While Dana at Green But Game has her crush on the Oaks, I’m less than thrilled with this year’s edition. Honestly, the only question anyone should be asking about Friday’s Kentucky Oaks is—whether fast or sloppy track—by how much Rachel Alexandra will win.
Compared to the last two Oaks (including Rags to Riches, Octave, Dreaming of Anna, Tough Tiz’s Sis, Cotton Blossom, Sealy Hill, Mistical Plan and Dawn After Dawn in 2007; Proud Spell, Little Belle, Pure Clan, Golden Doc A, Bsharpsonata, Country Star, and A to the Croft in 2008), this year’s Oaks field looks amazingly weak beyond the top two—Rachel Alexandra and multiple G2 victress Justwhistledixie.
Nan looked on the upswing in the G1 Santa Anita Oaks, but disappointed in the G1 Ashland, and has had no success on dirt in two previous efforts, at Saratoga and Aqueduct. If the track is sloppy, Flying Spur might stand a chance at a piece of the exotics, as both of her best efforts were on such off-tracks, but she was no match for Rachel Alexandra in the G2 Fair Grounds Oaks. Gabby’s Golden Gal’s sole dirt effort was a 13-length victory in the Sunland Park Oaks, but this is a notch (or two) above what she’s run against thus far. Be Fair qualifies for a second-level allowance, while Tweeter comes in off a maiden victory at Keeneland. How many fillies here ran in the last year’s G1 BC Juvenile Fillies? None.
Stardom Bound is on the sidelines, as are War Echo, Fitz Just Right, Song of Solomon, and Dream Empress. Just Jenda (Eight Belles Stakes), What a Pear (Bouwerie Stakes), and Frolic’s Dream (G3 Nassau County), along with Elusive Heat and Evita Argentina are sticking with sprints. Other key fillies missing: UAE Oaks winner Devotee is aimed for next Sunday’s 1000 Guineas, while Japanese-owned Earth Living hasn’t appeared since her second place finish in the UAE Oaks. And what about the best 2-year-olds on dirt? What happened to Garden District, Persistently, Sky Diva, Be Smart, Jardin, Garden District, and Mine All Mine?
While we enjoyed a bountiful 2008 with three-year-old fillies, I fear this year will be an entirely different story. Friday will be interesting, though, as also running at Churchill will be the magnificent Zenyatta, who’s confirmed for the G2 Louisville Distaff.
Zenyatta vs. Rachel Alexandra—now that’s a matchup to look forward to later this year!