That was trainer Todd Pletcher’s all-encompassing answer to the question of Malathaat’s condition on the morning after her gutsy run and neck victory in the Grade 1 Longines Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs.
With a national television audience taking it in, the well-made daughter of Curlin overcame early troubles, took rider John Velazquez’s cues at all points and then dug down deep to win a photo finish and $713,000 in the 147th “Run for the Lilies.”
The Shadwell Stables filly is now a perfect 5-for-5 in her racing career, has three graded stakes on her ledger and is well on her way to millionaire status ($953,000) with a very bright future ahead.
The conditioner wasn’t sure yet what the shipping plans were for his latest Oaks heroine but added the outcome of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) for his four colts would play a big factor into who, where and when would be on the road from his potent string.
“You’d like to think with a filly like (Malathaat) you can be thinking Breeders’ Cup (at Del Mar in November),” Pletcher said. “But we’ve got a long way to go before we get there.”
Trainer Chad Brown said Klaravich Stables’ Search Results was a tired filly Sunday morning but was none the worse for wear after a heartbreaking and ultra-game second by a neck in the Oaks.
“We checked her out this morning and she looks fine,” Brown said. “She came back good and will ride back to New York on Monday. Right now, we’ll look at the (Grade 1) Acorn and Coaching Club American Oaks; those are the two most likely things we’ll discuss,” Brown said.
Search Results saw her unbeaten streak end at three but lost nothing in defeat while battling the undefeated Malathaat through the stretch. The daughter of Flatter tracked early leader and second-choice Travel Column 3-wide throughout under Irad Ortiz Jr., made first run off the far turn, and refused to yield to the winner.
“It was a huge race,” Brown said. “I watched the replay a couple of times and I thought Irad used good judgement. It was just the way it unfolded, she was parked out a little bit, and I would have preferred that we were right next to Travel Column and saved a little bit more ground on both turns it may have helped reserve a little bit of fuel. That said, the winner broke a little tardy and had to be used and was pitched out following me just as wide, so she won obviously fair and square.”
Brown was also quick to applaud Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who gave the winner a flawless ride, while showing a little gamesmanship as well.
“It was typical Johnny fashion,” Brown said. “He rode so smart to follow us, then floated us down to the inside, which is his patented move. It was a smart move. And it was a winning move. She just had a little more and she’s a really good horse.”
Sitting back in his office chair in Barn 25, Brown looked back on the last 10-12 days and summarized the proceedings, while admitting the end result might have been right in front of everyone all along.
“At the end of the day, as I’ve learned with the Oaks and the Derby, there’s a big buildup and these are fun races to analyze,” Brown said. “Then you throw into the mix that this is one of the only events where the media is actually watching these horses train every day. And there’s a lot of different scenarios and projected paces and trips and opinions, and it’s great. But at the end of the day, a lot of times in these big races, when you look at them the next day, it wasn’t too hard to figure out; the two undefeated fillies threw down in the lane and that was the way it was probably the way it was supposed to be.”
As for the prospect of facing Malathaat again, Brown took a bit more stoic approach, while noting both fillies might go down a different path this summer, with Saratoga’s 1 1/8-mile Coaching Club and 1 ¼-mile Alabama on the calendar.
“I think I’d be foolish to say I’m looking forward to running against her,” Brown joked. “I don’t know if you ever want to run against great horses, especially if you have one of your own. I read this stuff sometimes, and I’m not one of these bravado guys that say ‘I’m looking forward to a rematch.’ I appreciate the sport, and I look forward to the challenges, but I’ve got a really good horse and there are races out there for all of us.
“Coming in, we thought 1 1/8 miles was fine for our filly, and if you take the winner out, she was well clear of the others. But I don’t know if Search Results will relish a mile and a quarter, so they might separate at that point.”