Looking at the Potential Kentucky Oaks 141 Field: Casey’s Picks
Looking at the Potential Kentucky Oaks 141 Field: Casey’s Picks– The Kentucky Oaks is the sister event to the Kentucky Derby. Every year, a maximum of fourteen fillies line up to try to win the 1-1/8-mile race on the first Friday in May. The fastest Kentucky Oaks was run in 2003 by Bird Town who finished the nine furlongs in 1:48.64, and Rachel Alexandra won the 2009 Kentucky Oaks by a record margin of over 20 lengths.
This year, the Kentucky Oaks seems to be wide open, but it has a few major contenders. Here are the top 15 ranked horses with number 15 being the one alternate if any defections should occur within the next week.
1. Stellar Wind (Curlin – Evening Star, by Malibu Moon) After a surprising upset in the Santa Ysabel, Stellar Wind followed up that victory with another thrilling performance of dominance in the Santa Anita Oaks. Breeding shows that Stellar Wind has a huge career ahead of her, and she should eventually ask her trainers to give her more ground. She is also the first registered foal and stakes victor for the Malibu Moon mare Evening Star. Curlin was recently inducted into the racing Hall of Fame and is currently the all-time leading money earner in North America. Stellar Wind does like to run a bit later and dominate in the stretch, so she often has some company in the homestretch.
2. Birdatthewire (Summer Bird – My Limit, by Wagon Limit) When this filly finally got going, she got good, and quickly. Breaking her maiden in her fourth try, she moved on to win two Grade II events and finish second in another. The Oaks will be her Grade I debut, but with her pedigree, talent, and ability to run against any pace and company, she has a huge chance at success. She is by the ill-fated Summer Bird and out of a stakes-placed mare by Wagon Limit, the surprise winner of the 1998 Jockey Club Gold Cup. Distance should be absolutely no problem for this filly.
3. I’m a Chatterbox (Munnings – Chit Chatter, by Lost Soldier) From the first crop of the sprinter Munnings, this filly helped Munnings become one of the leading first crop sires of 2014. I’m a Chatterbox is on a three-race winning streak with a Grade II and Grade III to her credit. Of her four wins, three of those came when she was leading the way. However, in the Rachel Alexandra, she came from way off the pace to still win easily over Lovely Maria, winner of the Grade I Ashland over Angela Renee. I’m a Chatterbox is out of a full sibling to the multiple stakes winning mare Chatter Chatter.
4. Condo Commando (Tiz Wonderful – Yearly Report, by General Meeting) Condo Commando is by Tiz Wonderful who went undefeated in his two-year-old season before moving on to sire fast horses such as My Happy Face, Big Trouble, and Scherzinger. Yearly Report was a multiple Grade II winner, and Condo Commando is a half-sibling to the Grade II-placed Checklist. The female family seems to be strong in turf influence, but Condo Commando has only ever run on dirt, and the one time she lost was on a sloppy bog in the Frizette as a juvenile. She is fast, but she will have some competition on the front end, a situation she has never before had to face. Will she be able to outlast even the closers if and when the pace falls apart?
5. Include Betty (Include – Betty’s Solutions, by Eltish) Include Betty was likely not on many people’s radars until her jaw-dropping run in the Grade III Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn where she came home first at odds of 19-1. Her sire Include has been a success so far at stud, siring horses such as Grade I winners Panty Raid, Include Me Out, Her Smile, and Cash Included. While her dam was nothing more than a claimer, she produced the Grade I runner-up Blonde Fog. Include Betty’s second-dam Betty Lobelia is also the second-dam of Grade I winner My Trusty Cat. Distance should not be a problem for this filly, but I question her quality against tougher competition.
6. Oceanwave (Harlan’s Holiday – Tamboz, by Tapit) Harlan’s Holiday has been a top sire since he was retired following his three seasons of racing in which he racked up more than $3.6 million. Oceanwave is from the second to last crop of Harlan’s Holiday as he passed away suddenly in Argentina in 2013. Oceanwave is also out of a half-sibling to Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile hero Tapizar. Oceanwave has yet to win a graded stakes; however, she has turned in very strong runner-up performances in both the Honeybee and Fantasy, both Grade III events. Oceanwave is a closer, meaning she does her best running late. If she can get a good early pace that may fall apart late in the race, she may be right there with other closers such as Birdatthewire.
7. Sarah Sis (Sharp Humor – Emerald Gal, by Gilded Time) Sarah Sis seems to do her best running on the lead. Her three victories have all come on the lead or right near the front. She did finish second in the Martha Washington to Take Charge Brandi after sitting a bit further back in fifth. Her best speed figure is only a 90, according to Brisnet.com, and have more frequently been in the mid to high 80’s. If Sarah Sis is fast enough to contend with the others in this race, she will have to dig deep into her pedigree and into herself to keep fighting to the end.
