While there was little in the way of Kentucky Oaks caliber
racing taking place last weekend this weekend features two fields of fillies
that are more than capable of making the grade in the big dance. Inglorious is
the big cheese running this Saturday but before we get to the races a few
things have happened since last week that may have a significant impact on the
outcome of the Kentucky Oaks.
Grade 1 winning filly Rigoletta has been retired from
racing. It was announced on Wednesday that a tendon injury was discovered after
her sixth place finish in the Honeybee Stakes on March 12th and
rather than risk her coming back at a lesser level of racing she will instead
be bred this year. Last year Rigoletta won the Grade 1 Oak Leaf Stakes to
finish out her juvenile campaign after finishing third in the Grade 1 Darley
The Grade 1 Ashland Stakes has become the most
anticipated Kentucky Oaks prep of the season. On Monday leading Kentucky Oaks
contender Kathmanblu was withdrawn from consideration for the Fair Grounds Oaks
this weekend in favor of the April 9th Ashland Stakes at Keeneland.
On Thursday trainer John Ward announced that his star filly Dancinginherdreams
will also make her next start in the Ashland Stakes. It will be the first time
the gorgeous Tapit filly tries her luck around two turns. She will also be
racing over synthetics for the first time and stretching out to 1 1/16 miles.
It was originally assumed she would head for the 1 1/8 mile Gulfstream Oaks on
April 2nd but Ward likes the extra week his filly will receive when
she heads for the Ashland. Needless to say the Ashland results will play a huge
role in the overall Kentucky Oaks picture and might very well decide the race
Inglorious leads a cast of 10 fillies in the Fair Grounds
Oaks on Saturday and looks like the one to beat with Kathmanblu out of the
picture. She will enter the Grade 2 race as favorite in her second start of the
year. Last year the Canadian-bred filly went undefeated in two starts at
Woodbine before finishing second by 1 ¼ lengths behind Kathmanblu in the Rachel
Alexandra Stakes to begin her 3-year-old campaign. She was compromised somewhat
in the Rachel Alexandra by the slow pace scenario but figures to have a much stronger
pace up front in the Fair Grounds Oaks to close into.
He may not have Kathmanblu running in the Fair Grounds
Oaks but trainer Kenny McPeek still has a very consistent and talented filly in
Niji’s Grand Girl. In seven lifetime starts Niji’s Grand Girl has never
finished off the board. Three starts back she finished second to Bouquet Booth
in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Princess Stakes (Gr.3) to close out her juvenile
season. She began 2011 with a hard fought allowance victory at Gulfstream on
January 22nd before finishing third in the Florida Oaks behind
Dynamic Holiday. She’s entering the race off a speedy :59:85 5 furlong move.Daisy Devine last was seen finishing second to Bouquet
Booth in the Silverbulletday Stakes after mounting a strong rally that fell just
short at the wire. She appears to be improving and talented but hasn’t started
since her runner-up finish to Bouquet Booth on January 22nd.
Tapit Dancer crossed the line last in the Rachel
Alexandra Stakes in her last start and will have to improve by leaps and bounds
to make a dent here.Grandacious finished sixth in the Martha Washington Stakes
as the favorite in her last start after finishing second to Gran Lioness in the
My Trusty Cat Stakes. She enters off two identical and exceptionally slow 5
furlong moves that she finished up in 1:03.40 at Fair Grounds. Grandacious
figures to be on or close to the lead.
The field is complete by Switching Gears, Tapit Dancer,
Snow Fall, Tourmaline, St. John’s River and Little Miss Holly who finished
third in the Silverbulletday Stakes in her last start.
Inglorious is easily the class of this field and could
set herself up as one of the favorites in the Kentucky Oaks with a decisive win in the Fair Grounds Oaks.
[Niji's Grand Girl is currently ranked #78 on the HRN Kentucky Oaks Contenders page while Gran Lioness is ranked extremely low at #81]
Gran Lioness will be the headliner in the 6 furlong Prima
Donna Stakes at Oaklawn Park and facing her will be the up and coming Arienza.
Gran Lioness was last seen finishing third in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes after
setting the pace and holding on well in the stretch to hit the board. She
started the year with an easy win in the My Trusty Cat Stakes at Delta Downs.
The cut back in distance should be right up her alley.Arienza is the product of royal breeding being the
daughter of Horse of the Year Azeri and the exceptionally talented Giant’s
Causeway. She won the only start of her career on March 6th by 2 ½ lengths
and with a pedigree like hers the sky could be the limit for this filly. It’s a
big step up in class as her only prior start came in her maiden special weight
I personally like Gran Lioness, she has proven herself a
game and talented filly that always runs a competitive race when faced with
Photo Courtesy of Michael Burns