Meet The Field For This Year’s KYO

KY Oaks (Grade 1)- $1,250.000 Purse
CD- For Fillies Three Years Old
One Mile and One Eighth on the Dirt
May 1, 2020

At virtual CD, there will be racing this weekend. Both Friday and Saturday features an incredible card bringing many horses to this storied race track. It begins with Friday, with the centerpiece being the 17th running of the KYO, the premier race of the spring for three year old fillies. While the prep race season for the males gets the greater spotlight as they race towards the KYD, many fillies throughout the game had hopes of being here as well. They were subject to the same series of challenging prep races along the way, and had to qualify in. We have seen many great fillies have their moments in this division, but only fourteen could make it into the race. Some of the runners in this race showed talent right from the start, and could not do anything else but win as a two year old. They had others who were then their main rivals, and it seems like they would be the headliners. They have made it here, but others have emerged over the course of the season, laying the groundwork for a competitive race.

Last year was the first year that the race was run for $1,250.000, a jump of $250.000 from the previous season. It would be won by Smokey Stover and his filly Tenriyko. She was the favorite that day, and lived up to the expectations thrust upon her by the betting public. While she has only won once since, she nearly pulled off the double that is rarely done, and that is win both the KYO and the BC Distaff. In the latter race, she finished second, missing by half a length to stablemate Z Command. In the KYO, Tenrikyo defeated Z Command, not a stablemate at that time, by five lengths. In 2016, Wicked Heat was the last horse to pull off the double, winning both races.

In 2020, a handful of stables offered their opinions as to who they felt the biggest contenders for this race would be. The result of that was that there was not one clear favorite, but rather four horses that seemed to be the best bet. Behind them, it would be wide open. Early picks in a forum contest are also showing a trend towards those four horses, but others are popping up with them. Personally, even though the community leans towards those four, and that will be covered when we get to them individually (it won’t take long to get to most of them), that the field is much more wide open then it appears. Congratulations to everyone that was able to qualify at least one filly for the race. Whether you are a big or small stable, it is not an easy feat and one to be taken for granted. Let’s check out the field!

#1- Bite The Bullet (Mb Stables, ridden by D Davis)- We begin the preview off with one of those horses that is regarded as being a part of the top four. Bite The Bullet placed third in the top 12, and was the top choice amongst the trio of horses running in the Mb silks. She began her career running in state breds in NY, and showed early promise in winning the $200.000 Seeking The Ante at SAR. She was moved into graded company after that, but did not take a path towards the BC Juvenile Fillies. Instead, she won the Grade 3 Tempted at AQU in early November, continuing her steady progress in her career. Her first two races of 2020 saw her pick up a check in two preps for the KYO, and is coming off a win in the Grade 1 Ashland at KEE last month. Overall, this Spring Lover filly has won four of nine starts. No concerns were raised about her, but despite being placed at near the top on most lists, she was only on the top of one of them. I think that she has a good running style for this race, but that is tough to predict, especially with Mb Stables runners. Should have a great chance, but it will all depend on her trip.

#2- Real Nice (Allinthegate, ridden by K J Desormeaux)- Right next to Bite The Bullet, we have another one of the horses that was ranked as one of the top four contenders in the race. Real Nice received more first place votes in the polling, but not everyone felt as strongly about her, and she would place second on that spot. Her sire is Real Fishy, who is part of the Commanding line. He has produced two good foals out of 35, the other being Mystery, who had success for a while, and may be resurgent right now. Real Nice won her debut at SA in August but was never given a chance by Wolfs Den, selling her for $75.000 to Mb Stables just three days later. Mb doesn’t make many mistakes, but he let Real Nice get away six weeks later, without ever racing her, for $50.000, to Allinthegate. Now that she had her trainer, she was able to race again but did not get great results immediately. In December, she began showing her potential, starting a still active four race winning streak, the most recent being the Grade 3 Fantasy at OP. Of those that did not rank her highly, no comments were given as to why. For me, this is a horse that is peaking at the right time, and seems to have earned her role as one of the favorites here.

