Travel Column Wins Fair Grounds Oaks
With little speed in the $400,000 Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), jockey Florent Geroux allowed OXO Equine’s Travel Column to sit just off the pace through easy fractions March 20 before opening up in the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots stretch. The 3-year-old Frosted filly cruised home to win the 1 1/16-mile race by 2 3/4 lengths.
Travel Column earned 100 points toward a place in the field for the April 30 Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs, guaranteeing herself a spot in the starting gate. She currently sits atop the Road to the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard with 132 total points.
“She’s been good since day one,” Cox said of Travel Column, an $850,000 purchase from Denali Stud’s consignment to The Saratoga Sale, Fasig-Tipton’s select yearling sale in New York, in 2019. “She’d come in with some praise from Eddie Woods (who) broke her, did a good job. I want to thank Larry Best (of OXO Equine) for the opportunity with her. She’s a talented filly. She was an expensive yearling, it’s now paid off, and hopefully we can get her to the last Friday in April. We’re ready and hopefully she bounces out of this in good order and we’ll march that way.”
Since 1997, eight Fair Grounds Oaks winners have returned to take the Kentucky Oaks, most recently Untapable in 2014.
Live Oak Plantation’s Souper Sensational broke alertly from post 2 under John Velazquez and set the pace in the Fair Grounds Oaks. She was unhurried through fractions of :24.35, :48.64, and 1:12.25 for three-quarters of a mile, while Travel Column tracked along at her hip to the outside.
Travel Column was only a head off the lead with three-eighths left to go, then took command in the stretch and left her rivals behind. She completed the distance in 1:42.75 on a fast track and paid $6.20 for a $2 win wager as the 2-1 favorite.
“We always thought she was a very talented filly from day one and she showed again (that she is),” Geroux said. “She made a nice turnaround as a 3-year-old. She grew up a lot; not necessarily physically, but a lot mentally, and she’s where we want her to be now. I think she can still move forward.”
Stonestreet Stable’s Clairiere, who edged Travel Column to win the Feb. 13 Rachel Alexandra Stakes Presented by Fasig-Tipton (G2) at Fair Grounds and was second to the same foe in the Golden Rod Stakes (G2) last fall at Churchill, was left with too much ground to make up after racing last of seven through the first quarter-mile. She rallied under Joe Talamo to finish second and pick up 40 additional Oaks points. She now ranks second on the leaderboard with 94 total points.
“The pace didn’t suit us today, it kind of hurt us. The winner was right off of it,” Talamo said. “Nonetheless, around the turn I was smiling because she was making up some ground pretty good. Pace makes the race and obviously Travel Column had a perfect trip. I’ll tell you what, I think any added distance will definitely be a help. She doesn’t do a thing wrong and I don’t think you’ve seen the best of this filly.”
Trainer Steve Asmussen said Clairiere will continue to point for the Kentucky Oaks and looks forward to the 1 1/8 miles of that race.
“We knew we would be up against it just looking at the form. You couldn’t find a horse who wanted the lead,” he said. “We are going to stay the course. We love her at a mile and an eighth and she’s run well at Churchill. If she stays healthy, we expect her to be in Kentucky for the Oaks.”
Souper Sensational held for third another two lengths back to earn 20 points and ranks 10th with 24 total points, and Obligatory rallied from sixth to finish fourth and earn 10 points to rank 24th. The Kentucky Oaks field allows for up to 14 starters.
“The plan was to try to be aggressive because we knew there was no speed in there,” said David Carroll, assistant to Souper Sensational’s trainer Mark Casse. “John said she caught the break and set nice fractions. We were very proud of her. We just got caught (for second) at the end. This is something we can build on.”
Li’l Tootsie, Zaajel, and Il Malocchio completed the order of finish. Moon Swag was scratched.
Cox said he expected the six-week span between the Fair Grounds Oaks and Kentucky Oaks to work out well for Travel Column.
“She had a good, clean trip. They didn’t go too quick up front. I think it was ideal. She responded well, finished up well today,” he said. “I think she got a lot out of her last race and horses like this, when you’re trying to get to the (Kentucky) Derby (G1) and the Oaks, they’ve got to keep moving forward, and she seemed to do that today as far as taking a step toward the Oaks.”
Travel Column, who has earned $517,184 from a 3-1-1 record in five starts, was bred in Kentucky by Mr. and Mrs. Bayne Welker Jr. and Denali Stud. She was produced from the multiple stakes-winning Victory Gallop mare Swingit and is a half sister to Neolithic , who in 2017 placed in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1), Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1), and Woodward Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1). Swingit is also the dam of Corton Charlemagne, an unraced 2-year-old American Pharoah colt, and a yearling colt by City of Light . She was bred to Audible for 2021.