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 Debutante.
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 On Monday leading Kentucky Oaks contender Kathmanblu was withdrawn from consideration for the Fair Grounds Oaks this weekend in favor of the April 9th Ashland Stakes at Keeneland.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 favorite.
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 win.
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