A field of thirteen has assembled for the 140th edition of the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). Often referred to as the sister race to America's most famous race, the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), the Oaks attracts a field of the nation's finest three-year-old fillies year after year. This year is no different – with the likes of the superstars Untapable and My Miss Sophia, as well as several other talented fillies – in the field.
1. PLEASE EXPLAIN: After a pair of seconds and a third, Please Explain broke her maiden at fourth asking when she romped in a mile and one-sixteenth maiden special weight at Gulfstream Park in late December. After an 8-length demolition of the Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, Please Explain was shipped to Arkansas, where she faced graded stakes company for the first time. There, she finished third in the Honeybee Stakes (gr. III) – she was later disqualified due to a medication violation – and seventh of eight in the Fantasy Stakes (gr. III).
Please Explain may run well, but a win by her seems unlikely.
2. RIA ANTONIA: Fifth in her debut, which came against stakes company, Ria Antonia dropped down to maiden company in her second outing, where she annihilated a field going six furlongs over Woodbine’s synthetic track. Fourth against males in the Swynford Stakes next out, Ria Antonio then shipped to Belmont for her graded stakes debut in the Frizette Stakes (gr. I). Racing over dirt for the first time, Ria Antonia finished a lackluster fifth. The following month, as the second longest shot in the field, Ria Antonia crossed the wire a narrowly beaten second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) before being promoted to first after being hindered by the winner. A distant fourth behind Untapable in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (gr. III) in her three-year-old debut, Ria Antonia’s most recent start resulted in a runner-up performance in the Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I).
Dirt may not be Ria Antonia’s best surface and while she is capable of winning at the highest level, she does not win often. Although she performed well in the Santa Anita Oaks, she has yet to replicate her Breeders’ Cup effort. She will need to do so in order to win here.
3. SUGAR SHOCK: After a pair of losses at Churchill Downs in the fall of her two-year-old season, Sugar Shock broke her maiden at Oaklawn Park in January. After easily defeating winners in an allowance next out, she made her graded stakes debut in the Honeybee Stakes (gr. III), in which she crossed the wire first but was demoted to second due to interference. A month later, she redeemed herself with a game victory in the Fantasy Stakes (gr. III).
Sugar Shock is quite possibly the best of any filly entering the race from the Oaklawn route and while she will need to run the race of her life to win this, she deserves a look.
4. ROSALIND: Following a maiden win on the turf at Ellis Park in August, Rosalind was third behind Untapable in the Pocahontas Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs. After a runner-up effort in the Alcibiades Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland, Rosalind shipped west for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), in which she rallied well to finish a narrowly beaten third. Racing again in California in her subsequent start, Rosalind was fourth in the Hollywood Starlet Stakes (gr. I) – a race in which Untapable finished third. Making her three-year-old debut at the allowance level at Gulfstream in February, Rosalind could only manage third. However, she redeemed herself when winning the Ashland Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland in a dead head with Room Service.
Rosalind has never won on dirt, but has made quite the impression while training for the Oaks, appearing to have no issues with Churchill’s dirt surface. She has never run a bad race, but her wins do not come often. However, she is certainly one of the fillies to beat.
5. THANK YOU MARYLOU: Facing stakes company in her very first start, Thank You Marylou easily won the Tippett Stakes while sprinting on the turf at Colonial Downs. Transitioning to dirt for the Adirondack Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga, Thank You Marylou managed to cross the wire third after a very rough stretch run, which resulted in her being promoted to second. Kept away from the races for seven months, Thank You Marylou returned a winner in the seven-furlong Any Limit Stakes at Gulfstream Park. In her final Oaks prep, the Ashland Stakes (gr. I) over the synthetic surface at Keeneland, Thank You Marylou flattened to finish third, beaten seven lengths.
Thank You Marylou may have a tough time keeping up with the top contenders in this field.
6. KISS MOON: After breaking her maiden on the Polytrack at Turfway Park in December, Kiss Moon competed on the dirt for the first time in her three-year-old debut when she romped in a one-mile allowance at Oaklawn Park. She then disappointed with a seventh-place finish in the Martha Washington Stakes before crossing the wire a decent fourth in the Honeybee Stakes (gr. III) before being promoted to third following the disqualifications of other competitors. Next out, she was a game second behind Sugar Shock in the Fantasy Stakes (gr. III).
Kiss Moon has seemed to take a liking to the Churchill Downs surface while training there in preparation for the Oaks, but in order for her to win, she will need to step up.
