There has been much discussion about the ramifications of shifting the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve from the first Saturday in May to Sept. 5 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the calendar change for the Longines Kentucky Oaks also had a major impact on the shape of the 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-old fillies.
Swiss Skydiver, one of two fillies along with Gamine expected to challenge for favoritism with the betting public, won the Grade 3 Fantasy Stakes May 1 at 16.10-1 odds. The Daredevil filly probably would have been 20-1 at least had the Kentucky Oaks been held on that day, but she has turned into a star in recent months and looks to be extremely formidable Sept. 4 at Churchill Downs.
Consider the aforementioned Gamine competed in a second-level allowance/optional claiming race May 2 at Oaklawn Park and prior to that race she only had a debut win in a 6 ½-furlong maiden special weight race to her credit.
Fast forward four months and the showdown between Swiss Skydiver and Gamine figures to be a highlight of the festivities during an action-packed weekend of racing at Churchill.
NBC Sports Network will provide television coverage of the 2020 Kentucky Oaks on NBCSN from 3-6 p.m. ET on Friday, Sept. 4.
Get the scoop on the prospective field for the 146th Kentucky Oaks, in post-position order and with morning-line odds:
1. Swiss Skydiver (8-5)
Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione
Trainer: Ken McPeek
Owner: Peter J. Callahan
Career record: 9 starts – 5 wins – 2 seconds – 1 third
Career earnings: $952,980
Earnings per start: $105,887
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 108
Kentucky Oaks points: 350
Pedigree: Daredevil – Expo Gold, by Johannesburg
Running style: Pacesetter/Press the Pace
Notable achievements and interesting facts: Swiss Skydiver is expected to vie for favoritism in the Kentucky Oaks with multiple Grade 1 winner Gamine, and this Daredevil filly certainly has impressive credentials with four graded stakes wins in her last five starts. Her only loss during that stretch came when second to Art Collector while taking on males in the Grade 2 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes July 11 at Keeneland. Distance should not be an issue for Swiss Skydiver coming off a dominant 3 ½-length victory in the 1 ¼-mile Alabama Stakes, which was her first Grade 1 win, Aug. 15 at Saratoga. She has defeated several probable Oaks challengers, including subsequent Grade 1 winner Speech in the Grade 2 Santa Anita Oaks. In that race, she led from start to finish June 6 on her way to a four-length romp. While Swiss Skydiver has yet to run as fast as Gamine, she does own a win on the main track at Churchill on her résumé and she has a decided advantage when it comes to foundation (seven starts this year) and proven stamina. Trainer Ken McPeek has finished second twice in the Kentucky Oaks with Take Charge Lady in 2002 and Daddys Lil Darling in 2017.
2. Tempers Rising (50-1)
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Trainer: Dallas Stewart
Career record: 10 starts – 1 win – 5 seconds – 2 thirds
Career earnings: $222,627
Earnings per start: $22,263
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 96
Kentucky Oaks points: 47
Pedigree: Bayern – Marchmont, by Mountain Cat
Running style: Closer
Notable achievements and interesting facts: Like several other contenders in the 2020 Kentucky Oaks, Tempers Rising does not appear to be fast enough on paper to pose a legitimate threat to the top tier of 3-year-old fillies. But if you are looking for an upset candidate at a big price, it has paid handsomely in the past to look at trainer Dallas Stewart’s contender. Stewart won the Oaks in 2006 with Lemons Forever, who paid $96.20 for a $2 win bet and Stewart also finished second in the Kentucky Derby with Golden Soul at 34.50-1 in 2013 and Commanding Curve at 37.80-1 in 2014. Lemons Forever closed from last of 14 to win the 2006 Oaks, and likewise Golden Soul and Commanding Curve rallied from far back to get second in their Derby appearances. Tempers Rising fits the off-the-pace profile that Stewart has had success with on big days and the pace should be strong in this year’s Oaks. Tempers Rising needed five starts to earn her first win as a 2-year-old and she ran second to Bonny South earlier this year in the Grade 2 Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks. She enters off a runner-up finish in an allowance/optional claiming race on a muddy track at Ellis Park and her speed figures indicate you should demand a big price, but if you are looking to spice up the exotic bets Tempers Rising offer some intrigue. Jockey Julien Leparoux finished second in the Oaks in 2017 on Daddys Lil Darling.
3. Donna Veloce (15-1)
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.
