Larry Jones had very simple instructions for jockey Florent Geroux heading into Saturday’s Grade II $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks.
“I told him when he comes out, just do whatever you think you need to do,” the highly-successful trainer said half-heartedly. “He said, ‘I think I can follow those instructions.’ ”
Geroux did just that as he rode the Fletcher and Carolyn Gray-owned I’m a Chatterbox to a 21/2-length win on the marquee racing day for 3-year-old fillies at the Fair Grounds in the 11?16 mile race.
“She was right where I wanted to be,” Geroux said. “She got a little bit bored in the final eighth of a mile, but she kept running on.”
With the win, the chestnut filly becomes the first to sweep all three major filly stakes races since the current prep series was inaugurated in 1992.
The Louisiana bred also placed herself in prime position to become the seventh filly in the past 11 runnings to win the Fair Grounds Oaks then turn around and win the Grade I $1 million Kentucky Oaks, which will be run May 1.
“She is a really nice filly. We have been very pleased to get to race her,” Jones said. “On to Kentucky is the plan.”
Since Jones took on the training duties for I’m a Chatterbox this past winter, the filly is undefeated in three races and has won in different ways all three times.
She dominated the field from gate to wire and won by eight lengths in Jan. 17’s Silverbulletday Stakes, then rallied from last place to win Feb. 21’s Rachel Alexandra by 21/2 lengths.
On Saturday, I’m a Chatterbox remained in the middle of the pack for a large portion of the race, then took the lead midway through the far turn. Once the 3-year-old made it to the final stretch with the lead, she went unchallengedand breezed through the finish line.
“Not all horses will do that, we’re just blessed to have one that will,” Jones said. “She was perfect. It was just a very good day.”
After a disappointing fifth-place finish in her last race out at Rachel Alexandra, the Steve Asmussen-trained Shook up came in second place in Saturday’s race.
While making it unclear if Shook Up will make the trip to the Kentucky Oaks in a few weeks, he was pleased with the improvement the filly showed since her last race.
“She ran well and just got beat by an exception filly,” Asmussen said. “It was a big improvement, and hopefully we’ll keep going that way.”
On the other hand, Dallas Stewart, the trainer for third-place finisher Forever Unbridled, made his intentions for the May 1 race very clear.
“We’re going on to the Oaks,” Stewart said. “No doubt about that.”
I’m a Chatterbox completed the 11?16-mile course in 1 minute, 44.40 seconds and paid $3.20, $2.40 and $2.10.