Racing News

Unbeaten Champion Awesome Feather Heads 117 Fillies Nominated to 137 Running of $1 Million Kentucky Oaks

| Churchill Downs | 03/04/2011 #
  • Unbeaten Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Awesome Feather heads a roster of 117 fillies nominated to the Kentucky Oaks.

Stronach Stable’s Awesome Feather, the unbeaten 2-year-old filly champion of 2010 and winner of the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (Grade I), sits atop 117 talented fillies on the roster of early nominees to compete for a record $1 million purse offered for the 137th running of the Kentucky Oaks on Friday, May 6 at Churchill Downs.

The 1 1/8-mile Oaks, America’s premier race for 3-year-old Thoroughbred fillies, is renewed each year on the eve of the $2 million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI), America’s greatest race.  Both have been run annually without interruption since their debut during the first Churchill Downs race meet in May 1875.

Churchill Downs and Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, the world’s largest breast cancer organization, recently announced the renewal of a unique partnership to raise funds for breast cancer awareness and research through events at the historic track on Kentucky Oaks Day.  A “Ladies First” theme will be in place for the day, and those attending the spectacular Oaks racing program will be urged to “Pink Out” and incorporate the Komen’s brilliant signature pink into their Oaks Day attire.  The “Pink Out” is designed to raise awareness of Komen for the Cure, the world leader in funding for breast cancer research, education, advocacy and community support programs.

The $1 million guaranteed purse for the 2011 renewal of the Kentucky Oaks was doubled from the $500,000-added purse that had been in place for the race since its 1996 running won by Pike Place Dancer.  The Kentucky Oaks is the richest North American race in the 3-year-old filly division and the increase value of the race will boost purses for six stakes races scheduled for Churchill Downs’ Oaks Day program to a record $2 million.  That total ranks second at Churchill Downs to Kentucky Derby Day, which will also feature six graded stakes races – three of which are Grade I events – with total purses of $3.4 million.

The Kentucky Oaks-nominated fillies were made eligible for the race by the payment of a $200 nomination fee paid on or before its early nomination deadline of Feb. 19.  For the first time, Churchill Downs has instituted a late nomination period for the Kentucky Oaks, with those late nominations due – accompanied by a fee of $1,500 – by midnight (all times Eastern) on April 13.  Supplemental entries to the Oaks will also be accepted at the time of entry for a fee of $50,000.

The field for the Kentucky Oaks is limited to 14 starters, with preference given to entrants that have accumulated the highest earnings in graded stakes races.

Awesome Feather was purchased by Stronach Stable for $2.3 million at the Fasig-Tipton November Sale two days after her impressive 2 ¼-length victory in the Breeders’ Cup that locked up Eclipse Award championship honors for her former owner and breeder, Fred Brei of Florida’s Jacks or Better Farm, and trainer Stanley Gold.  She was transferred to the stable of trainer Chad Brown, but a reported tendon injury sent her to the sidelines.  The champion, who is unbeaten in six races with earnings of $1,495,746, is reported to be near a return to light training.

Should Awesome Feather make sufficient progress in the coming weeks to compete in the 137th Kentucky Oaks, she would bid to become the first 2-year-old filly champion to win the race since Mike Pegram’s Silverbulletday achieved that feat in 1999.  Silverbulletday earned another championship at three for trainer Bob Baffert, and was enshrined in racing’s Hall of Fame in 2009.

The total of 117 nominations to Kentucky Oaks 137 is down from the 143 fillies nominated to its 2010 renewal won by eventual 3-year-old filly champion Blind Luck.  But the 116 fillies that accompany Awesome Feather on this year’s roster of nominees include the brightest stars of this year’s 3-year-old filly division.

Those rising stars include E. Paul Robsham Stable LLC’s R Heat Lightning, runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and winner of Saratoga’s Spinaway (GI) and the recent Davona Dale (GII) at Gulfstream Park;  Zayat Stables LLC’s A Z Warrior, winner of the Frizette (GI) at two; Mr. and Mrs. Jerome MossZazu, winner of the Las Virgenes (GI) at Santa Anita; Blinkers On Racing and partnersTurbulent Descent, the winner of the Hollywood Starlet (GI) who suffered her only defeat in a runner-up finish in the Las Virgenes; Five D Thoroughbreds and Wind River StablesKathmanblu, winner of the Golden Rod (GII) at Churchill Downs and the recent Rachel Alexandra (GIII) at Fair Grounds, and third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly Turf (GI);  More Than Real, Santucket Stable’s winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly Turf; the John C. Oxley-owned duo of Pocahontas (GII) winner Dancinginherdreams and Delightful Mary, the third-place finisher in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies; Dawn and Ike Thrash’s Darley Del Mar Debutante (GI) winner Tell A Kelly; Hardacre Farm LLC’s Pomeroys Pistol, winner of Gulfstream’s Forward Gal (GII); Eldon Farm Equine’s Just Louise, winner of Churchill Downs’ Debutante (GIII); Kaleem Shah’s Santa Ysabel (GIII) winner May Day Rose; Linda Shanahan’s Golden Rod runner-up Missyoulikecrazy; Darley Stable’s It’s Tricky, winner of Aqueduct’s recent Busher; and Beverly Anderson and Edward Seltzer’s Wyomia, winner of the Mazarine (GIII) at Woodbine.

