Kentucky Oaks Top Contenders

Let the countdown begin. With all the major preps behind us, the path towards the Kentucky Oaks opens up now that the top 15 fillies on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard have been confirmed. In our latest overview of the Oaks scene, we look at each of the top 15 – plus a bonus contender! – in detail and examine their potential for ultimate glory at Churchill Downs on the first Friday in May. Here our 2023 Kentucky Oaks Top Contenders


2023 Kentucky Oaks

Grade 1, $1,250,000, 1m 1f, 3yo fillies, Churchill Downs

Compared to last year, when four strong candidates crowded the top of the betting market, there is not much strength in depth about this year’s Kentucky Oaks, with several preps won in upset fashion by fillies whose overall records suggest that is the limit of their potential.

Added to this, the big hopes from last year – Wonder Wheel, Hoosier Philly, Julia Shining – have been bitterly disappointing, running zero-for-six between them, although the last-named showed a little spark when third in the G1 Ashland and should be suited by stretching out – if there are sufficient defections for her to make it into the final field. Also, the best filly in California, the unbeaten Faiza, is ineligible under the terms of trainer Bob Baffert’s suspension.

It is not a vintage year, certainly, but does that mean this is a poor Kentucky Oaks? Not necessarily. The clear favourite Wet Paint has done everything right at Oaklawn Park this year, and her see-me-late style of running will be well suited to the long Churchill Downs stretch. She is a big talent, while the Fair Grounds Oaks exacta of Southlawn and Pretty Mischievous are worthy opponents, and the improving Gulfstream Park Oaks winner Affirmative Lady is another whose credentials pass muster.

The final prep, the G2 Beaumont at Keeneland on Sunday, offers only ten RTKO points to the winner and will not materially affect the qualification process.

2023 Kentucky Oaks Top Contenders

Wet Paint Trainer: Brad Cox; RTKO points 170; Jazz Sports odds 2-1

Won G3 Fantasy and G3 Honeybee at Oaklawn Park over mile-sixteenth, fast track, wet track, unbeaten in three this year and four-for-six lifetime; has definite class edge against some shaky rivals, has no stamina concerns and is a strong closer who will likely have plenty of pace to run into.

Affirmative Lady Graham Motion 110 10-1

Winner G2 Gulfstream Park Oaks, slight upset after stalking pace and finishing off strongly over mile-sixteenth, stakes breakthrough; two-for-six lifetime and progressive type with more to offer; tired visibly when third over mile-eighth on first start of 2023 but has strengthened up since then.

Defining Purpose Kenny McPeek 107 30-1

Won G1 Ashland over mile-sixteenth at Keeneland, shock success at 20-1, close to pace, kicked clear and held on gamely, riding tactics key to victory; three-for-seven lifetime, previously twice behind Wet Paint at Oaklawn; distance could be an issue.

Pretty Mischievous Brendan Walsh 103 6-1

Winner G2 Rachel Alexandra and runner-up G2 Fair Grounds Oaks, both mile-sixteenth, stalked pace and pounced to win, led stretch and clear but easily run down when runner-up; four-for-six lifetime, twice winner at Churchill Downs, second-string for owner behind favourite Wet Paint.

Southlawn Norm Casse 100 11-2

Won G2 Fair Grounds Oaks over mile-sixteenth, stakes breakthrough and big step forward, rallied hard and extra yardage likely to be a positive; three-for-seven lifetime, tactically versatile and hitting form at the right time, although off the board all three starts at Churchill Downs.

Promiseher America Raymond Handal 100 22-1

Winner G3 Gazelle at Aqueduct over mile-eighth, stakes debut, 26-1 upset when pressed pace and clung on gamely close home; two-for-four lifetime and all at Aqueduct, stamina assured but this doesn’t appeal as Oaks-winning form.

Shidabhuti Chad Brown 80 18-1

Third G3 Gazelle behind Promiseher America, gave up unbeaten record when found little in closing stages; three-for-four lifetime, previously won mile stakes at Aqueduct on a sloppy track and the Oaks route is liable to be her downfall.

And Tell Me Nolies Peter Miller 70 30-1

Runner-up G2 Santa Anita Oaks and G3 Santa Ysabel, both times behind high-class Faiza over a mile-sixteenth; three-for-seven lifetime and G1 winner last year, but hasn’t moved forward at three and looks up against it.

Botanical Brad Cox 70 13-2

Dual stakes-winner on the synthetic surface at Turfway Park, impressive when making all over mile-sixteenth against moderate rivals last time; four-for-six lifetime, all wins on synthetic, has never raced on the main track; stamina no real issue but surface switch is a big query; trainer’s second-string behind Wet Paint.

Dorth Vader Michael Yates 70 22-1

Fourth G2 Gulfstream Park Oaks behind Affirmative Lady, came to win race but flattened out and faded; four-for-eight lifetime and lacks scope for further improvement; earlier impressive score in G2 Davona Dale at Gulfstream over a mile suggests that’s her distance.

Gambling Girl Todd Pletcher 61 25-1

Runner-up G3 Gazelle at Aqueduct, fourth G3 Honeybee at Oaklawn, rallied well in former over mile-eighth and distance shouldn’t be an issue; two-for-nine lifetime, drawn a blank last five starts, lacks the class to win but has board potential.

The Alys Look Brad Cox 54 35-1

Third G2 Fair Grounds Oaks behind Southlawn, never in contention and well beaten; two-for-six lifetime and form of previous stakes win in New Orleans hasn’t worked out; makes little appeal as third-string of top trainer.

Flying Connection Todd Fincher 50 35-1

Multiple stakes-winner in New Mexico, most recently when going gate-to-wire at Sunland Park Oaks over a mile-sixteenth; four-for-seven lifetime and looks a speed angle, but has never run at Graded level and unlikely to cope with huge class hike.

Mimi Kakushi Salem bin Ghadayer 50 xxx

Winner G3 UAE Oaks at Meydan over mile and three-sixteenths, comfortable victory although US-trained runner-up has only won a maiden; three-for-five lifetime, all in the UAE; no stamina issues but out of comfort zone now and has quite a bit to find on form.

Wonder Wheel Mark Casse 48 12-1

Sixth G1 Ashland behind Defining Purpose, made no show, very disappointing; four-for-seven lifetime, last year’s champion two-year-old filly and G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner; two-for-two at Churchill Downs and still a contender but hasn’t moved forward this year and represents big leap of faith for bettors.

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