The Kentucky Oaks final preps are around the corner, the top of the future book is crowded with high-class fillies. Here we examine the credentials of last weekend’s prep winners, including the unbeaten Kathleen O. and the longshot Candy Raid, and look ahead to the final Oaks preps taking place across the country over the weekend, notably the G1 Ashland at Keeneland on Friday.
Oath back on course
The Kentucky Oaks picture is more complete than that of the Kentucky Derby, partly because only 14 fit in the gate, leaving less room for left-fielders to move into centre stage, and partly because there are three or four fillies of proven quality vying for favouritism.
Four fillies booked their spots at Churchill Downs last weekend, and only two of those were winners. One of the exceptions was Secret Oath (5-2), whose third-place in the G1 Arkansas Derby moved her off the Derby trail and back on the Oaks pathway, for which she is assured of qualification following her victory in the G3 Honeybee at Oaklawn Park.
Joining Wayne Lukas’s big-race favorite is Kathleen O. (5-1) after an impressive success in the G2 Gulfstream Park Oaks, which took her unbeaten record to four and demonstrated that this late-running filly would be suited by the extra mileage of the Kentucky Oaks. Kathleen O. sees her races out well, which will be an ace up her sleeve at Churchill Downs. The GP Oaks runner-up Goddess Of Fire (20-1) now has 62 Road to the Kentucky Oaks points and that’s enough to get her to Louisville, but it’s very hard to see her having the game to turn the form around.
Over at Oaklawn Park, Yuugiri (15-1) snapped a three-race losing streak when showing plenty of fight to take the G3 Fantasy. Her freewheeling style will keep her out of trouble in the Kentucky Oaks, but on her previous start she was beaten nearly nine lengths by Secret Oath, and the Fantasy was not a particularly strong contest. Runner-up Beguine (50-1) is not yet eligible for the Oaks, although could be supplemented.
There was a shock at Turfway Park, where 52-1 shot Candy Raid (25-1) ran wild in the Bourbonette, romping by four and a half lengths. Her 51 RTKO points will very probably be enough to qualify, although it isn’t set in stone, and although plenty will crab the quality of the Bourbonette – and rightly so – it’s probably more important to go to Churchill Downs on the crest of the wave rather than point to stronger form further back on a horse’s record.
Kentucky Oaks final preps
There are three more major preps for the Kentucky Oaks, all run this weekend. At Keeneland on Friday, the G1 Ashland is expected to showcase G2 Demoiselle winner Nest (12-1) and G2 Rachel Alexandra third Awake At Midnyte (50-1).
The following day, 13-length G3 Las Virgenes winner Adare Manor (13-2) will bid to punch her ticket – after leaving Bob Baffert’s barn – in the G2 Santa Anita Oaks, up against G2 Chandelier winner Ain’t Easy (25-1). On the other side of the country, the G3 Gazelle at Aqueduct brings together seven-length stakes-winner Venti Valentine (15-1) and G2 Davona Dale runner-up Classy Edition (40-1).
Kentucky Oaks odds
5-2 Secret Oath
3-1 Echo Zulu
5-1 Kathleen O
13-2 Adare Manor
12-1 Hidden Connection, Nest
15-1 Venti Valentine, Yuugiri
17-1 Juju’s Map
20-1 Goddess Of Fire
22-1 Under The Stars
25-1 Ain’t Easy, Candy Raid, Shahama
35-1 A Mo Reay
40-1 Classy Edition, Magic Circle, Turnerloose
50-1 Awake At Midnyte, Beguine, Distinctlypossible, Dream Lith, Nostalgic
Bold: Horse assured of a run in the Kentucky Oaks on RTKO points basis
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