Venus Valentine’s win in Feb. 20’s Rachel Alexandria Stakes was the biggest surprise of the day in the second leg of the Road to the Kentucky Oaks at the Fair Grounds, but trainer Tom Amoss didn’t see it that way.
In fact, the race worked out exactly as Amoss planned it.
“That was a race that we tried a strategy, which was to sit back and hope the speed collapsed in the race,” Amoss said. “There was a lot of speed in that race, but it was just one of those things where it worked out correctly.”
The Rosemont Farm-owned filly will be trying to surprise the masses once again as she heads into Saturday’s Grade II $400,000 TwinSpires.com Fair Grounds Oaks.
Amoss said the game plan will have to shift heading into Saturday because of the different horses in the field and an expected difference in the course conditions from the last time out, but he said there is a game plan that can get Venus Valentine back into the winner’s circle.
One of the major obstacles will include powerhouse filly Songbird, who sits atop the leaderboard in the Road to the Kentucky Derby standings at 90 points. A win in Saturday’s race would likely clinch Songbird’s spot atop the standings and make her a heavy favorite going into May 6’s Grade I $1,000,000 Kentucky Oaks.
Venus Valentine currently sits at No. 4 in the in the standings with 50 points, and another upset Saturday could put her in a position to be one of the biggest Cinderella stories going into May.
“This is going to be a really good field of horses, and I’m expecting an exciting race,” Amoss said. “There is a ton of talent that’s going to be out there on Saturday, and we’re going to have to run a great race if we want to win.”
Another reason Saturday’s race is so important is that recent history suggests the winner of the Fair Grounds Oaks goes on to be successful at the Kentucky Oaks as well.
Six of the past 11 winners in the Fair Grounds Oaks went on to garner a victory at Churchill Downs as well and this year’s winner would likely be tabbed as the favorite to carry on the tradition.
“I think there’s a lot of similarities between the courses at Fair Grounds and Churchill Downs,” Amoss said. “It’s just one of those things where trainers have brought a lot of well-trained mares down here and it’s really raised the bar for this race.”
Venus Valentine won’t likely be a heavy underdog going into Saturday’s race, but Amoss knows it will be a tough challenge to take on some of the best fillies around.
Amoss said the daughter of Congrats will be facing a completely different challenge going into Saturday and her ability to adapt to a different style of race will go a long way in determining if she can come away victorious.
“We understand that this is a completely different race we’re going into,” Amoss said. “It’s not nearly as much speed as what we saw in the Rachel Alexandria, and that means we certainly have to change our plan as far as racing tactics.
“It would be nice if we can run the same race we did in the Rachel Alexandria, but nothing in this race ever comes easy.”