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Oaks features 4 Pletcher-trained fillies

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Todd Pletcher has a whole bunch of chances to win the Kentucky Oaks, too.

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The trainer with a record-tying five horses in Saturday's Kentucky Derby, will send out four fillies in Friday's $1 million Kentucky Oaks, including 3-1 favorite Dreaming of Julia.

Pletcher's other fillies in the 10-horse field are unbeaten Unlimited Budget, Silsita and Princess of Sylmar.

``We're all good,'' said Pletcher.

Also good to go is John Velazquez, who returned to riding Thursday after a layoff because of an injury and is set to be aboard Dreaming of Julia.

Pletcher is looking to win the Oaks for the third time - his other winners were Ashado in 2004 and Rags to Riches in 2007 - but there will be plenty of competition.

Close Hatches has won all three of her races for trainer Bill Mott and Midnight Lucky is 2-for-2 for trainer Bob Baffert. Beholder and Rose to Gold each have five wins on their resumes.

Dreaming of Julia, though, has won four of six career starts and served notice she is one tough filly with a 22-length victory in the Gulfstream Oaks in March.

Dreaming of Julia, who drew the No. 8 post for the 1 1/8-mile Oaks, has put in a few other big wins. In her first two starts, she won by 10 1/2 lengths at Saratoga last August and by 16 lengths at Belmont the next month. A win over Live Lively reversed their February finish in the Davona Dale at Gulfstream, when Dreaming of Julia was two lengths back in her 3-year-old debut.

Unlimited Budget won the Fairgrounds Oaks on March 30 in her first ride under jockey Javier Castellano, who will be aboard on Friday. Beholder could also be a factor with a two-race win streak coming in and four victories in in her last five starts.

``We are going to have to see what the big three do,'' Rose to Gold trainer Sal Santoro said of his strategy against Dreaming of Julia, Beholder and Unlimited Budget. ``If any of them get free rein and (are) left alone, the party is over.''

Rose to Gold is 15-1 despite five wins in seven starts.

With no Derby horse this year, Baffert is looking for another Oaks victory. He won it two years ago with Plum Pretty. Midnight Lucky didn't race as a 2-year-old, but has won her only two starts this year by seven and eight lengths, respectively.

She faces a tall task starting from the No. 2 post.

``She hasn't been in any situation where she's been compromised,'' Baffert said. ``She's always been in control of a race. It's a tough spot.

``It's just a really tough field. The break is going to be so important. Our post is not ideal; we would've liked to be outside a little bit.''

Copyright 2016 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written
consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

  
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