10 names to know on the 2019 Kentucky Oaks trail

The 2019 Kentucky Oaks trail continues Sunday when newly turned 3-year-old fillies line up for Santa Anita’s Grade 2, $200,000 Santa Ynez Stakes, which awards points on a 10-4-2-1 basis. Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Jaywalk currently tops the list of hopefuls, but a number of others have proven to be Grade 1-caliber already, too.

Here are potential Oaks contenders to know in the New Year listed with their sire, trainer, owner and qualifying points toward the May 3 race at Churchill Downs:

1. Jaywalk
 (Cross Traffic – John Servis – D. J. Stable LLC and Cash is King LLC – 30): After winning the White Clay Creek Stakes at Delaware Park, Jaywalk jumped on the radar with a 5 3/4-length win in Belmont’s Frizette Stakes (G1). She backed up that victory with another win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies by 5 1/2 lengths. Jaywalk has won four of her five starts and has a strong chance of taking Champion 2-Year-Old Filly honors at the Eclipse Awards.

2. Chasing Yesterday
 (Tapit – Bob Baffert – Summer Wind Equine – 10): It’s impossible to leave the half-sister to 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah off this list. Chasing Yesterday has done the family proud, winning four of five career starts with a last out victory in Los Alamitos' Starlet Stakes (G1). The Del Mar debut winner shipped to Saratoga for the Spinaway Stakes (G1) at second asking but finished off the board when she lost a shoe. The filly rebounded back home in Santa Anita’s Anoakia Stakes and Del Mar’s Desi Arnaz Stakes before stepping up in the Starlet.

3. Restless Rider
 (Distorted Humor – Kenny McPeek – Fern Circle Stables and Three Chimneys Farm, LLC – 22): This consistent filly is a fighter who has never finished worse than second in six starts. She was second in both the Spinaway and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and won Keeneland’s Alcibiades Stakes (G1) by 2 ½ lengths in between. She finished out 2018 with a nose loss over a sloppy track to front-running Liora in the Golden Rod Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs. 

4. Bellafina
 (Quality Road – Simon Callaghan – Kaleem Shah, Inc. – 12): The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies favorite could only manage fourth on championship day, but two impressive Grade 1 wins in the Del Mar Debutante and Santa Anita’s Chandelier Stakes beforehand make her a leading Oaks contender on the West Coast. She put on a maiden-breaking performance in the Sorrento Stakes (G2) at Del Mar second time out. She’ll be back in The Santa Ynez on Sunday. 

5. Positive Spirit
 (Pioneerof the Nile – Rodolphe Brisset – Michael J. Ryan – 10): The half-sister to 2017 Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming delivered an eye-catching performance in the Demoiselle (G2). After breaking her maiden third time out at Churchill Downs, she shipped to Aqueduct and drew off by 10 ½ lengths in the Oaks prep. 

6. Mother Mother
 (Pioneerof the Nile – Bob Baffert – George Bolton, Barry Hall, Barry Lipman, Mark Mathiesen and Andrew Molasky – 2): Never off the board in four starts, Mother Mother was a breakout maiden winner during Del Mar’s summer meet, romping by 6 1/2 lengths on debut. She followed that effort with a runner-up finish in the Del Mar Debutante before missing the Chandelier rematch with a fever. She came back on the Breeders’ Cup undercard to win the Rags to Riches Stakes in front-running style. While third in the Starlet, she was only a neck back at the wire.

7. Serengeti Empress
 (Alternation – Tom Amoss – Joel Politi – 10): Serengeti Empress looked like a major player in the Breeders’ Cup after she won the Ellis Park Debutante and Churchill Downs Pocahontas Stakes (G2) by a combined 33 lengths. But in the Juvenile Fillies, he pressed Jaywalk on the pace and faded to seventh. Despite the performance, her 19 1/2-length Pocahontas win is one to remember, and it’s the biggest win margin at Churchill Downs since Rachel Alexandra won the 2009 Kentucky Oaks by 20 1/4 lengths.

8. Sippican Harbor
 (Orb – Gary Contessa – Lee Pokoik – 0): Sippican Harbor broke her maiden at Saratoga over a fast track when the race was moved off the turf. The commanding 17-length win boosted her to the Spinaway, and she rallied to a two-length win. She was away for two months before the Breeders’ Cup, where she only managed a mild rally to sixth place.

9. Vibrance
 (Violence – Michael McCarthy – Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Donna Daniell and Jim Daniell – 8): Although she’s still looking for her first stakes win, Vibrance has danced the big dances and hung in there with the best. She was a 5 1/4-length maiden winner at Del Mar, then ran second in the Chandelier and third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. She showed she was ready for a freshening, however, when sixth in the Starlet.

10. Liora
 (Candy Ride – Wayne Catalano – Coffeepot Stables – 10): Running for the same connections as Farrell, and with the same style, Liora entered the Golden Rod after breaking her maiden in her third start. She was off at 27-1 in her first stakes outing and led every step of the way, holding off a gritty Restless Rider by a nose over a sloppy track.

Others to know
: One recent standout performance came from Juddmonte’s debut winner Anuket, another Baffert-trained filly who won by 4 1/4 lengths at Santa Anita Dec. 30. Her breakout followed that of Qahira, a Baffert-trained daughter of Cairo Prince who won her Nov. 25 debut by 4 3/4. Brill is another West Coast name to keep an eye on with major connections in OXO Equine and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. The Del Mar debut winner came back to run fourth in the Del Mar Debutante and third in the Chandelier. Trainer Mark Casse is high on Chocolate Kisses, who switched from turf to finish fourth in the Alcibiades before losing her rider at the start of the Rags to Riches. Covfefe dominated on debut at Churchill Downs with a 9 1/4-length win, but only managed fourth in the Frizette. Back in California, Enaya Alrabb jumped on the scene when she ran down Mother Mother in the Starlet and was just caught by Chasing Yesterday in a tight finish.

 

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