April 28, 2015
It is one of the longest standing and most prestigious races in the United States and as such, attracts the best of the best from around the country to compete. It has been held since 1875 and over the years, has been won by champions, Hall Of Famers and Horses of The Year, with a huge longshot of two thrown in for good measure. The best owners and trainers have taken down victories and list of winners reads as a textbook to greatness, both on and off the racetrack.
Of course, we are talking about the Kentucky…Oaks! The filly counterpart to the Run For The Roses, it has just as storied a history as its male equivalent and on Friday afternoon, under the Twin Spires at CD, it will be run yet again at its now familiar nine-furlong distance with another top class purse of $1000.000 being offered to whichever sophomore filly is good enough to win. The early years saw some namesakes prove best including Modesty in 1884 and Monrovia in 1893 but it was not until the 1920’s and 30s that the true champions started to emerge including Princess Doreen, Black Maria and the incredible Alcibiades. The 1960’s brought another renaissance to this classic race as Cicada, Blue Norther and Filly Triple Crown winner Dark Mirage all emerged on top while in the 1980’s, with the start of the Breeders Cup, there was a real showcase to continue through the entire year with Princess Rooney, Fran’s Valentine, Goodbye Halo and Open Mind all competing in the year end championships. In recent years, true superstars have emerged victorious before taking their talents to other rings including Silverbulletday, who raced in the Belmont Stakes, Rags To Riches, who won the Belmont in 2007, and the brilliant Rachel Alexandra, who won the Woodward Stakes at SAR in her Horse Of The Year campaign in 2009.
At HRP, the KY Oaks has been a stepping stone for some of the greatest fillies to look through a virtual bridle but it did not start out that way back in 2004, when only five horses lined up led by BC Juvenile Filly winner Theladydontmind. When she failed to fire at all, Outrageous Nevada was more than up to the task and she proved much the best in what was only a fledgling glimpse of what was to come. I had the honour of covering the 2005 edition for the SRF and that was the race that defined Java Jive as a truly mighty horse and after five Grade I wins in a row, and a BC Distaff championship as well, she began her career as a broodmare and ushered in the age of breeding and huge spending on foals as a sign of the HRP times. Ashtons Pride clung to a wire-to-wire victory in 2006 after opening up six-lengths on the field down the backstretch while Just Too Blue completed an Ashland-Oaks double in 2007 but both were taken out of racing far too soon, without the ability to make their mark on babies to come. Winter Moon had everything going for her in 2008 and won in a thriller over triple Grade I winner Shout and she carried that line over to her first foal, when My Mommy Is My Aunt finished a close in 2011 behind five-time Grade I winner and $3200.000 earner Funky Music. Stella Artois became another Ashland winner to move to CD and score in the Oaks, taking down the 2013 edition as one of her five career Grade I wins while last year, it was Iron Sloth who scored a 17-1 upset and in her wake, left numerous fillies behind her who have gone on to Grade I success and even, year-end championships.
Now, the focus turns to 2015 and a prospective field of 14 assembled, with none of the fillies having enough points to enter the Derby, and the likely favourite was drawn to one of the farthest outside stalls while many of the other prep winners were drawn inside with the chance to save ground. Distance should not be a factor to many and there are really no expected surprises from the races precluding so a good filly should win; choosing which one will be the $64,000 question.
1-Broomsticks N Booty (Three-year-old bay filly / Owner-Drabfantasy)
The only really bad efforts that Broomsticks N Booty has put forth were a tiring sixth in the Grade II Natalma on turf and her off-the-board effort against the best in the Grade I BC Juvenile Fillies and coming in off a score in the Grade III Honeybee at OP, with a completely new running style, she certainly looks to be coming into her own as the Oaks approaches. The inside post might not suit that closing style perfectly and her speed ratings are not up to par with others but rest assured that she will be at her peak come Friday; whether that is good enough to tackle the upper echelons once again is still to be determined.
