The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and Kentucky Oaks have a long and very friendly history.
A connection was created with the inception of the Breeders’ Cup in 1984, as that year’s disqualified Juvenile Fillies winner, Fran’s Valentine, would go on to dominate the 1985 Oaks.
That seemed to set a precedent, and in 31 runnings of the Juvenile Fillies the race has produced 11 winners of the Kentucky Oaks.
Among those 11 winners, seven were in the top three of the previous year’s Juvenile Fillies. In fact, there have been only two editions of the Oaks that didn’t have at least one runner from the Juvenile Fillies.
What makes it even more unique is that the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Kentucky Derby are not so compatible. Until Street Sense managed to complete the double in 2006-07, many thought winning the Juvenile conveyed automatic throw-out status for the next year’s Derby.
The correlation between the Juvenile Fillies and Oaks began, as mentioned, right from the start. Fran’s Valentine posted a half-length upset in the Breeders’ Cup at 74-1, but was disqualified and placed 10th in the 11-filly field.
Six months later, the dark bay miss would go off significantly lower in the Kentucky Oaks and ended up prevailing by three parts of a length.
The early editions of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies were especially kind to the Kentucky Oaks. In addition to Fran’s Valentine, 1987 Juvenile Fillies runner-up Jeanne Jones would go on the next year to fill that same spot in the Oaks.
In 1988, Open Mind dominated both the two-year-old and three-year-old filly divisions, taking the Juvenile Fillies and Oaks as the heavy favorite.
Go for Wand also topped her contemporaries as a juvenile and sophomore. She captured the 1989 Juvenile Fillies in easy fashion, but could not catch Seaside Attraction in the Oaks the next year and was forced to settle for second.
Though Lite Light was nowhere near the winner of the 1990 Juvenile Fillies – finishing next to last of 14 – the bay would go on the next spring to romp by 10 lengths in the Oaks.
Pleasant Stage, a gusty head victress in the 1991 Juvenile Fillies, just missed by a half-length six months later in the Run for the Lilies.
Eliza, winner of the 1992 Juvenile Fillies and just caught in the stretch of the Oaks the next year, and Sardula, a head second in the 1993 Juvenile Fillies but winner of the Oaks by that same margin in 1994, brought the golden years to a close.
It wouldn’t be until 1998, when Silverbulletday prevailed in that year’s Juvenile Fillies, that the Breeders’ Cup race would have a significant impact on the Oaks again. The heavy favorite in both contests, Silverbulletday, scored by a half-length in the Breeders’ Cup and two lengths in the Oaks.
Another dry spell commenced until Ashado appeared to finish second in the 2003 Juvenile Fillies at 13-1. The dark bay lass would improve by leaps and bounds over the winter and spring months, enough so to capture the 2004 Oaks as the 2-1 favorite.
Octave and Proud Spell produced back-to-back years of Juvenile Fillies runner-ups making good in the Oaks, with the former filling the second spot in the 2007 Oaks and Proud Spell romping by five lengths just one year later.
In 2009, Blind Luck ran third in the 2009 Juvenile Fillies and the next spring rallied for a nose decision in the Oaks.
There was a particularly good run from the 2011-2013 Juvenile Fillies events.
Grace Hall, second in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup, would go on to be third in the Oaks, while current superstar mare Beholder easily captured the 2012 Juvenile Fillies before suffering a tough loss when second in the Oaks. Untapable had no luck in the 2013 Juvenile Fillies, but dominated during her sophomore season, including a 4 1/2-length decision in the next year’s Oaks.
Will this year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies provide yet another winner of the Kentucky Oaks, or will it fizzle in terms of the 2016 Run for the Lilies?
Based on past performances, I’d bet on the former.