Ten days to go before the 2022 Run for the Lilies, and the big four contenders – not forgetting two or three interesting others on the fringes – are all still firmly on course for Louisville. In our final weekly look at the fillies’ Classic we run the rule over some historical data and ask an important question – just how relevant is an unbeaten record?
Working towards the big one
The Kentucky Oaks picture hasn’t changed by a pixel since last week, no ins, no outs – the only tweak came with the news that Santa Anita Oaks runner-up Adare Manor, who wasn’t in the top 14 in any case, would skip the Oaks – no betting moves, just a series of workouts for the leading contenders that have been no more than what might have been expected.
Secret Oath (3-1, Luis Saez) and Echo Zulu (4-1, Joel Rosario) blew through six furlongs, Hidden Connection (10-1, Reylu Gutierrez) and Turnerloose (40-1, Florent Geroux) jogged a mile, Nostalgic (10-1, Jose Ortiz) galloped a mile and a half, while Todd Pletcher’s trio – Nest (9-2, Irad Ortiz), Goddess Of Fire (20-1, John Velazquez), Shahama (25-1, Flavien Prat) – went for a mile and three-eighths.
All trainers reported themselves pleased, which doesn’t really tell bettors much. If a filly had worked badly, she’d likely be coming off the Oaks trail; working well is business as normal.
It’s hard to get a handle on what morning workouts mean. If a filly is normally leisurely in the morning and souped-up in the afternoon, the time of her workout doesn’t mean that much. Go too fast in the morning and there might be nothing in reserve for the afternoon. They’re all different, and as long as horses are doing what they normally do then all is well.
This year’s Oaks is notable for its strength in depth, with four big hitters backed up by a couple of very interesting improvers. Three horses – Kathleen O. (9-2), Shahama, and Echo Zulu – bring unbeaten records to Churchill Downs, which is impressive but, as the old saying goes, you never quite know how good a horse is until it’s been beaten. Unbeaten records can be a red herring – after all, two of those unbeaten fillies are definitely going to have their streak ended next Friday, and possibly all three.
Previous renewals of the Kentucky Oaks indicate the best preps have been the G1 Ashland at Keeneland and the G2 Fair Grounds Oaks down in New Orleans.
Seven of the last ten Oaks winners had their final prep in one of those two races, which is a pointer to the chances of Ashland one-two Nest and Cocktail Moments (40-1) and Fair Grounds Oaks one-two Echo Zulu and Hidden Connection.
Such historical analysis could never point to the chance of Secret Oath, who ran against colts last time, so it’s to be taken with a pinch of salt, but it does indicate that other preps may not provide a filly with the ideal stepping-stone to Churchill Downs.
It also suggests that having already won over the Oaks distance is not essential, which might be seen as a negative against G3 Gazelle winner Nostalgic and G3 UAE Oaks winner Shahama.
The G1 Ashland at Keeneland has recently been the best prep for the Kentucky Oaks and NEST, a very impressive winner of this year’s contest, has ticks in all the right boxes.
2022 Kentucky Oaks Odds
Grade 1, $1,250,000, 1m 1f, 3yo fillies, May 6
3-1 Secret Oath
4-1 Echo Zulu
9-2 Kathleen O | Nest
10-1 Hidden Connection | Nostalgic
15-1 Desert Dawn | Yuugiri
20-1 Goddess Of Fire
25-1 Candy Raid | Shahama | Venti Valentine
35-1 Ain’t Easy
40-1 Cocktail Moments, Turnerloose
75-1 Beguine | Classy Edition | Shotgun Hottie
Italics: horse not guaranteed a run, insufficient RTKO points
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