LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Bob Baffert is back in the winner's circle at Churchill Downs. He's hoping for a return trip on Saturday afternoon.
The Hall of Fame trainer's blossoming filly Plum Pretty took charge at the top of the stretch and then held off a late bid from St. John's River to win the $1 million Kentucky Oaks on Friday.
Plum Pretty stalked early leader Summer Soiree before jockey Martin Garcia sent his 3-year-old filly to the front at the turn. She opened up a sizable lead and needed all of it to beat St. John's River and jockey Rose Napravnik by a neck in the 1 1/8 mile race.
The win gave Baffert his second victory in the filly version of the Kentucky Derby. The trainer won the Oaks in 1999 with Silverbulletday but came up short in the Run for the Roses the next day when each of his three entries -- Prime Timber, Excellent Meeting and General Challenge -- failed to hit the board.
No trainer has won both the Oaks and the Derby in the same year since Ben Jones did it in 1952. Baffert will saddle Midnight Interlude in the Run for the Roses on Saturday as he goes for his fourth Derby triumph.
Zazu finished third, just ahead of 2-1 favorite Joyful Victory.
Plum Pretty came in off a dominating 25-length victory in the Sunland Park Oaks on March 27. The Kentucky Oaks presented a considerable step up in class, but the bay filly looked right at home on the dirt at Churchill, covering the distance in 1:49.50 in front of the third-largest crowd in Oaks history, 110,000.
Plum Pretty paid $14.60, $7 and $4.60 for winning owner John Fort.
Napravnik nearly became the first female jockey to win the Oaks following an expert ride aboard St. John's River, sending her mount to the rail to save ground before the two roared into contention in the deep stretch. It wasn't quite enough, however, and St. John's River paid $13.20 and $7.20 to show.
Zazu, owned by Jerry and Ann Moss -- who also own retired superstar mare Zenyatta -- paid $4 to show.
Joyful Victory came in unbeaten this year for trainer Larry Jones, who won the Oaks three years ago with Proud Spell. Jockey Mike Smith put her in prime position but she never fired.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)