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    The beautiful weather and beautiful horses brought out a record Kentucky Oaks crowd of 123,763 to Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. for the 141st running of the $1 Million Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1). Lovely Maria got the win, the adoration of her jockey, Kerwin Clark, trainer, Larry Jones and owner, the former Kentucky governor Brereton Jones. She was led to the winner's circle under the guidance of a tearful Clark and adorned in a garland of stargazer lilies. 

    "I thought my opportunity was gone," said 56-year-old Clark. After more than a 40-year racing career, Clark scored his first grade one win last month when Lovely Maria romped to a 3 1/4-length win in Keeneland's Ashland Stakes (G1). "This is just a blessing," Clark continued as he fought back tears on his way to the winner's circle. "My mom and dad got to be here today to watch this and it doesn't get any better than this. I'm so blessed to be here.

    "Larry Jones is a great guy and even though he's had all the confidence in the world in me, he never wavered. it's just a blessing that I'm with these people. They're great people. They gave me an opportunity to be here on this stage today and I can't thank them enough."

    Trainer Larry Jones and owner Brereton Jones teamed to bring home their third Kentucky Oaks trophy with Lovely Maria's win. The duo won the 2008 edition of the Kentucky Oaks with Proud Spell and the 2012 edition with Believe You Can. 

    "I know that I and my family are blessed," said Brereton Jones. "We recognize that this happened because of a big team effort."

    Lovely Maria, a daughter of Majesticperfection out of a Thunder Gulch mare, was named for a young disabled girl Brereton Jones and his wife met at the Sea View Hotel they often visit on their trips to Florida. The Joneses have named seven horses for people they have met through the hotel, mostly staff and their family. When Chef Albano asked Brereton Jones to name a horse for the girl named Maria, Jones obliged and thought the horse should be "Lovely Maria" since the girl was so lovely.

    The race started out as expected with the front-running Condo Commando breaking to an early lead with Angela Renee, Shook Up, and Lovely Maria just behind her. With a half-mile to go the leaders continued in similar order. Birdatthewire, sent off as the third choice among the bettors was in the middle of the 14-horse field. Forever Unbridled, the full sister to last year's third place finisher Unbridled Forever, was fifth as the field began to make their way around the final turn. At the top of the stretch, Angela Renee had put away Condo Commando, but Lovely Maria was hot on her tail as jockey John Velazquez raised his whip to encourage his runner to keep the lead. Angela Renee and Lovely Maria battled a few strides before Lovely Maria broke free to the lead with about 200 yards to the finish. She went on to win by 2 3/4 lengths. Shook Up quickly began to run down Angela Renee and held second by a length. I'm a Chatterbox, the stablemate to the winner, was able to get up for third, a length in front of Stellar Wind.

    Sarah Sis, trained by Ingrid Mason, was pulled up by jockey Gary Stevens midway through the race and was reported to have suffered from heat exhaustion. "She’s fine," said Mason. "There is nothing wrong with her. I really think she just didn’t like the track. I had worked her over it and she bobbled a few times. It’s different than what she is used to."

    "This is the race of the life," said Larry Jones. "She did everything right. I think if we threw marbles out there, she'd run over them."

    "We had a great trip," said Robby Albarado, who piloted Shook Up to a runner-up finish. "When we turned for home, I thought we had a chance to get there." 

    Stellar Wind, the betting favorite, was far back early, but able to close from twelfth to get up for fourth. "She broke just a bit slow and that was a problem," said jockey Victor Espinoza. "I tried to stay up with the horse next to me, but we were getting outrun. Then when we went into the first turn and the dirt was flying back, she started jumping up and down. This wasn't her day."

    Lovely Maria returned $14.60, $7.80 and $5.40. Shook Up paid $20.20 and $11.40 and completed the $2 exacta for $296. I'm a Chatterbox paid $5.00 and completed the $2 trifecta for $1,562.80. Stellar Wind completed the $.10 superfecta for $412.66. The final time for the 1 1/8 mile race over the fast dirt was 1:50.45.

    Photo: Adam Creech

    Jessie Oswald's picture

    About Jessie Oswald

    I'm a lifetime Louisville resident with a passion for horse racing. When I'm not working as a paralegal or taking care of my family, I follow Thoroughbred racing and love to share the excitement and beauty of the sport with anyone willing to learn!

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