Though not graded and only worth $50,000, Saturday's California Oaks at Golden Gate Fields will award the winner of the 1 1/16-mile contest with 10 points toward the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks starting gate.
Eleven sophomore fillies have thrown their hats in the ring, led by the Lloyd Mason trainee Lucky Moment (Marino Marini). The dark bay lass is currently riding a three-race win streak and has already beaten others in this field.
Princess of Sylmar, a stablemate of Grade 3 Withers winner Revolutionary, had a much easier time than her fellow Todd Pletcher trainee Saturday as she rolled by seven lengths in Aqueduct's Busher, her fourth straight win, all around two turns.
According to assistant trainer Michael McCarthy, next up for the Majestic Warrior filly will be Aqueduct's Grade 2, $250,000 Gazelle on April 6.
Fiftyshadesofhay flew home in the stretch of Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Santa Ysabel at Santa Anita to take her first stakes victory in impressive fashion under jockey Rafael Bejarano. The Bob Baffert-trained daughter of Pulpit bided her time in second on the backstretch of the 1 1/16-mile contest before easily swooping past pacesetter Escape Act to take command and draw off by 5 3/4 lengths on the wire.
Stonestreet Stables' Kauai Katie continued her winning ways this year with yet another easy win for trainer Todd Pletcher, this time in the Grade 2, $200,000 Forward Gal at Gulfstream Park on Saturday. With jockey John Velazquez aboard, the Malibu Moon miss grabbed command from the start and never looked back while pulling away in the lane to be 5 1/2 lengths clear of My Happy Face on the wire.
The Grade 3, $100,000 Santa Ysabel will get the stakes action underway at Santa Anita on Saturday when a six-filly field breaks from the gate. Scarlet Strike has yet to visit the winner's circle since taking her maiden at Del Mar going a mile last September, but the Jerry Hollendorfer pupil has been close.
In addition to having champion Shanghai Bobby in Saturday's Grade 3 Holy Bull, trainer Todd Pletcher will also have the prohibitive favorite in the Grade 2, $200,000 Forward Gal when he saddles Kauai Katie in the seven-furlong test for three-year-old fillies.
Zillah Reddam's Renee's Titan capitalized on a torrid early pace to stun newly-crowned champion Beholder at odds of 20-1 in Monday's Grade 2, $150,500 Santa Ynez Stakes at Santa Anita. Well beaten by Beholder in their only prior meeting, and winless from five previous stakes attempts, the Doug O'Neill trainee rallied from last to mug the 1-5 favorite and her stubborn rival Dawn's Charm in the final strides.
A more than two-month layoff proved to be no detriment to Touch Magic on Saturday as the Coteau Grove Farms colorbearer bounded home a three-quarter length winner of the $125,000 Silverbulletday at Fair Grounds.
The score, her first in three stakes tries, provided the Lion Heart filly with 10 points on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series, and increased her current point total to 14 following a half-length second in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Princess in her last race on November 17.
It looks like the field against presumptive two-year-old filly champion Beholder in Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday feature at Santa Anita -- the Grade 2, $150,000 Santa Ynez -- doesn't hold much challenge, but, as the old saying goes, "They still have to run around the track."
While the boys begin their Kentucky Derby quest in Fair Grounds' Grade 3 Lecomte on Saturday, the fillies will start their journey toward the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks in the $125,000 Silverbulletday. The mile-and-70-yard contest will feature a rematch between Seaneen Girl and Gal About Town, the respective top two from the Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill Downs last November.
King of Prussia Stable's Princess of Sylmar bided her time while saving ground on the rail in Saturday's $100,000 Busanda at Aqueduct before squeezing between fellow three-year-old fillies and drawing off for a 7 1/2-length victory under jockey Chris DeCarlo. Sent off the heavy 4-5 favorite against her five rivals, the Majestic Warrior filly paid $3.90, $2.50 and $2.10.
Kauai Katie blew past pacesetter Cor Cor at the top of the stretch and drew off to an easy win in Tuesday's Grade 3, $98,000 Old Hat at Gulfstream Park, a six-furlong test for newly turned three-year-old fillies. Under John Velazquez, the Stonestreet Stables lass won by eight lengths and completed the distance in a swift 1:09 3/5 over a fast track.
Saturday's $100,000 Busanda, over one mile and 70 yards at Aqueduct on Saturday, drew a field of six, with Asiya narrowly favored over the Todd Pletcher-trained Princess of Sylmar and Kiss the Lady, a supplementary entry from trainer Rudy Rodriguez.
The Road to the Fair Grounds Oaks kicks off in the $125,000 Silverbulletday Stakes on January 19, the same day that Derby hopefuls contest the Grade 3 Lecomte. The Silverbulletday is worth 17 points (10 for first, four for second, two for third, one for fourth) toward Kentucky Oaks qualification.
Below are the leading Fair Grounds fillies to watch, listed alphabetically, based on past performances, published works and interviews with horsemen. Inclusion on this list does not necessarily mean that the horse is known to be under consideration for upcoming Fair Grounds stakes.
Kauai Katie will be a prohibitive favorite lining up against four rivals in Tuesday's Grade 3, $100,000 Old Hat at Gulfstream Park, a six-furlong, New Year's Day test which is literally the first opportunity for the daughter of Malibu Moon to enhance her already stellar reputation as a newly turned three-year-old.
Magdalena Racing's Pure Fun came widest of all around the final turn in Saturday's Grade 1, $500,000 Hollywood Starlet and flew home down the stretch at Hollywood Park to take the 1 1/16-mile contest by one length under jockey Garrett Gomez. The Ken McPeek-trained chestnut lass was last entering the lane but easily proved best to return $14.40, $6 and $10.60 as the 6-1 third choice in the eight-filly field.
Seaneen Girl's upset victory in Saturday's Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill Downs had trainer Bernie Flint thinking about the first Friday in May on Sunday morning.
"They're going to run the (Grade 1 Kentucky) Oaks here (at Churchill Downs) and she loves the place," Flint said. "She's second in (Road to the Kentucky Oaks) points (behind Executiveprivilege) and she's just coming around.
"(Her win) meant a lot to me at this stage of the game. I've always been a filly specialist and it'd be great if I could win the Oaks."