1. Unbridled Forever (Unbridled’s Song - Lemons Forever, by Lemon Drop Kid) Dallas Stewart – A daughter of a Kentucky Oaks winner, Unbridled Forever has yet to run against anything but maidens, but if you saw her run on Saturday, you know her potential is large. After making a middle move in her debut, she flashed major talent in start two at Churchill Downs this past Saturday. Facing a large field of well intended maidens going seven furlongs, she moved smoothly from the outside, and always looked like a winner as she rolled to a 5 ¼ length victory over favored, Resistivity, who was way ahead of the rest. The time of 1:21.91 equalled how impressive she looked, and her speed figure for the win easily bettered the winners of the Golden Rod and Kentucky Jockey Club later in the day. The pedigree is there, and the talent is there. Look for her to be tough to beat in stakes races at Fair Grounds this winter and spring.
2. Bird Maker (Empire Maker - Bird Harbor by Boston Harbor) Ian Wilkes – Rating this one so high may seem like a bit of a stretch to some, but I really liked what I saw her in her recent second place finish in the Golden Rod. Made a lukewarm favorite after impressively breaking her maiden under the twin spires in her second start, she looked inexperienced and green, but she kept coming in the 1 1/16 mile, grade 2. Vexed got the jump on her, and was a deserving winner, but I look for this one to make great strides under the talented eye of trainer, Ian Wilkes. She has the rallying style that has won many editions of the Kentucky Oaks, has two good races over the Churchill Downs strip under her belt, and has the pedigree to both handle the distance, and to get better next year.
3. Sweet Reason (Street Sense - Livermore Leslie, by Mt. Livermore) Leah Gyarmati - She may have hung just a touch when a rallying fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, but it came on a track that likely is not her favorite. She has demonstrated a strong kick in each of her four starts, including a grade 1 win in the Spinaway, and a somewhat unlucky second in the prestigious Frizette. I believe the thought that she is only a slopper, has been put to rest, and now it may just be a matter if she can carry her explosive rally around two-turns on the first Friday in May. While she does have some sprint influence on her female side, as a daughter of Kentucky Derby winner, Street Sense, I think she will be just fine.
4. She’s A Tiger (Tale of the Cat - Shandra Smiles, by Cahill Road) Jeff Bonde – This is the one I believe has earned the Juvenile Fillies Eclipse Award. Taking after her talented older brother, Smiling Tiger, she has demonstrated talent and class since day one. After a big maiden win at Pleasenton, she moved right into important stakes racing both smoothly and tenaciously. Game wins in the Landaluce and Del Mar Debutante, and gritty second-place finishes in the Sorrento and Chandelier earned her a place atop the California two-year-old fillies going into the BC Juvenile Fillies. She may have been taken down in a controversial decision in that one, but her effort was enormous. Blazing through a 1:09.30 opening six furlongs, she dared the large field to come and get her, and when they did, she fought back bravely. It’s still five months out, but She’s A Tiger is a good bet to set the early Kentucky Oaks pace.
5. Rosalind (Broken Vow - Critics Acclaim, by Theatrical) Ken McPeek – Her rally may not have carried her to victory, since a debut win on the turf at Ellis Park, but it has gotten her right into the mix of three consecutive graded stakes, including a fast closing third-place finish in the BC Juvenile Fillies. While the two fillies on her outside received most of the attention after the race, Rosalind looked like she was going to get there in a few more jumps. She has already proven adept on any surface, and may have more distance breeding than any filly on this list. An expected start in the upcoming Hollywood Starlet, could see her not only repeat her trainer’s success in the late season test of last year with Pure Fun, but also result in her moving towards being a Kentucky Oaks winterbook favorite for many.
6. Got Lucky (A.P. Indy - Malka, by Deputy Minister) Todd Pletcher - This well bred miss from the talent rich Pletcher barn has only made two lifetime starts, but has quickly made an impression as a filly with a future. After breaking slowly in her career debut, she made up a lot of ground to finish second by a length to the good filly, Penwith. She met that same foe again in the Grade 2 Demoiselle, and was crowded by that one while rallying up the rail. She briefly stuck her nose in front after getting through, but was narrowly beaten to the wire by her more experienced stablemate, Stopchargingmaria. It would seem only experience stands in her way of becoming a good one.
7. Vexed (Arch - Cross, by Mighty) Al Stall Jr. – After finishing a well beaten third on the Polytrack of Arlington Park in her career debut, this filly came back to run three strong races at Churchill Downs. You already know that I like her second best of the Golden Rod fillies, but on the other hand, she also has the pedigree to develop with maturity. While I have not been overly impressed with any of her races to date, continued improvement certainly puts her in the mix. Looking to carry on the wonderful tradition of Claiborne Farm, I was high on her sister, Sign, this time last year, but that did not work out due to injuries. Maybe this one has the goods to pick up where her older sister left off.
8. Ria Antonio (Rockport Harbor - Beer Baroness, by Mr. Greeley) Jeremiah Engelhart - This filly has done things a little differently in her short career. She debuted in Canada in the My Dear Stakes. A non-descript fifth place finish was followed by a maiden race against males, also at Woodbine. She won that one big, prompting her connections to throw her into a stakes race against males, in which she faded to fourth. Things only got more difficult after entering the Jeremiah Engelhart barn. Her first race in America resulted in fifth place finish in the Grade 1 Frizette. She continued to work well, though, and she was given a shot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, and boy did she take advantage. Rallying strongly she was bumped by She’s A Tiger in deep stretch, and after coming up just a nose short, she was awarded the victory on a majority decision by the stewards at odds of 32-1. I’m still not completely sure what to think about her, but it’s obvious that she has been always well intended, and she put it all together at Santa Anita.
9. Artemis Agrotera (Roman Ruler - Indy Glory, by A.P. Indy) Michael Hushion – Clearly, this is one talented New York-bred. Winning her career debut against state breds by a pole was one thing, but parlaying that sprint win at the Spa, to a grade 1 victory in the historic Frizette was quite a coup. If she would have taken it one step further, and shipped cross-country to win the BC Juvenile Fillies in her third start, she would have been a clear cut choice as champion. Of course she did not, after chasing She’s A Tiger through a fast early pace, she faded to a well beaten fifth. On the one hand, I wonder if she is more of a one-turn type, but on the other hand, I know she is a talent, and I am willing to give her a pass for her loss at Santa Anita. I would not be surprised if she makes a lot of noise next year.
10. Stopchargingmaria (Tale of the Cat – Exotic Bloom, by Montbrook) Todd Pletcher – One of the few multiple graded stakes winners of the division; both of those wins came at Aqueduct. After not quite being up to the challenge of Sweet Reason and Artemis Agrotera in consecutive grade 1 attempts, she came back to romp in the Tempted, before grinding out a victory in the Demoiselle. While it’s true that she has not run a bad one in five career races, and must be respected, I believe that others might be better suited for nine furlongs at Churchill Downs and are likely to pass her by as they become more experienced.