Analysis-Inside post might not work well with her new closing kick
2-Team Nebraska (Three-year-old gray filly / Owner-Downwind Stables)
Team Nebraska was made the favourite for the Juvenile Fillies off a huge win in the Grade I Frizette and did not disappoint despite finishing fourth and since then, a big win in the Las Virgenes and a charging second in the Grade II GP Oaks make her a logical contender to win in her third start of the season. Rounding into form with some of the best speed ratings in the field, she blitzed a six-furlong workout over the CD strip in preparation and the post position should give her the options to drop back into the second or third tier and make a move that will clearly be aided by the extra distance.
Analysis-GP Oaks was the prep and now she is ready for the big one
3-Athenas Wish (Three-year-old bay filly / Owner-Riggins Racing)
The forgotten commodity in the KY Oaks is really Athenas Wish and having never been given the respect she deserves, she comes into CD under the radar and as such, could have a huge impact on the outcome if she just runs her race. She closed from well off the fractions to just miss in the Santa Ysabel but got all the marbles with a brilliant run in the Grade II Gazelle going this same distance and that experience might put her over the top against some fillies who will be battle tested to get nine-furlongs for the first time.
Analysis-Knows the course and knows the distance
4-The Reaper (Three-year-old bay filly / Owner-Hawaiian Shirt Guy)
Owner Downwind Stables was supposed to win the BC Juvenile Fillies with favoured Team Nebraska but The Reaper proved best on that day to secure a championship and now, will try to become another champion with a big win here, despite racing for new owners. Hawaiian Shirt Guy took all the time they needed getting her ready and you cannot fault a third in the Grade II FG Oaks in preparation but the fear is that she might not have improved as much as others in her division and she will need to step up her game to score against fillies who have targeted her since that upset at SA.
Analysis-Under the gun and that kind of pressure is daunting
5-Lovely Rosa (Three-year-old bay filly / Owner-Wolfs Den)
The first real longshot in the KY Oaks draws one of the middle post positions and although Lovely Rosa was able to outrun the champion in the FG Oaks, her lackluster effort in the Grade II Beaumont going short is a cause for concern and she will need to show vast improvement to even hit the board. A change in jockey, and the removal of Bute, might be enough to sway some of her backers but she has not really proven her might against this class before and she looks to be overmatched in a field of the best in her division.
Analysis-Has not done enough to warrant a big look
6-Laffin In Texas (Three-year-old bay filly / Owner-Sanny Village)
What Laffin In Texas lacked in closing kick when seventh in the Juvenile Fillies, she has now found in two mammoth wins to start her three-year-old campaign and while both her close finishes, it proves that she has the winning spirit and most importantly, that she can handle a route of ground. She seems to be one of the few in the field who can set things up early on the engine and that will be to her advantage in the long run, especially if she can get the jump on the closers under a jockey who is quite experienced and knows CD very well.
Analysis-Will get a headstart on the closers with her early speed
7-Dont Freak Out (Three-year-old gray filly / Owner-Visceral Farms)
A pair of allowance wins and a score in the SUN Oaks might be enough for Dont Freak Out to earn her spot in the KY Oaks starting gate but she will have to improve against the might of the best Grade I caliber and on paper, even that might not be enough to score on Friday afternoon. Less seasoned than others in the field, and without the necessary Grade I experience, it will be left to the racing gods to push her to her best or leave her in the shadows and if I was betting, I would most likely count on the latter happening with the hope that she makes a good showing for her connections.
Analysis-Won at SUN but this is the big time
8-Sweep The Ash (Three-year-old chestnut filly / Owner-Running Farms)
Sweep The Ash tried to earn all of her massive $450.000 purchase price back with a score in the Grade I SA Oaks and she nearly did as the favourite when second-best but now, she will try to build on that success with another run at the big girls at CD and can use that experience to its fullest advantage. Her speed ratings have continued to improve and with only five races under her belt, she has the least to prove and the most to gain and with that kind of mentality, she can easily go out there and swing for the fences with a grand slam easily within her reach.
Analysis-Warrants a big look as a filly with so much improvement left
9-Hellonheels (Three-year-old gray filly / Owner-Wolf Ridge Stables)
Two straights wins in the Silverbulletday and Alexandra Stakes, both named for past Oaks winners, should have made Hellonheels a lock in the FG Oaks but she completely bombed in a major regression and now, ranks as a longshot rather than one of the favourites to continue her move forward. Now, she will need her best just to hit the board and with speed ratings that are far below the best, and the fact that there is little speed to chase, she might be unable to close like she normally does and that spells trouble.