8. Lovely Maria (Majesticperfection – Thundercup, by Thunder Gulch) This is the second filly in the Oaks field for Larry Jones and Brereton C. Jones. These connections have already won the Oaks together twice with Proud Spell in 2008 and Believe You Can in 2012. This filly has also helped her sire become a leading freshman sire. Majesticperfection was a track record-setting sprinter when he won the Grade I Alfred G. Vanderbilt. Lovely Maria is out of an unraced mare by Thunder Gulch, winner of two thirds of the 1995 Triple Crown. Her female family includes multiple Grade/Group I winners, such as Butterfly Rose. Lovely Maria earned her way into the Oaks field by finishing second in the Rachel Alexandra and winning the Ashland over Angela Renee.
9. Angela Renee (Bernardini – Pilfer, by Deputy Minister) This full sister of To Honor and Serve is a Grade I winner who claimed the Chandelier last fall. However, this season, she has run in second, third, and fourth, gathering just enough Oaks points to make it into the starting gate. Angela Renee was a good filly last year and needs to find that form again to be able to have a chance in the Oaks. Her pedigree says she should love the Oaks distance, but can she contend here? Pletcher should have her cranked for this race.
10. Eskenformoney (Eskendereya – But for Money, by Not for Love) This Pletcher trainee is the first registered stakes runner for her dam and is from the first crop of the Grade I-winning stallion Eskendereya. While she took six tries to break her maiden, this filly then seemed to find her niche in one-mile races. In her stakes debut, she finished a close third to Ekati’s Phaeton and Birdatthewire in the Davona Dale at Gulfstream Park. She came back to finish second in the Gulfstream Park Oaks to Birdatthewire. Pedigree suggests that Eskenformoney should enjoy the turf, but after trying turf in her first four starts, she switched to dirt with more success. Later down the road, Eskenformoney may return to the turf.
11. Puca (Big Brown – Boat’s Ghost, by Silver Ghost) Puca is one of two going for classic glory this season for stallion Big Brown. Puca represents Donegal Racing, who has also campaigned stakes horses Dullahan, Paddy O’Prado, and O’Prado Again. Puca is a half-sibling to multiple Grade II stakes winner Finnegans Wake, who enjoys the turf. The female family of Puca doesn’t shine when it comes to stakes winners, but it does include some hard-knocking horses who always showed their best.
12. Shook Up (Tapit – Sugar Shake, by Awesome Again) Shook Up seems in over her head in the Oaks, but she has some strong angles working in her favor. First, Steve Asmussen is the big grey filly’s trainer. Asmussen trained Rachel Alexandra, Curlin, My Miss Aurelia, and last year’s Kentucky Oaks and Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Untapable. He also trained Kentucky Oaks winner Summerly. Shook Up is also by 2014 Leading Sire Tapit and is the first foal out of Grade I winner Sugar Shake. Shook Up earned her way into the Oaks with a runner-up finish in the Fair Grounds Oaks to I’m a Chatterbox.
13. Maybellene (Lookin at Lucky – Greathearted, by Giant’s Causeway) In two seasons of racing, this filly has only finished first three times, technically. Her most recent “win” was via disqualification in the Sunland Park Oaks, providing enough points for her to make the Oaks field. She did finish a close third in the Grade I Starlet last season to Take Charge Brandi and Feathered. Her pedigree suggests that any surface should be to her liking, but in her only turf start, she finished a distant fourth. Lookin At Lucky was one of the top freshman sires in 2014. Greathearted was unraced but is a half-sister to Elusive Quality (sire of Smarty Jones) and Group II and Irish highweight victor Rossini. Maybellene’s fourth dam is Broodmare of the Year, Natashka.
14. Luminance (Tale of the Cat – Siren Serenade, by Unbridled’s Song) While it appears that Luminance could be a sprinter, her pedigree is loaded with talent and stamina influence. Tale of the Cat was a very versatile runner who won both sprint and route races. He also has sired runners such as Stopchargingmaria, Gio Ponti, Tale of Ekati, and Lion Heart (second in the 2004 Kentucky Derby). Luminance is the first stakes runner out of Siren Serenade, a half-sibling to top broodmare Versailles Treaty who produced George Vancouver and Saarland. Luminance’s fourth-dam is a half-sister to Exclusive Native, who sired Affirmed (1978 Triple Crown winner) and Genuine Risk (1980 Kentucky Derby winner).
15. Forever Unbridled (Unbridled’s Song – Lemons Forever, by Lemon Drop Kid) Forever Unbridled is on the outside looking in on the 141st Kentucky Oaks. Last season, her big sister Unbridled Forever finished third in the Oaks to My Miss Sophia and Untapable, both very good, quality fillies. This year, this filly has finished behind I’m a Chatterbox in each of her three starts. She has finished second in the Silverbulletday, and third in the Rachel Alexandra and the Fair Grounds Oaks. If any defections occur, this filly will be able to start in the Kentucky Oaks. She could have a shot to win if she gets a chance to run. Her dam Lemons Forever posted the biggest upset in Kentucky Oaks history in winning the race at odds of 47-1.
The 141st running of the Kentucky Derby is set to take place at Churchill Downs on Saturday, May 2, 2015. Gates open early at 8:00 am ET with post time for the first race at 10:30 am ET. Post time for the Kentucky Oaks is approximately 5:45 pm ET on Friday May 1, 2015. Post time for the Kentucky Derby is approximately 6:24 pm ET. Visit KentuckyDerby.com for official information.