First off, let me apologize for my coverage of the 2013 Kentucky Oaks….or should I say, the lack there of it. I’ve been so focused on Horse Racing’s premier race, the 2013 Kentucky Derby with its deep and talented field, that I probably have neglected the Oaks slightly. Not sure why with two year old filly champion Beholder, the unbeaten and enormously talented Unlimited Budget and the good looking Dreaming of Julia all just about nine days away from meeting at Churchill Downs.
As I said last year, the Oaks, which is run at 1 1/8 miles and in my mind goes along way in determining the three year old filly championship, has gained quite a bit of popularity over the last serveral years.
Being that the race is traditionally run on the Friday (or the day) before the Kentucky Derby it was once looked at like the Ed McMahon to the Kentucky Derby’s Johnny Carson, but that is just not the case anymore.
Once again, as I said last year, the numbers don’t lie. In the 1980 running the attendance was about 50,000 people; in 1989 the attendance was 67,000 and from about 2001 and on the attendance habitually cracks the 100,000 mark.
And why shouldn’t it? From 1980 forward, the list of winners include Bold n Determined, Heavenly Cause (1981), the great Princess Rooney (1983), Hall of Famer Open Mind (1989), Light Lite (1991), Blushing K.D. (1997) the invincible Silverbulletday (1999), Secret Status (2000), Ashado (2004), Rags To Riches, who would eventually beat the ‘boys in the Belmont Stakes (2007), one of the top two or three filly’s this correspondent has ever seen run and also perhaps the most impressive performance in this race ever, Rachel Alexandra (2009) and the amazing Blind Luck in 2010.
In case your mind needs refreshing, take a look at Rachel Alexandra’s 2009 Kentucky Oaks once more. She won by over 20 lengths while in nothing more than a hand gallop…mind-boggling stuff if you ask me.
Anyway, back to this year’s field. Unlike the Derby, which is limited to 20 runners, the Oaks is limited to just 14 starters. What is the same, however, is the points system to get them there.
Like ever year, this year’s field is deep and competitive and there were a total of 120 nominations in all.
Kentucky Oaks, Friday, May 3, 1 1/8 miles, 3-year-old fillies
Top contenders look to be Beholder, Dreaming of Julia and Unlimited Budget.
Champion Beholder has won three of her last four including her last which was a “hand ride” win in a Grade: 1 race at Santa Anita.
Dreaming of Julia absolutely demolished the field in the Gulfstream Oaks in her last while drawing off to win by an eye popping 21 ¾ lengths.
Dreaming of Julia breezed a half-mile in :48 4/5 for trainer Todd Pletcher over the weekend. The A.P. Indy filly was timed in fractions of :12 2/5, :24, and :36 3/5 while galloping out five furlongs in 1:01, six furlongs in 1:13, seven furlongs in 1:26 3/5 and pulled up a mile in 1:44.
“I thought she had another very good work today,” Pletcher said. “We were looking for a solid work with a good gallop out and I thought she did that very well. After a monstrous effort, we were anxious to see how she bounced out of it. Her appetite, energy level and enthusiasm have all been terrific since that race. If (the Gulfstream Oaks) did take something out of her, she hasn’t shown it.”
Unlimited Budget and Silsita worked together, as they breezed five furlongs in 1:00 3/5. Unlimited Budget was on the inside, with Silsita on the outside. The pair were timed in splits of :12, :23 4/5, :36, and :48 2/5 while galloping out six furlongs in 1:14 and 1:13 4/5 resspectively.
“We switched positions with them and put Unlimited Budget on the inside this time,” Pletcher added. “It seemed like it was maybe a touch deeper on the inside. I thought both fillies worked well, but Silsita was a little bit stronger on the gallop out today. Last week, Unlimited Budget was on the outside and she was a little bit stronger, so I don’t know if there’s anything to that or not.”
“There’s a good chance Gary Stephens will have the mount (for Silita in the Kentucky Oaks),” Pletcher said. “I’m going to talk to (co-owner) Aaron Wellman later, but I’d say Gary is the leading candidate at this point.”
Other contenders include:
Rose to Gold who galloped 1 1/2 miles on her first day back to the track since working a half-mile in :48 1/5 last Saturday. This filly by FriendsLake is a winner of 5 of 7 career starts and was originally purchased for $1,400.00
Close Hatches, who is trained by Bill Mott, is also undefeated and an impressive winner of the Grade: 2 Gazelle at Aqueduct earlier this month.
The aptly named Flashy Gray, who is trained Bill Mott and has never been worse than second in now five career starts.
Princess of Sylmar, who finished second to Close Hatches in the Gazelle but had won four straight going into that race, worked a half mile in :48 3/5 with fractions of :12 2/5, :24 2/5, and :36 4/5, galloping out five furlongs in 1:02.
“I thought Princess of Sylmar’s work was OK this morning,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “It looked like she was struggling with the racetrack a little bit down the lane. I would say I need to see her work next week before making a decision on whether she’ll run in the Oaks or not.”
Midnight Lucky is 2 for 2 including her last where she romped home by 8 lengths in the Sunland Park Oaks. The Bob Baffert trainee zipped six furlongs in 1:12 flat this past Monday and appears to be ready.
Silsita..see Unlimited Budget
Pure Fun galloped Tuesday morning at Keeneland. Trainer Ken McPeek said Pure Fun, who came seventh against males in Saturday’s Coolmore Lexington, would be on the track again Wednesday.
Seaneen Girl, who has been on the board five time in seven career starts, galloped 1 ½ miles Tuesday morning.
A couple of notables who will not be running include:
Broken Spell, who is trained by trainer D. Wayne Lukas, “She is going to go in the turf race,” Lukas said, referring to the May 3 Edgewood Churchill Downs. “We think she is better on grass and the Oaks is a damned tough race.”…you are not kidding Mr. Lukas
Trainer Bob Baffert also reported that Fiftyshadesofhay, who galloped 1 3/8ths miles Monday, won’t run in the Oaks either.
“But she could go in the (May 3) Eight Belles (at Churchill) or (May 17) Black-Eyed Susan (at Pimlico),” Baffert said.
Baffert’s other top filly Executiveprivilege is out with an injury.
I’m sure there will be some other last minute entries (there always is) and I’ll keep you posted as we get closer.
Thanks for reading….
To receive an email each time a new Horse Racing article is published, fill out the Email Notification Form