The improving Pretty Mischievous floored odds-on favorite Hoosier Philly in the Feb. 18 Rachel Alexandra (G2), and Saturday’s $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) will serve up a rematch at the same historic venue.
The clash of heavyweights fittingly takes place in the first Road to the Kentucky Oaks scoring event worth the maximum number of points – 100-40-30-20-10 to the top five. Only three others entered, so if all finish the 1 1/16-mile affair, everyone would pick up points.
The fillies’ companion race to the Louisiana Derby (G2), the final New Orleans stepping stone to the Kentucky Derby (G1), the Fair Grounds Oaks goes off as the 11th race at 6:08 p.m. (ET).
Here are three talking points for the Fair Grounds Oaks:
1. Will Hoosier Philly rebound from her first career loss?
Before Hoosier Philly finished a well-beaten third in the Rachel Alexandra, she had been a perfect 3-for-3. Moreover, the Tom Amoss trainee was utterly dominant in her stakes victories at Churchill Downs last fall. So easily had she won the Rags to Riches S. and the Golden Rod (G2), by a combined total of 12 1/2 lengths, that there was talk of possibly trying males this spring in a Kentucky Derby prep. Connections kept that option open by nominating Hoosier Philly to the Triple Crown.
But everything changed when the gate opened in the Rachel Alexandra, and Hoosier Philly didn’t break cleanly. Although she recovered enough to gain position, she never delivered her usual kick and lost ground down the lane. The likeliest explanation is that the start put her out of sync. Amoss retains his abundant faith in the filly that he’s called the best he’s ever trained. By leading sire Into Mischief and out of a Tapit mare, Hoosier Philly will try to prove his point by rebounding on Saturday.
2. Pretty Mischievous is 2-for-2 in Oaks points races at Fair Grounds.
Pretty Mischievous, who is bred on the same Into Mischief/Tapit cross as Hoosier Philly, has won both of the Fair Grounds preps she’s tried. Trainer Brendan Walsh has said that the Godolphin homebred maybe hasn’t gotten enough credit for her accomplishments this season.
Perhaps that’s partly because Pretty Mischievous had been a distant third to Hoosier Philly in the Golden Rod. But she’s progressed since that stakes and two-turn debut back on Nov. 26. Coming right back a month later in the Dec. 26 Untapable S. at Fair Grounds, Pretty Mischievous won handsomely from The Alys Look, who returned to take the Jan. 21 Silverbulletday S. Pretty Mischievous bypassed that leg and resumed in the Rachel Alexandra, where she gained revenge on Hoosier Philly.
3. The Alys Look can’t be overlooked in light of her Silverbulletday win.
Trainer Brad Cox, who has three chances in the Louisiana Derby led by favorite Instant Coffee, also has a few smart fillies on the Oaks trail. The Alys Look might get lost in the shuffle among her higher-profile stablemates, but she’s run three strong races over this track. After a front-running, seven-length maiden win, she found herself too far behind early in the Untapable and rallied for second to Pretty Mischievous. In the Silverbulletday, The Alys Look got the forward trip she prefers, and accordingly upended her favored stablemate Chop Chop.
The two remaining entrants are facing stiffer competition. Southlawn, a well-bred daughter of Pioneerof the Nile and 2016 Kentucky Oaks fifth-placer Mo d’Amour, could be ready for the class hike. The Norm Casse pupil just romped in a course-and-distance allowance, earning a competitive Brisnet Speed rating. New Mexico shipper Christian d’Oro, who recently transferred to the Steve Asmussen barn, has a distance question. The winner of the 6 1/2-furlong Borderplex S. two starts back, Christian d’Oro faded to fourth when trying a mile in the Island Fashion S. at Sunland Park.