R Heat Lightning and More Than Real are among nine Kentucky Oaks 137 nominees trained by two-time Oaks winner Todd Pletcher, who led trainers in total nominations.  Kiaran McLaughlin and Baffert were next on that list with six nominated fillies, and they were followed by Ken McPeek and John Salder, each of whom nominated five fillies.  Mark Casse, Bernard Chatters and Bob Hess Jr. were next with four nominees.

Darley Stable nominated four fillies to lead all owners in total Kentucky Oaks nominations.  Close behind Darley with three nominations each were E. Paul Robsham Stable LLC, K.K. and V.D. Jayaraman, John C. Oxley, and Amanda Pope.

Kentucky Oaks-winning trainers who have nominated fillies in search of another victory in the race are headed by three-time winner Jerry Hollendorfer, who saddled Blind Luck to win last year’s renewal, and Pletcher.  Trainers who have nominated fillies in search of a second career victory in the race include Steve Asmussen, J. Larry Jones, Claude “Shug” McGaughey Jr., Neil Howard and John Ward Jr.

Blind Luck was the fourth consecutive Kentucky Oaks winner to earn an Eclipse Award that honored her at year’s end as America’s champion 3-year-old filly. The streak of Oaks-winning champions also includes Rachel Alexandra (2009), Proud Spell (2008) and Rags to Riches (2007).  Rachel Alexandra and Rags to Riches defeated males in Triple Crown races in their subsequent starts, with the former defeating Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird in the Preakness (GI) on her way to Horse of the Year honors, and Rags to Riches edged eventual two-time Horse of the Year Curlin in a dramatic renewal of the Belmont Stakes (GI).

Other stars who won the Kentucky Oaks on their way Eclipse Award 3-year-old filly championship honors include Ashado (2004), Bird Town (’03), Farda Amiga (’02), Silverbulletday (’99), Open Mind (’89), Tiffany Lass (’86), Davona Dale (’79) and Susan’s Girl (’72). Fillies that failed to win the Oaks but earned Eclipse Award championship honors at the conclusion of their 3-year-old seasons include Wait A While (3rd in ’06), Banshee Breeze (2nd in ’98), and Go for Wand (2nd in ’90) and Wayward Lass (3rd in ’81).

 

NOMINATIONS TO THE 137TH RUNNING OF THE $1 MILLION KENTUCKY OAKS (GRADE I)

A Z Warrior

Abide

Alec's Moon

Angel At Home

Around the Twig

Artuya

Arwen Undomiel

Awesome Feather

Be My Candy

Bellaridge

Beso Grande

Big Tiz

Bouquet Booth

Brushed by a Star

Cathy's Crunches

Chloe Kate

D'oro Princess

Daisy Devine

Dance Quietly

Dancinginherdreams

Dehere and Now

Delightful Mary

Divine Diamond

Draw It

Dream

Eden Star

Endless Fancy

Excited

Explosive Disco

Funny Sunny

Grand Style

Groundswell

Harlan's Ruby

Heavenly Pride

Her Smile

Holy Heavens

Home Sweet Aspen

Hot Summer

Hout Bay 

In Step

Inglorious

Isabelle's Thunder

Island School

It's Tricky

Jaredella

Joyful Victory

Juliet Dear

Just Louise

Kathmanblu

Kilograeme

Kindersley

Let's Get Fiscal

Lilacs and Lace

Love Theway Youare

Maggie McGowan

Marion Ravenwood

Maude S

May Day Rose

Might

Mildly Offensive

Miss Smarty Pants

Missyoulikecrazy

Moonstruck Maya

More Than Real

My Phi Temper

Mysterious Chimes

Naples Bay

Naughty Or Nice

Nereid

Nicky's Way

Niji's Grand Girl

Oh Carole

Pass Partout

Pelican Club

Pink Lollipops

Plum Pretty

Pomeroys Pistol

Portside

Priceless Design

R Gypsy Gold

R Heat Lightning

R Holiday Mood

Rigoletta

Rock the Moon

Roxy Gap

Royal Delta

Rumor

Salty Strike

Sanadaat

Sarah's Secret

Sassy's Dream

Savvy Supreme

Scarlet Mist

Shared Heart

She's Picky

Silent Moon

Smart Sting

Snow Fall

Suave Voir Faire

Summer Soiree

Tapit Dancer

Tell a Kelly

Tiz Lovely

Touch Screen

Tourmaline

Trac N Jam

True Way of Grace

Truly Classy

Turbulent Descent

Vaguely Familiar

Vixen's Roar

Vuemont

War Clan

Withgreatpleasure

Won Great Damsel

Wyomia

Zazu