#3- Precise Performance (Mb Stables, ridden by R Bejarano)- The good post draw continues for three-quarters of the top four in the recent filly list. Precise Performance was there as well, being placed fourth on the list with a sizeable gap on fifth place. She is by Coin Flip, who is by Take A Million, a horse I have some connection too, so perhaps I should be rooting for her now. Pedigree also includes 2011 KYO winner, Millionaire Heiress. Her first career win came in the second start, at DMR in June, and she followed the up by winning the $100.000 Generous Portion Stakes for CA-breds, at that same race track. One attempt was made to get her on the BC trail, but as that did not go well, she was then brought back to California to run in the Golden States Juvenile Fillies instead, and she would win the race. This year, she has captured two out of three races, including the FG Oaks in late March. There was a lot of variation with her in terms of where she was placed on the top 12 lists from different stables as there are clearly some who are put off by a flat looking race line in the Alexandra in February. It could be a valid concern, especially since she has a similar line as a two year old in the Chandelier Stakes. With Mb Stables, I would lean towards her being figured out and running well here.

#4- Relax (Mb Stables, ridden by A Beschizza)- We all know the simple fact of two year old success not guaranteeing anything as a three year old. I still think most of us thought Relax would still be running at top form at least at this point in her career. That said, if we took away her fast start and just looked at recent starts, we would not be down on her. She did place fourth in the FG Oaks, so it is not as if her career has completely deteriorated. Others have simply caught up. It can never be taken away from her that she won the first seven races of her career, exciting many as she soared through the BC Juvenile Fillies, winning that race. In 2020, she has just two starts, including the Alexandra, which was just not a good race for the stable. She is by Calm Command, who as you probably guess immediately, is a son of Commanding. At the current time, Relax is the only great foal he has produced that we know of. Ended up tied for eighth on the top 12 list.

#5- Cp Great Moon Queen (Team 7 Illusions, ridden by P Lopez)- A filly that did not appear on the overall top 12 list, but did get a couple votes in spots from trainers. She simply needs to prove herself. At the SA Oaks, she ran a great race, staying near the front throughout, and placing second, earning her way into the race. But that’s it on her record, and that runner up showing was not second by a nose, it was three lengths back. With her prior trainer, Childs Play, she ran in both the Schuylerville (Grade 3) and the Sorrento Stakes (Grade 2), but finished near the back in each. Team 7 Illusions picked her up in the auction in the middle of March, for $45.000, and led her to that SA Oaks finish. Under his guidance, the horse should reach its potential, but what is her upside, exactly? That’s the big question which will show here. Her sire is Moon Ruler, and pedigree has Black Moon and good autogen lines, with Cherokee Sunset on the dam side.

#6- Sunlite (Rampage Stable, ridden by J Rosario)- The filly by Comerical (sic) Sis did not make it on the top 12 list for fillies, but did get some votes by a couple of the trainer who participated. That should not surprise, as this is a horse that is looking inconsistent at this still very young stage of her career. If she runs like she did in winning the Grade 3 Honeybee, then she can do well. Unfortunately, it is easy to discount that race as being a bit of a fluke given the three races that surround it. At the start of her career, she won a maiden at SAR, coming in her third start, and followed it up by capturing the $75.000 Hollywood Wildcat Stakes. Then, she tried to stretch it out, and that is where she has become inconsistent. Most recently, we saw her at the Grade 3 Fantasy at OP, where she started on the outside and never displayed the closing kick that she did on the same track, at the same distance, when she won the Honeybee. You can see, therefore, where the inconsistency concerns lie.