Trainer: Simon Callaghan
Career record: 4 starts – 2 wins – 2 seconds – 0 thirds
Career earnings: $490,000
Earnings per start: $122,500
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 108
Kentucky Oaks points: 62
Pedigree: Uncle Mo – Coin Broker, by Montjeu
Running style: Stalker
Notable achievements and interesting facts: If you are looking for a filly with significant upside who could upset the probable favorites, Donna Veloce is an extremely intriguing candidate. She dazzled in her career debut last September and then ran second by a neck in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. After closing her juvenile season with another second in the Grade 1 Starlet Stakes, Donna Veloce returned to the winner’s circle three months later with a 4 ¼-length runaway as the 3-10 favorite in the March 8 Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes at Santa Anita Park. Unfortunately, she has not raced since then. The long layoff is a major concern for a 3-year-old filly trying 1 1/8 miles for the first time and she’d be hard to back at short odds, but Donna Veloce probably will be somewhat overlooked in a field with several standouts and she’s an elite talent who’s never run worse than second. Co-owners Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith won the Kentucky Oaks in 2007 with Rags to Riches, who went on to become the first filly since 1905 to win the Belmont Stakes.
4. Speech (5-1)
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Trainer: Mike McCarthy
Career record: 7 starts – 3 wins – 3 seconds – 1 third
Career earnings: $378,240
Earnings per start: $54,034
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 106
Kentucky Oaks points: 160
Pedigree: Mr Speaker – Scribbling Sarah, by Freud
Running style: Stalker/Press the Pace
Notable achievements and interesting facts: Never out of the top three in seven career starts, Speech enters the Kentucky Oaks off a career-best race when she won the Grade 1 Central Bank Ashland Stakes July 11 at Keeneland to earn a new top 106 Equibase Speed Figure. One race before that, she finished second by four lengths behind Swiss Skydiver in the June 6 Santa Anita Oaks. Speech has finished behind both Swiss Skydiver and Gamine, the two fillies expected to vie for favoritism in the Oaks, this year and has several lengths to make up on both to be a win candidate. But she’s getting better at the right time and should be considered a major threat for a top-three finish with a legitimate chance to win for trainer Mike McCarthy. Jockey Javier Castellano won the Oaks in 2016 aboard Cathryn Sophia; Sol Kumin of Madaket Stables was a co-owner of 2018 Oaks winner Monomoy Girl.
5. Gamine (1-1)
Jockey: John Velazquez
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Owner: Michael Lund Petersen
Career record: 4 starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds
Career earnings: $363,000
Earnings per start: $90,750
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 117
Kentucky Oaks points: 50
Pedigree: Into Mischief – Peggy Jane, by Kafwain
Running style: Pacesetter
Notable achievements and interesting facts: Gamine has raced four times and crossed the finish line first in each of her four starts, but the Into Mischief filly was disqualified and placed last for a medication violation after an allowance/optional claiming race May 2 at Oaklawn Park. Following that race, she won the one-mile Acorn Stakes by 18 ¾ lengths and the seven-furlong Longines Test Stakes by seven lengths in a pair of eye-catching Grade 1 victories. Those two stakes wins earned Gamine monster speed figures across the board (Equibase, Beyer, BrisNet), which means there is a very good chance she will be favored in the Kentucky Oaks. The only concern with Gamine is that her only try around two turns – the aforementioned allowance race at Oaklawn – was also the only time she was really challenged late as she had to fight tenaciously to hold off Speech by a neck and thus the 1 1/8-mile distance could be an issue. Gamine is exceptionally fast but she’s trying to stretch out from a seven-furlong sprint to 1 1/8 miles while facing by far the best competition of her career and very likely pace pressure up front. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez won the Kentucky Oaks in 2004 aboard Ashado, while Gamine’s Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert won the Oaks three times: Silverbulletday (1999), Plum Pretty (2011), and Abel Tasman (2017).
