This is the time of year when everyone is looking for that sweet stepping three-year old Thoroughbred. When Keeneland opens its gates for their annual Spring meet, a versatile running filly might just give them exactly what they are looking for.

Chocolate Kisses has placed herself in the fast lane for the 145th Kentucky Oaks.

An impressive win in the 32nd running of the Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn Park featured a fantastic finish down the lane. Running near the back of the 10 horse pack early, the Mark Casse trained filly was carried wide on the far turn, but ducked inside with an explosive turn of foot and overtook favored and front-running Motion Emotion.

“Her trip was not the greatest, but she finished strong and that was very impressive,” says Casse who finished second in the 2018 Kentucky Oaks with Wonder Gadot. “A lot of times when a horse gets carried wide the way she did it tires them and they do not finish well. We had a hot pace to run at (22.46 opening quarter, 45.99 half mile) and she had enough left to make that big move down the stretch.”

The win in the Honeybee was the third in seven career starts for Chocolate Kisses, but her first on dirt. Her two previous scores had come on turf. They say a good horse can win on any surface and now this daughter of Candy Ride has given her veteran conditioner every reason to believe that.

“I believe that it is absolutely true a good horse takes to any surface “,says Casse, who got his first win at Keeneland in 1979 at age 18. “We have always thought she was pretty good, but that last race proved us right.”

Winning on turf and dirt is a good thing for sure, but another positive for Kisses is the fact she travels well. Her seven starts have come at five different tracks with all three victories also at different locales (Saratoga, Fair Grounds, Oaklawn). Having her bags packed is a good thing as traveling is more of the norm for a barn that is not afraid to send runners all over the country and then some.

“She does like to travel, kind of like her trainer,” jokes the nine-time champion trainer at Woodbine in Canada. “We are always trying to find good places for our horses to run. Chocolate Kisses is one of those that does not mind going places which fits into our program.”

The next stop for Chocolate Kisses will be the Central Bank Ashland Stakes at Keeneland. Casse is pointing his prized filly to the Kentucky Oaks, but the Ashland on April 6 will be the determining factor for her appearance on the first Friday in May.

“The Ashland will be her final stepping stone for the Oaks,” says Casse. “The Honeybee win most likely gives us enough points to get in, but we have to make sure she is still heading in the right direction. We want to win the Ashland, but that is not a pre-requisite. The biggest thing is she has to run well. We will not go to the Oaks just to be there, we want to take a horse that we feel has a real chance to win.”

Should Chocolate Kisses run sweet at Keeneland, the Churchill Downs dirt may be better than a bag of her namesake.

“Of all the places she has been, I think she likes Churchill the best,” says Casse. “I think the added distance in the Oaks will be to her benefit and she seems to train better there than anywhere.”