The 137th Kentucky Oaks on May 6th is stacking up to be one of the deepest and most diverse fields in history. Of the nine fillies on today’s list six are graded stakes winners, three have posted consecutive wins, 7 have never finished off the board in their last three starts and one is undefeated. I’ve been doing some serious analyzing of these nine fillies races over the weekend in an effort to rank them as fairly as possible. As I result I think I was able to compile a much more accurate list than last week but it was still tough deciding on the top three spots.
The Novel Nine:
1) Kathmanblu – She keeps the top spot over R Heat Lightning by a whisker. I like her schedule better than R Heat Lightning’s for one thing, she will enter the Oaks four weeks after she runs in the April 9th Ashland Stakes (gr.1) which means she will be sharp and fit. Trainer Kenny McPeek gave her a stout workout on Saturday when she fired off a 5 furlong bullet in a fantastic time of :59.00 flat. She’s going to be ready to run her ‘A’ game on Saturday in the Ashland against a strong field. Another reason for keeping her at #1 is her impressive Golden Rod win last year over Churchill Downs dirt track, plus she’s won three-in-a-row.
2) R Heat Lightning – You literally can’t say anything bad about this filly after her romp in the Gulfstream Oaks. She’s done everything right in her last two starts by relaxing behind the pace, moving herself into position nearing the top of the stretch and responding to the slightest move from jockey John Velasquez to kick away in the stretch. She has won her last two starts by more than 15 lengths and felt the whip just once.
3) Joyful Victory – She has posted two solid 5 furlong works since her devastating Honeybee win on March 12. Her first work on March 29th went in 1:01.60 and on Tuesday morning she went 5 furlongs in a strong 1:00.80 in preparation for her Fantasy Stakes (gr.2) run this Sunday at Oaklawn Park. She could be facing an average field in the Fantasy with the possible exception of Arienza if she is entered. Her move in the Honeybee continues to be one of the strongest performances this year, she didn’t just draw away, she exploded halfway around the far turn and then continued that incredible pace all the way through the stretch.
4) Zazu – While her main rival Turbulent Descent takes on Gran Lioness and Pomeroy’s Pistol in the 7 furlong April 17th Beaumont Stakes (gr.2), Zazu it seems will be pointing straight for the Kentucky Oaks after her hard-fought second place finish in the Santa Anita Oaks on March 5th. That gives her a break of 9 weeks to work up to the Kentucky Oaks. It’s not the ideal schedule you want to see in a filly pointing for such tough race but Zazu has a very solid 2-year-old foundation and has raced 7 times in her career finishing no worse than second in her last three starts. Trainer John Sadler has brought her along very progressively this year entering her first at 7 furlongs, then 1 mile, then 1 1/16 and now she heads to the 1 1/8 mile Kentucky Oaks which was custom built for her closing-punch style of running. She has breezed an easy 4 and 5 furlongs since her last race but you can rest assured Sadler will pick up the tempo as May 6th approaches. Interestingly Sadler feels his filly will do very well at Churchill Downs especially if the track comes up sloppy.
5) Dancinginherdreams – After the Ashland Stakes on Saturday we will have a much better idea of where this talented Tapit filly stands. She ran an uncharacteristically dull second in the Davona Dale behind R Heat Lightning’s powerhouse win but was completely out of her element being so close to the pace. Her last work was a slow :50.70 four furlong move but she fired off a 1:00.00 flat 5 furlong bullet the week before that to show her readiness. Kathmanblu seems to be coming into the race stronger than her so she will have to step up her game quite a bit to show she can make an impact in the Kentucky Oaks. It’s hard to remember that this filly has only run 4 times and never finished worse than second so I’m willing to throw out her last race and hold out hope that we will see the real Dancinginherdreams show up and give Kathmanblu a serious challenge. She will be running over Polytrack for the second time at Keeneland in the Ashland Stakes after breaking her maiden over the synthetic track on October 10th last year. One thing that still gives her a big advantage in the Kentucky Oaks pursuit is the fact that she is undefeated in her only start over Churchill Downs dirt surface.
6) Plum Pretty – This is another filly who will most likely be heading straight for the Kentucky Oaks after the most dominating win by a filly in the entire nation all year. Trainer Bob Baffert was thrilled with her Sunland Park Oaks win where she won by 25 lengths after swooping to the lead from just off the pace. If she can maintain the same form she showed winning the Sunland Park Oaks or even improve heading to Churchill Downs she has an excellent chance to win. If she regresses from her super-horse effort or peaked too soon she could be in a bad spot. Her works leading up to the Oaks will tell us a lot about where she is from a fitness standpoint. She hails from the same sire as Rachel Alexandra, Medaglia d’Oro.
7) Summer Soiree –Her 10 ¾ length Bourbonette Oaks (gr.3) romp caught the eye of Team Valor International who purchased the War Front filly for an undisclosed amount from Brereton Jones and son Bret Jones. She has since been transferred to the barn of trainer Graham Motion and will be pointed to the Kentucky Oaks. She has six weeks between her March 26 win and the Kentucky Oaks to prepare for the toughest race of her career but judging by the nature of her Bourbonette win fitness isn’t an issue with this filly. She doesn’t run her best race unless she can be on the front end uncontested as she was in the Bourbonette. She’s going to have to learn to relax in the early stages of the 1/18 mile Kentucky Oaks if she hopes to survive the onslaught of Kathmanblu, Zazu, Dancinginherdreams, R Heat Lightning and Joyful Victory.
8) Wyomia – She will be facing the giants Saturday in the Ashland Stakes when she heads to post with Kathmanblu and Dancinginherdreams but she ran well against the top fillies in the nation last year when winning the Grade 3 Mazarine Stakes while defeating Delightful Mary. She won the Suncoast Stakes on March 12th with an impressive closing rally from the back of the pack to just get up for the win by a head. Her latest work on Saturday was a 4 furlong move that completed in :47.80, ranking as the second fastest of 55 horses working the distance. She hasn’t been facing high quality fields this year but her worst lifetime showing was when she finished 6th behind Awesome Feather and R Heat Lightning in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
9) Arienza – I like the look of this promising filly more and more, if she continues winning the way she has won her first two she is destined to become as great as her famous parents. She is listed as a possible entry for the Fantasy Stakes (gr.2) on April 10th at Oaklawn Park where she would face Joyful Victory. It would be a huge step up in class but aside from Joyful Victory she would be the best of the prospective field.
Daisy Devine, Pomeroy’s Pistol and Inglorious. Pomeroy’s Pistol will be facing Turbulent Descent and Gran Lioness in the Beaumont Stakes (gr.2) at Keeneland on April 17th. Inglorious needs to regroup after he dull 4th place finish in the Fair Grounds Oaks. Daisy Devine is coming into her own at the perfect time, if she can treat the Fair Grounds Oaks as a launching pad and move ahead from there she could play a pivotal role in the Kentucky Oaks.
Also of note: Delightful Mary makes her return to the races on Saturday in the already loaded Ashland Stakes. She enters the race off a speedy 1:00.20 five furlong work.
In closing I would like to ask a question purely for fun and out of curiousity: If the Kentucky Derby field was divided half fillies and half colts how do you think this year’s crop of colts would fare against this year’s crop of fillies?
Photo Courtesy of Coglianese Photos