The $300,000, Grade 1 American Oaks is one of six graded stakes on the Dec. 28 opening day card at Santa Anita Park and one of three restricted to 3-year-olds. The field of eight fillies contesting 1 ¼ miles on turf consists of two types of horses – those which have won or placed in graded stakes on the grass and those which have not shown the ability to compete at this level. Leading the former group is Mucho Unusual, winner of the Grade 2 San Clemente Stakes in July. Lady Prancealot won the Grade 3 Honeymoon Stakes in June and the Grade 3 Pin Oak Valley View Stakes in October. Apache Princess was a neck behind Mucho Unusual in the San Clemente and fits very well against this group. Right behind those fillies in terms of stakes performance is Vibrance, who was third and a head behind the runner-up in the Grade 3 Red Carpet Stakes one month ago. K P Slickem ran well earlier this year on dirt when second in the Sunland Park Oaks and tries to prove she fits on turf after an eighth-place effort in the Grade 3 Autumn Miss Stakes in October, in which Giza Goddess finished second. Pretty Point and So Much Happy complete the field, both having just a maiden win to their credit.
Apache Princess ran the best race of her career off a short rest this past July when rallying from ninth of 10 early, gaining the lead and opening up by a length and a half at the top of the stretch in the San Clemente Stakes, before gamely fighting to the wire to come up a neck short behind Mucho Unusual. That effort earned a strong 103 Equibase Speed Figure, which she nearly duplicated in her most recent race. That was 14 days ago in the Bear Fan Stakes, a sprint, in which she closed strongly from fifth of seven to miss by a half-length. Stretching back out to two turns, Apache Princess gets the services of Javier Castellano, who is in Southern California for the big stakes races on the card. With So Much Happy likely to set a solid pace, Apache Princess may have what it takes to get up in time and win the American Oaks.
Lady Prancealot has proven to be a top turf runner in the division many times this year and last. In the fall of 2018 as a 2-year-old, Lady Prancealot finished second in a pair of stakes, one of those the Surfer Girl Stakes on the Santa Anita turf course. This year, Lady Prancealot has won three of seven races, two of those stakes, including the Valley View Stakes at Keeneland when last seen on Oct. 18. That effort earned a career-best 106 figure which is the best last-race figure in the field. Joe Bravo, who rode Lady Prancealot to her last win when in the saddle for the first time, has the return engagement, and we can expect a top effort good enough to win from this very versatile filly.
Giza Goddess comes into the American Oaks off a disappointing eighth-place effort in the tougher Matriarch Stakes, in which Mucho Unusual finished ninth. Both fillies ran well enough prior to that to be strong factors in the American Oaks if they rebound to their earlier form. Giza Goddess earned a 106 figure when second in the Autumn Miss Stakes at Santa Anita in late October and she has a tactical style which should position her in second place in the early stages behind likely leader So Much Happy. As such, Giza Goddess could grab the lead in the stretch before closers like Apache Princess and Lady Prancealot get into high gear.
Mucho Unusual was the 5-2 favorite when winning the San Clemente Stakes in July with a 104 figure, rallying from last of 10 in the field and still sixth with an eighth of a mile to go. She hasn’t run nearly as well in three races since, including when she came in second to Giza Goddess with no excuse in the Autumn Miss. However, Mucho Unusual gets a change in jockey to Joel Rosario, who has been aboard for her last two victories, including in the San Clemente, and who has not ridden her in three defeats since then.
The rest of the American Oaks field, with their best Equibase Speed Figures, is: K P Slickem (107), Pretty Point (100), So Much Happy (91) and Vibrance (103).
Win Contenders (in probability/preference order):