Oaks contender Rosalind exercises on the main track at Churchill Downs. (Photo courtesy Kathy S. Hunter)
On May 19, 1875, the Kentucky Oaks was inaugurated into horse racing history when its first victress, Vinaigrette, passed the final post. After 139 years, it still ranks as one of the most-anticipated races of every year.
In 2014, 13 high-quality fillies are expected for the Oaks.
Untapable, a bay Tapit filly, gained recognition as a promising Kentucky Oaks contender after winning the Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra Stakes by 9 ½ lengths on Feb. 22. As a 2-year-old, she had her first graded stakes victory in the Grade 2 Pocahontas Stakes. Following a less-than-spectacular eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, Untapable finished third in Betfair Hollywood Park’s final renewal of the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet Stakes. After her Rachel Alexandra Stakes victory, Untapable won the Grade 2 Fair Ground Oaks by 7 ¾ lengths over Fiftyshadesofgold and Unbridled Forever.
Sugar Shock verified her credentials as a legitimate Kentucky Oaks contender with her performance in the Honeybee Stakes on March 8. In this 1 1/16-mile race, Sugar Shock crossed the finish line first but was disqualified and placed second for interfering with Euphrosyne, who was elevated from second to first. Ridden by Channing Hill in all of her races, Sugar Shock’s most recent victory came in the Fantasy Stakes. In this race, she set the pace and won by a half-length over Kiss Moon.
Photo by Eclipse Sportswire
Fashion Plate, a filly by Old Fashioned, jumped onto the Oaks radar when she won the Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes by a half-length over favored Streaming on Feb. 1. She continued her winning ways in the Santa Anita Oaks, which she won by 1 ¼ lengths over favored Ria Antonia.
On April 5, My Miss Sophia proved her abilities in the Grade 2 Gazelle Stakes at Aqueduct, which she won by a dominant 7 ¼ lengths as the 4-to-5 favorite. The chestnut Unbridled’s Song filly had only two prior starts in her career. She came into the Gazelle off of an 11-length victory in a maiden special weight race at Gulfstream Park. My Miss Sophia’s Gazelle victory came in a solid Grade 2 field, although she carried seven pounds less than the second betting choice, Sweet Reason. While My Miss Sophia has shown strong potential, she remains rather untested compared with other Kentucky Oaks contenders.
Owned by Landaluce Educe Stable, Rosalind showed promise last October when finishing second in the Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland Race Course. The chestnut filly by Broken Vow earned her first graded stakes victory when she finished in a dead-heat for first with Room Service in Keeneland’s Central Bank Ashland Stakes. The pair completed the 1 1/8-mile distance in a time of 1:43.38 on the synthetic Polytrack surface.
Second in the Demoiselle Stakes as a juvenile, Got Lucky has been the bridesmaid to two possible Kentucky Oaks favorites. In the Rachel Alexandra Stakes, she was second, beaten by 9 ½ lengths by Untapable. In Aqueduct’s Gazelle Stakes, she also finished second best, 7 ¼ lengths behind My Miss Sophia.
After top-three finishes in the Old Hat, Forward Gal, and Davona Dale Stakes, Aurelia’s Belle returned to her winning ways. She shipped to Turfway Park for the Grade 3 Pure Romance Bourbonette Oaks, in which she faced 10 other fillies on Turfway’s all-weather surface. In the final furlong, she took over the lead and won by 2 ¼ lengths, completing the one-mile race in a time of 1:38.99 and punching her ticket to the Kentucky Oaks.
Photo by Eclipse Sportswire
Ria Antonia entered 2014 with high hopes for success. As the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner following the disqualification of She’s a Tiger, she made her 2014 debut in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes. However, Ria Antonia disappointed with a fourth-place effort. The 3-year-old Rockport Harbor filly showed signs of improvement in her next start in the Santa Anita Oaks, in which she finished second to Fashion Plate.
Kiss Moon was placed third in Oaklawn Park’s Honeybee Stakes after the disqualification of unofficial third-placed finisher Please Explain. Following the Honeybee, she finished second in the Fantasy Stakes, beaten by a half-length by Sugar Shock at Oaklawn.
Fiftyshadesofgold showed promise when winning the Two Altazano Stakes for Texas-breds by 2 ½ lengths. She then finished second to Untapable in the Fair Grounds Oaks. A gray or roan filly by My Golden Song, Fiftyshadesofgold finished 7 ¾ lengths behind Untapable but beat Unbrided Forever to the finish line by 1 ¾ lengths.
Unbridled Forever’s dam is 2006 Kentucky Oaks winner Lemons Forever. In late January, she made her 2014 debut in the Silverbulletday Stakes at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, La. She went off as the co-favorite with eventual runner-up Divine Beauty, who carried three pounds more. Unbridled Forever was dealt a wide trip but finished powerfully to win by 1 ½ lengths. In her next outing, she finished a well-beaten third in the Fair Grounds Oaks, 9 ½ lengths behind winner Untapable
Thank You Marylou won the Any Limit Stakes at Gulfstream Park by 2 ½ lengths for owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey. In her next start, she was third in the Ashland Stakes behind Room Service and Rosalind, who finished in a dead heat for the win. Thank You Marylou was beaten by seven lengths in the Ashland.
Empress of Midway was third in her career debut in February but returned as a winner in her next start. After securing her first victory, she finished in a dead heat for second with Lucky for You in the Sunland Park Oaks. Empress of Midway finished 4 ½ lengths behind Awesome Baby.