7. FASHION PLATE: Entering the race off a three-race winning streak, Fashion Plate broke her maiden in her third start last December, dominating a six-furlong maiden special weight. She then followed up that win with game victories in the Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I) and Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I).
Fashion Plate has never run a bad race, but racing outside of California for the first time – especially against such stiff competition – will not be an easy task for her. However, she is one of the most naturally talented fillies in the field and seems to have a better chance of winning than several of her competitors. It is worth noting that she defeated Streaming – a filly who beat both Rosalind and Untapable (who would later defeat Streaming in the Rachel Alexandra) in the Hollywood Starlet (gr. I) – in the Las Virgenes.
8. AURELIA’S BELLE: A narrow winner of her debut at Keeneland last October, Aurelia's Belle was a distant third in the six-furlong Old Hat Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park in her sophomore debut. After finishing second in the Forward Gal Stakes (gr. II) and third in the Davona Dale Stakes (gr. II), both of which were contested on the dirt at Gulfstream, Aurelia's Belle returned to the synthetic in the one-mile Bourbonette Oaks (gr. III), which she won easily.
Although she has run well on the dirt, Aurelia’s Belle seems to be a synthetic specialist. Furthermore, several of the fillies in this field appear to outshine her. However, at 50-1 morning line odds, she offers good value.
9. UNBRIDLED FOREVER: Unbridled Forever broke her maiden by open lengths at second asking at Churchill Downs. In her sophomore debut, Unbridled Forever won the Silverbulletday Stakes at Fair Grounds. Next out, however, she was a weak and distant second behind Untapable in the Fair Grounds Stakes (gr. II).
It is worth noting that Unbridled Forever has a win over the Churchill surface, but she has been outrun by Untapable before and although Unbridled Forever is a gifted filly, it is unlikely that she will keep that from happening again. However, she does seem to be more capable than a good portion of the field.
10. EMPRESS OF MIDWAY: Empress of Midway has raced only three times, finishing a distant third in her debut at Santa Anita in February before breaking her maiden less than three weeks later against a small field. She then was shipped to New Mexico, where she was defeated by 4 ¼ lengths when she ran second to Awesome Baby in the Sunland Park Oaks.
This filly holds promise, but it would be a big surprise if Empress of Midway won the Oaks. Nonetheless, this is horse racing and anything can happen.
11. MY MISS SOPHIA: After beginning her career with a runner-up effort in a maiden special weight going five and one-half furlongs at Gulfstream in February, My Miss Sophia stretched out to a mile next out, winning by 11 lengths. She was then sent to Aqueduct for the Gazelle Stakes (gr. II) going a mile and one-eighth, which she won by 7 ¼ lengths.
My Miss Sophia is one of the top horses to beat in this race. She has been brilliant in her two wins and has been visually impressive while training at Churchill Downs.
12. GOT LUCKY: Got Lucky entered the Demoiselle Stakes (gr. II) last November despite finishing second in her first and only previous start, facing five others. A game second in that nine-furlong race, Got Lucky returned to the maiden special weight level at the end of January at Gulfstream, romping in a one mile event. After running second to Untapable in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (gr. III), in which she finished 9 ½ lengths behind the Oaks favorite, Got Lucky was shipped north for the Gazelle Stakes (gr. II), in which she finished second behind the dominant My Miss Sophia.
Got Lucky has had the misfortune of encountering two of the most dominant fillies in the Oaks along the journey to the race. She was clearly second best in her races against Untapable and My Miss Sophia and it is doubtful that she will be able to turn the tables on those two in the Oaks.
13. UNTAPABLE: After winning her debut and the Pocahontas Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs, Untapable shipped west for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). She finished a very disappointing eighth and a month later was third in the Hollywood Starlet Stakes (gr. I). However, once she turned three, she was like a different filly. Making her sophomore debut in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (gr. III) at the Fair Grounds, she dominated the field by 9 ½ lengths. A month later, she won the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) in similar fashion.
Untapable will certainly garner most of the attention in this race, and rightfully so. Comparisons to Rachel Alexandra, the 2009 Horse of the Year who captured that year’s Kentucky Oaks by 20 ¼ lengths, have run rampant regarding this filly. She has managed to annihilate the fields she has faced in her two starts this year. This race is clearly tougher than both of those races were, but that may not matter with a filly as brilliant as Untapable.
It is hard to ignore Untapable and My Miss Sophia in this race. Both of these fillies are absolutely brilliant and look hard to beat. I am torn between the two of them, but will give a nod in Untapable’s direction. I also expect top performances from Sugar Shock, Fashion Plate, and Rosalind.