LATT’s Top Early Kentucky Oaks Contenders – 2/9/17
By Casey Laughter
The Kentucky Oaks (GI) — the sister race to the Kentucky Derby (GI) — is less than three months away and the real contenders are starting to emerge while some of the others are fading into the afterthoughts of 2016. While your 2016 juvenile filly champion is on the list, she is no longer the top contender in California. The Tapit filly Unique Bella is looking to become her sire’s second Kentucky Oaks winner after her dominating performance in last week’s Las Virgenes Stakes (GI) at Santa Anita.
Is your Kentucky Oaks pick on the list?
Unique Bella (Tapit – Unrivaled Belle, by Unbridled’s Song) — Other than a rough first start, Don Alberto Stable’s Unique Bella has done nothing wrong. She has won her three starts by a combined 26 1/2 lengths and her pedigree is absolutely perfect for the Kentucky Oaks. Her next goal is likely the Santa Ysabel (GII) before the Santa Anita Oaks (GI) and then the Kentucky Oaks (GI). If her connections see their filly get any better, she could try the boys, but trainer Jerry Hollendorfer will take some convincing.
Valadorna (Curlin – Goldfield, by Yes It’s True) — Valadorna recently got her second win in her fourth start in an allowance/optional claimer at Fair Grounds. Owner Stonestreet Stables and trainer Mark Casse likely will send the filly to the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (GII) on February 25 next out. In addition to her two wins, she’s never been worse than second and also was second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) to Champagne Room, who was easily put away by Unique Bella in the Las Virgenes last weekend.
Farrell (Malibu Moon – Rebridled Dreams, by Unbridled’s Song) — Bred on a similar cross as Unique Bella, the half-sister to multiple grade 1 winner Carpe Diem was most recently seen winning the Silverbulletday Stakes at Fair Grounds. She has not worked since that win, but she looked very good that day. She should be headed to the Rachel Alexandra next as well and it will be interesting to see her up against another quality filly like Valadorna.
Pretty City Dancer (Tapit – Pretty City, by Carson City) — Pretty City Dancer was injured before the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and was off five months before coming back in the Forward Gal (GII) to just barely get outrun by Tequilita. She got a great first race back and should certainly build off of the performance.
Abel Tasman (Quality Road – Vargas Girl, by Deputy Minister) — Abel Tasman has been as consistent as ever in her last three starts. She broke her maiden in her second try at Santa Anita, then won an allowance at Del Mar, then finally made her graded stakes debut in the Starlet Stakes (GI) at Los Alamitos which she won without taking a deep breath. The Simon Callaghan trainee just returned to the track at the end of January and will likely follow the California path toward the Kentucky Oaks. She needs to get racing soon, however.
Champagne Room (Broken Vow – Lucky to Be Me, by Bernstein) — It is a shame this champion filly had to drop so far sdown on this list, but after her poor showing in the Las Virgenes Stakes in her seasonal debut, she has shown she is seriously inconsistent. While the filly has never been worse than fourth in six starts, she is losing to questionable competition, excluding Unique Bella. She should have easily defeated Mopotism, yet finished 1 1/4 lengths behind her, and 10 behind Unique Bella. She should improve next out, but if not, it might be time to try the turf.
It Tiz Well (Arch – It Tiz, by Tiznow) — The filly broke her maiden second time out at Los Alamitos before trying stakes competition in the Santa Ynez Stakes (GII). However, stablemate Unique Bella stole the show and It Tiz Well finished clear second that day. She came back to win an allowance/optional claimer on Feb. 3 by 3 ¾ lengths going seven furlongs and while her pedigree says she will be fine going longer the question is if she can keep up with the rest of the more tactically speedy fillies.
Daddys Lil Darling (Scat Daddy – Miss Hot Salsa, by Houston) — Daddys Lil Darling is one of the types who likes to run late and display a nice turn of foot down the lane, but because of it she is at the mercy of the pace. She has never been worse than fourth in six career starts, including a closing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. She has been working at Payson Park and should be nearing a return for trainer Ken McPeek.
Miss Sky Warrior (First Samurai – Sky Minister, by Conquistador Cielo) — This First Samurai filly is working well at Palm Meadows in Florida and likely will make her comeback soon, as she recently posted a 1:00.30 five furlongs from the gate, earning the bullet. She broke her maiden second time out at Parx and then shipped to Aqueduct, where she has been successful in winning two graded stakes. After winning the one-mile Tempted Stakes (GIII), she captured the nine furlong Demoiselle Stakes (GII) which means she’s already successfully attempted the Kentucky Oaks distance. She appeared to be struggling over a tiring Aqueduct surface that day, though, despite the win so she will need to show more in her next race or two to stay on the list.
Tequilita (Union Rags – Sangrita, by Mr. Greeley) — The inbreeding to Gone West here was obviously intended and her ability to get the nine furlongs shouldn’t be hard to believe. The filly broke her maiden in her fourth try, but ever since has been improving, winning two more starts, including the Forward Gal (GII) last out where she defeated the highly regarded Pretty City Dancer. However, she was green and looked tired, which isn’t totally unusual for a young filly. It was a nice win and she should improve off of it.