Analysis-FG Oaks knocked her back a few steps
10-Google Maps (Three-year-old gray filly / Owner-Aml Racing)
It took five races for Google Maps to find her course to the winner’s circle but since then, she has won three in a row including a powerful upset in the SA Oaks and now, looks to continue that streak at CD in what could be a career-defining effort for the daughter of Grade I winner Five Spirits. Her 99-speed rating is the best in the field and she has been able to close into any kind of pace so while she might not have the experiences that others bring, she knows how to win and that is key if you’re going to, well, win.
Analysis-That SA Oaks win jumps off the page
11-Shimoon Kruz (Three-year-old black filly / Owner-Ekli Stable)
The now-horse in the KY Oaks is most definitely Shimoon Kruz and a quintet of wins in South Florida including the Grade II Davona Dale and the Grade II GP Oaks make her a huge chance to take home a second straight Oaks and establish herself as the best of her crop. Her only career losses came in her debut at WO and in a second-place effort against males in the Frost King and with that kind of record, one can overlook the lack of racing experience around two-turns and look to the sheer talent, especially at an inflated price.
Analysis-The only knock is that single race going long
12-Wildstile (Three-year-old gray filly / Owner-Sanny Village)
Wildstile is only a minor stakes winner from eight career starts and winless against top class company in three starts this year so if she does win the KY Oaks, it will be as a huge longshot from a huge disadvantage with her outside draw. What is worse is that she was favoured in her last two starts at TAM and AQU, and could not come up with a win in either event, and if she could not get the victory against reachable fields, picking her in this talented lineup is almost futile.
Analysis-Not talented enough to win this tough event
13-Miss Phooey Beech (Three-year-old bay filly / Owner-LionKing Stables)
Multiple Grade I winner Miss Phooey Beech might just be one of the best of her generation, male or female, and after finishing second by a neck in both the CA Cup Derby and the Grade III Spiral, she comes in looking to become the latest filly to complete the Ashland-Oaks double and looks every bit the part to do so. She has never been a huge workout type of filly and that has served her just fine but what might make her the type to bet against is the fact that she has never won a race by more than a length; she does what she needs to win and sometimes, that is just not enough.
Analysis-Amazingly talented when she gets her nose down on the line first
14-The Clash (Three-year-old gray filly / Owner-Salamanca Stables)
Bourbonette Oaks winner The Clash has only been off the board once in ten career starts but has never really faced this level of competition before and will have to overcome that fact, and the farthest stall, to win at CD on Friday. Couple that with speed ratings lower than others and workouts that are only average to good and you have a filly who is a notch below the best and who will be better suited in smaller stakes races down the line.
Analysis-Tough to back the outside starter unless you are the choice
As expected, much of the talk and hype surrounding the Grade I KY Oaks has been with Miss Phooey Beech, two heads away from possibility heading into the KYD as one of the top contenders but instead, the likely favourite here despite one of the farthest outside gates. Her win in the Ashland might not have been the prettiest but there is no doubt the talent is there and if she can save any kind of ground into the first turn, she will be moving up down the backstretch and rocketing into the lane en route to victory.
Team Nebraska won the Las Virgenes with a powerful sweep to the lead but got caught behind a slower pace in the GP Oaks and could only manage second as the odds-on choice. Now, she gets more ground to work with and that will play to her advantage if the pace is anywhere close to solid. Athenas Wish will try to give owner Riggins Racing back to back scores in the Oaks and will do so as the only one of two winners in the field at nine-furlongs after her score in the Gazelle last time out. She certainly has the tools to win this race and many more down the line so that is why she firmly sits in the top three, ahead of horses like Juvenile Fillies winner The Reaper, SA Oaks winner Google Maps and GP Oaks winner Shimoon Kruz.
Win-Miss Phooey Beech (3/1)
Place-Team Nebraska (7/2)
Show-Athenas Wish (5/1)
Triple T Racing 🙂
Categories: Grade I