 2021 at 2:25 a.m.

HOT SPRINGS -- In a race among six fillies for Kentucky Oaks qualifying points, most of the finishers will take a step toward their target.

That's the promise offered by the 1-mile, $200,000 Martha Washington Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Oaklawn today.

Coach, the 7-5 morning-line favorite trained by Brad Cox, will have Florent Geroux aboard for the Martha Washington -- which offers 17 Oaks qualifying points, with 10, 4, 2 and 1 going to first through fourth, respectively.

Post time for the Martha Washington is scheduled for 3:06 p.m.

Coach earned two points in her last start, a third-place finish in the Grade II Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., on Nov. 28.

The Grade I Kentucky Oaks at Churchill is scheduled for April 30. Cox trained Shedaresthedevil, the 2020 Oaks winner who also won Oaklawn's Grade III Honeybee Stakes last season.

Joy's Rocket, the 5-2 morning-line second choice, will make her first start at two turns for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. Ricardo Santana, Oaklawn's seven-time riding champion, is listed to ride Joy's Rocket.

Joy's Rocket could be among the early speed Cox said he expects Coach to face.

"Hopefully, the speed doesn't get too far away from her," Cox said. "It's a 1-mile race. It's a great purse, and hopefully, she can start her march toward ... the Kentucky Oaks. That would be the ultimate goal with her."

Coach's Golden Rod finish followed a win in Churchill's Rags to Riches Overnight Stakes on Oct. 25.

"She does like Churchill," Cox said. "She's a good filly. She stepped up and had a great 2-year-old season and, hopefully, she'll improve as a 3-year-old.

"She's definitely been training like she's improved. We like the way she's been training at Oaklawn. I feel like she's moved forward with her training. Hopefully, she can transfer that to the afternoons."

Geroux rode Coach in the Rags to Riches Overnight.

"First time against stakes company at Churchill Downs, when I rode her for the first time, she won," Geroux said. "We thought, after that race, she was a pretty nice filly."

Geroux said he was impressed by Coach's recent work.

"She's doing good at Oaklawn Park in the morning," he said. "She's training great. We'll see how she can compete [in the Martha Washington]."

Joy's Rocket is entered off a win in the 6-furlong Letellier Memorial Stakes at Fair Grounds on Dec. 19. Asmussen, trainer of two Martha Washington winners, also will send out Lady Lilly, 9-2 on the morning line, who finished seventh in the Golden Rod.

Will's Secret, owned by Willis Horton of Marshall, is entered off a 1 1/16-mile off-the-turf maiden special-weight victory at Fair Grounds on Dec. 20. Horton also owned Take Charge Brandi, winner of the 2015 Martha Washington.

5 The Martha Washington. Purse $200,000, 1 mile, fillies, 3-year-olds

*COACH won her first three races as a juvenile filly, including the two-turn Rags to Riches stake at Churchill, and she has been working well since a third-place finish in the Grade III Golden Rod. JOY'S ROCKET has won consecutive sprint stake races at Fair Grounds and Keeneland, and the speedy filly will lead as far as her pedigree will take her. SYLVIA Q is a proven two-turn runner who is adding blinkers after a photo-finish loss at Fair Grounds.

PP HORSE;JOCKEY;TRAINER;ODDS

3 Coach;Geroux;Cox;7-5

1 Joy's Rocket;Santana;Asmussen;5-2

6 Sylvia Q;Garcia;Bauer;5-1

4 Will's Secret;Court;Stewart;6-1

5 Lady Lilly;Cabrera;Asmussen;9-2

2 Novel Squall;Vazquez;Ortiz;15-1

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