6. Bayerness (50-1)
Jockey: Rafael Bejarano
Trainer: Cherie DeVaux
Owner: Belladonna Racing
Career record: 5 starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 2 thirds
Career earnings: $131,200
Earnings per start: $26,240
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 91
Kentucky Oaks points: 8
Pedigree: Bayern – Weight No More, by Pure Prize
Running style: Stalker/Closer
Notable achievements and interesting facts: Bayerness was unbeaten in two starts as a 2-year-old, earning an impressive 91 Equibase Speed Figure for her career debut. The filly from the first crop of 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Bayern has not, however, been able to match that early success in her 3-year-old season. Bayerness was well-beaten when unplaced in the Grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes in February before posting back-to-back thirds in the Grade 3 Dogwood Stakes June 6 at Churchill Downs and Grade 3 Indiana Oaks July 8. In the Indiana Oaks, she was 6 ¾ lengths behind winner fellow Oaks contender Shedaresthedevil, who probably will wind up as the fourth or fifth choice in the betting. There is a chance Bayerness could take a big step forward and be a factor in the 2020 Kentucky Oaks, but it would need to be a monumental improvement against by far the best group of fillies she has ever faced. She could be assisted by a swift early pace, but even in that scenario filling out the trifecta would be a far more realistic outcome than a victory. Jockey Rafael Bejarano won the 2010 Oaks on Blind Luck.
7. Shedaresthedevil (20-1)
Jockey: Florent Geroux
Trainer: Brad Cox
Career record: 9 starts – 4 wins – 2 seconds – 2 thirds
Career earnings: $501,768
Earnings per start: $55,752
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 97
Kentucky Oaks points: 90
Pedigree: Daredevil – Starship Warpspeed, by Congrats
Running style: Press the Pace/Pacesetter
Notable achievements and interesting facts: Shedaresthedevil switched running styles two starts back and it appears to have been the key to significant improvement. Most of her previous success had come when rallying from off the pace, including a win in the Grade 3 Honeybee Stakes in March. But after Shedaresthedevil finished 13 ¼ lengths behind Swiss Skydiver in the Fantasy Stakes, she has been asked to race nearer to the front in her two most recent starts for a new rider in Florent Geroux. She responded with a front-running, six-length allowance/optional claiming race win June 5 at Churchill Downs and then utilized a pace-pressing trip to win the Grade 3 Indiana Oaks by five lengths July 8. Shedaresthedevil is 2-for-2 at Churchill Downs and should be riding a wave of confidence entering the Kentucky Oaks off back-to-back open-length wins, but with a career-best 97 Equibase Speed Figure she will need to improve by about 10-15 points to be a win candidate. It also doesn’t help her chances that Swiss Skydiver, Speech, and Gamine all prefer to be on or near the lead as well. Geroux and trainer Brad Cox teamed to win the Kentucky Oaks in 2018 with Monomoy Girl.
8. Hopeful Growth (30-1)
Jockey: Manny Franco
Trainer: Anthony R. Margotta Jr.
Owner: St. Elias Stable
Career record: 5 starts – 3 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds
Career earnings: $183,240
Earnings per start: $36,648
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 97
Kentucky Oaks points: 50
Pedigree: Tapiture – Maiden America, by Rock Hard Ten
Color: Dark bay or brown
Running style: Stalker
Notable achievements and interesting facts: Hopeful Growth enters the Kentucky Oaks off of a breakout performance Aug. 1 in the Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks. She stalked the pace in the 1 1/16-mile race and surged clear to a four-length win, earning her first career stakes victory and her best career Equibase Speed Figure (97). Prior to that she had proved an effective sprinter before a disappointing fifth-place finish in the Grade 3 Delaware Oaks in July in her stakes debut. She is another contender with talent and potential, but facing a field of this quality is a major test and she probably would need to improve by five to 10 lengths to be a serious win candidate. With only five starts to date, Hopeful Growth could live up to her name and make a big jump here, but a minor award might be the ceiling.
9. Dream Marie (50-1)
Jockey: Joe Talamo
Trainer: Matthew J. Williams
Career record: 11 starts – 3 wins – 2 seconds – 1 third
Career earnings: $160,160
Earnings per start: $14,560
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 88
Kentucky Oaks points: 35
Pedigree: Graydar – Lin Marie, by Curlin
Color: Gray or roan
Running style: Stalker/Closer
Notable achievements and interesting facts: Dream Marie won three straight races from the end of her 2-year-old season into her 2020 debut, but the Graydar filly is winless in six starts since that January allowance win going a mile at Gulfstream Park. She has acquitted herself well on several occasions in graded stakes company, running third in the Grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes and finishing second by a half-length in the Grade 3 Delaware Oaks in July, but with a career-best 88 Equibase Speed Figure and no stakes wins on her record she will be one of the longest shots on the board for the Oaks on Sept. 4. Dream Marie probably would need a dream scenario such as a pace meltdown up front and a ton of luck to find her way into the top three.