#7- The Belle Tolls (Allinthegate, ridden by J R Velazquez)- I fell in love with this horse ever since I saw her name. As a two year old, she started off red hot, winning her first four races and seemingly like the chief rival to Relax in the BC Juvenile Fillies. That winning streak included two big stakes at SAR: the Schuylerville and the Spinaway. She then ran fourth in the BC, and started to fall off the radar, it seemed. Many became attracted to the real nice other filly that the trainer has, and The Belle Tolls only finished in tenth in the Top 12 list, something that surprised me. Has she really done a lot wrong since the BC? I don’t think so. She has raced three times since; placing second in a photo in the Grade 1 Starlet (to Relax), then won the Grade 2 Las Virgenes, then was second in the GP Oaks. I think people are sleeping on this horse and see her as a major contender in this race. Her sire, Perfect Command, by you know who, has produced several talented horses along the away. She’ll start from a good post, and get her regular jockey.

#8- Drink Me Pretty (Estero Farms, ridden by R M Hernandez)- In the BC Juvenile Fillies, this Captain Rush filly finished second by half a length to Relax. Almost six months later, she was tied with Relax for eighth on the list of top fillies coming into this race. Like The Belle Tolls, I don’t think she has done much wrong since the BC, the problem is that she has not won. Her career started mildly, and even at the free track for her third start after she won at SRP. Trainer Zoeller sold her for $50.000 to Jader Stable, who sold her for $350.000 two starts later. The BC would be her first start with Estero Farms, and since then she has hit the board every time, placing second by a nose twice, but just not winning. When will she have her breakthrough? If it was here, it would be great for her trainer, but for me she looks like one of those horses you can see as a strong threat but hard to support. Pedigree has none of the usual bloodlines, but Captain Rush has produced a couple other good ones.

#9- Mercy (Smokey Stover, ridden by G Saez)- If the trainer wins the KYO for the second straight year, it will not be with the post-time favorite again. Mercy received a little more love then others in the Top 12 list, putting in her what I have deemed as the “best of the rest” of spot, sixth overall. She is one of two horses in this race that is by Spring Lover, a horse that won several graded stakes and competed in many top level races, including two TC races. It took Mercy four races to break her maiden, but she followed that up by winning the Grade 2 Alexandra, a race a couple other notable horses in this field had trouble in. She comes off a second place finish in the Grade 3 Fantasy as well. In between them is the reason she is not higher on the list, placing sixth in the FG Oaks, but only missing by a length. Working well, and I don’t think people are down on her, it’s just more of a case of seeing some others as stronger.

#10- Mad Mistress (Jokerjoes, ridden by J J Castellano)- This filly was a solid fifth on the Top 12 list that I have mentioned several times. The distance from her to the top four was about the same as the distance from her to the sixth place Mercy. She is by Indistinguishable, who is by Moment of Madness, giving her plenty of good pedigree overall between each of those champions. She won the first two races of her career, including winning her debut at TUP on April 2. She then had nearly four full months off as the trainer wisely saw no need to rush his talent and to get her right. Once back at the track, she won the CTBA Stakes at DMR, for CA-breds. After a dud, she proved that she could run long and eventually would run third in the BC Juvenile Fillies. Since then, she has continued to run well, placing second in a photo in the Las Virgenes (to The Belle Tolls), and later winning the Gazelle. Between them, was another dud. Those two duds of races are probably what is keeping her from being closer to the top four. Her potential is very apparent, but can she be trusted, knowing that she hasn’t shown up a couple of times. I do like that she has shown the ability to be successful with various tactical styles.

#11- Tell It Like It Is (Nakamura Stables, ridden by A T Gryder)- With all of the other members of the top four being on the inside of the starting gate, the filly that finished at the top of the list will have to start from out here. I found it interesting that only one trainer ranked her as number one, but as nearly everyone had her in the top three, she earned the consensus number one pick. As a two year old, she was not on the radar for this race. Her fourth start, coming at SA in October, a couple weeks before the BC, presented an opportunity for everyone to own her for $25.000 as she ran for that claiming tag. She won that race, then the allowance that followed. This year, she has emerged as a true star, winning both the Grade 2 Davona Dale at GP, then the SA Oaks (and by three lengths) last month. She seems to have a perfect mix of early speed and the ability to maintain it for the duration of the race. No reason to not like her. Her sire is Telling Ya, who has an intriguing mix of Decima and Commanding. This seems to be is only great foal, at least as we know right now.

