As promised, I’ve composed my G1 Kentucky Oaks Top 5 list. Obviously much can change between now and the first Friday in May, but these are the fillies that have caught my eye for one reason or another. In no particular order:
• Bsharpsonata (Pulpit-Apasionata Sonata, by Affirmed)
In addition to her connections (trainer Tim Salzman and jockey Eric Camacho), I love that this filly has demonstrated tenacity in facing all competition, regardless of distance and racing surface, and that she has continually improved. A Pulpit offspring (à la Pyro), her dam-side is impressive too, with her stakes-winning dam a daughter of Triple Crown winner Affirmed, and her second dam Express Star (by Baldski) a multi-stakes winning daughter of rather prolific Faneuil Lady (11 runners, 8 winners, 2 stakeswinners). Alright, I’m also rooting for her because she’s the one filly I invested a $2 futures wager on in Pool 1 (at 30-1).
• Eight Belles (Unbridled’s Song-Away, by Dixieland Band)
Another tough-as-nails filly, trained by Larry Jones and ridden by Gabriel Saez, Eight Belles has demonstrated she can win around two turns, stamina transmitted not only from her sire, but also her broodmare sire Dixieland Band. Eight Belles’ gray coat undoubtedly is inherited through her sire’s dam Trolley Song who was a daughter of the great stayer Caro. Also, she has fantastic female runners in her family, including her fourth dam Straight Deal (by Hail to Reason) who was a monster winner—over the course of five seasons, she ran 99 times, finishing in the money 50% with 21 wins including the Hollywood Oaks, Firenze, Santa Margarita, Santa Barbara, Sheepshead Bay, Delaware, and Top Flight handicaps. Named 1967’s champion handicap mare, Straight Deal also produced multiple-stakes winner Reminiscing (dam of G2 Sanford winner Persevered, El Conejo Handicap victor Premiership, and multiple-grade 1 placed Commemorate), stakes-winner Belonging (dam of sire Belong to Me), G1 Santa Barbara Handicap winner Desiree (dam of multiple-grade 1 placed Adored), and So Endearing (dam of G1 BC Juvenile runner-up Qualify). Straight Deal’s half-sister Miz Carol (by Stymie) produced the 1966 two-year-old champion filly Regal Gleam (by Hail to Reason) who won the Frizette, Selima and Blue Hen stakes, and her descendents include G1 Secretariat winner Vision, FR-G1 Prix du Jockey Club victor Caerleon, G1 Jerome Handicap winner Scan, and G1 Gulfstream Park Handicap victor Scuffleburg. Interesting, Eight Belles has been nominated for the G2 Arkansas Derby on April 12, but may also run in the G2 Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn on April 6.
• Awesome Chic (Awesome Again-Trading, by A.P. Indy)
A revelation of sorts in the G3 Florida Oaks, Awesome Chic may have gotten the perfect rail trip, but she won so determinedly against impressive favorite My Baby Baby and Elusive Lady under jockey Irwin Rosendo for trainer Rafael Ramos. In addition to being bred 4 x 3 to Mr. Prospector, she’s 5 x 4 to Buckpasser through her dam. Her second dam Miner’s Game (by Mr. Prospector) is a full-sister to G1 BC Classic runner-up Seeking the Gold, and a half-sister to G1 Remsen winner Fast Play and Tricky Game, dam of multiple-graded placed turfster King Cugat; Miner’s Game also birthed G1 Wood Memorial runner-up Survivalist and multiple-graded placed Polish Miner so there’s plenty to like in this filly’s pedigree.
• Proud Spell (Proud Citizen-Pacific Spell, by Langfuhr)
Another Larry Jones filly, Proud Spell has already outrun her breeding, winning the 8.5 furlong G2 Fair Grounds Oaks over Indian Blessing after suffering her first career loss vs. that one in the G1 BC Juvenile Fillies last October. Now at Keeneland, we’ll see her next in the G1 Ashland Stakes on April 5.
• Pure Clan (Pure Prize-Gather the Clan, by General Assembly)
Trained by Bob Holthus and ridden by Julien Leparoux, Pure Clan has already won twice at Churchill (the 8.5 furlong G2 Golden Rod last November and the 8 furlong G3 Pocahontas). Half-sister to multiple-graded stakes winner Greater Good who regularly won over 8.5 furlongs, Pure Clan also has stamina in her sire-line with his dam, multiple-grade 1 victress Heavenly Prize. The G2 Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn on April 6 is next for Pure Clan.
On the Bubble:
Maren’s Meadow (Meadowlake-Gold Liaka, by Yukon)
Her pedigree screams sprint, but so far she’s outrun her pedigree, winning the 8 furlong G3 Bourbonette Stakes. Her dam’s half-sister Lady Laika threw several stakes winners including most notably G1 Santa Margarita and two-time G2 Lady’s Secret BC Handicap winner Healthy Addiction who could route. She’s also related to G1 Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold and Canadian Triple Crown winners With Approval and Izvestia. Another one of the talented three-year-old fillies in Larry Jones’ fully-packed stable, after her victory today Jones mentioned the Black-Eyed Susan as her next goal, not the KY Oaks, but if Eight Belles goes to the KY Derby, that plan may change.
Lots to Prove:
I have real questions about Country Star, who is scheduled to run for the first time this year on April 5 in the G1 Ashland. Her prior competition hasn’t turned out all that successful at three, including Grace Anatomy (who finished a crushingly-disappointing sixth in the WinStar Oaks last weekend) and A to the Croft (who could manage only a third-place showing on Saturday in the G3 Bourbonette Oaks, admittedly off a four-month layoff). Ditto for Golden Doc A who has been running exclusively in California and is really bred for turf—until she’s run on dirt, I can’t back her chances. Same goes for G1 Santa Anita Oaks winner Ariege.