#12- Lil Baby Bomber (Aer Stables, ridden by M J Sanchez)- It has been a fantastic year for the trainer in regards to his contenders for the KYD. In the Oaks, he has not been quite as powerful of a presence, but still is able to be excited for the race thanks to Lil Baby Bomber. The filly placed seventh on the overall top 12 list, with the majority of the trainers ranking her around that spot. She broke her maiden at SAR in her second start, and took that into the Grade 1 Frizette, where a third place finish got her into the BC Juvenile Fillies. That wasn’t her day, but better finishes after that showed that she still had plenty of potential. Last month, she was able to return to the winners circle in the Gazelle, but had to share it with Mad Mistress as they ran in a dead heat. They are the only horses to come here off of that race, which is worth a mention. She is by Bronx Bomber, who as a Yankees fan, is a sire I automatically like. He has produced several good horses during his career.

#13- Winegum Wishes (Crocker Ggs, ridden by S X Bridgmohan)- Now, we start to move to the part of the starting gate where post position can play a factor in the outcome. With one exception, it will be an unusual spot for Winegum Wishes who has been used to being in a post between one and four. She ended up eleventh on the top 12 list, with the general impression being that people like her but wish they could have seen a little more from her. She ran in a couple of NY-bred stakes as a two year old, but was dropped into an allowance off of them at a time when others in this division were moving forward. Ran fourth in the Alexandra, showing good closing kick, and that led to a win at the end of March in the GP Oaks. The races have been there, but our wishes are probably that she ran more against graded competition, and the GP Oaks is just one race. If she can build on that, she’s a threat here, but we’ll have to see. The sire is Champagne Wishes, who has Charley Farley blood.

#14- Odd Trek (D J C Racing Stables, ridden by E Jaramillo)- Last but not least, this preview closes in the same manner that the top 12 list did, with Winegum Wishes and Odd Trek making it at the bottom of the list. Odd Trek was 12th. This is simply a late bloomer, so you can see her doing great things during the summer, possibly Saratoga season, right now you have to wonder if its too soon. Then, you have this starting position. Perhaps then, if she won this race, her name would be rather suitable for how she got there. Took four tries to break her maiden; then after an allowance win, she struggled in the mud in an ungraded stake, which saw her dropped into an optional claimer at six furlongs that she won. Off of that, she was sent to the SUN Oaks, and won it. How excited do we get over that, as you’ll notice that’s the first time the SUN Oaks was mentioned in the preview. I like her works a lot, but that’s really what makes me feel like her best races are a couple months from now instead. Connectivity is the sire, and he’s produced a couple other good ones, including Na Pali.

Race Thoughts: I agree with the trainers that sent me lists that the consensus top four are all great picks and contenders, but I also believe a lot of people are sleeping on The Belle Tolls. As the three year old season moved on, I think she was more a victim of the recency factor with new contenders emerging and exciting us, then anything she actually did wrong. Allinthegate has a lot to be excited about as the owner of both her and Real Nice, and I am placing both inside my top four. Precise Performance is another I really like and is my favorite of the entries that Mb brings in. I won’t be picking Relax, but part of me would love to see her win for the story that it would be. After all, it’s not as if her form has completely been shot. Drink Me Pretty, Mercy, and Mad Mistress are horses I like a lot but there are not enough spaces for them in my top four. Tell It Like It Is is a horse that you cannot go wrong with. Wins in five out of six and makes everyone wonder what might have been if they claimed her for $25.000. She’ll be one of my picks, but like was seen in top 12 lists I got, I just can’t put her on top. We’ll see a great race on Friday, all fourteen of these horses have earned their way into the race because they have, at minimum, shown signs of brilliance at one point. I don’t see a single horse in this field who is back tracking into the race and is here only on past laurels. Enjoy the race!

Prediction: 2-3-7-11

— NS

Categories: Grade I, STAKES ARTICLES, TC 2018-20

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