A field of 14 plus one also-eligible has been entered to go 1 1/8 miles on Friday in the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs.
The Run for the Lilies takes place one day before the famed Kentucky Derby and has drawn a talented, and competitive, group of sophomore fillies.
Farrell brings a four-race win streak into the 143rd edition of the Oaks and could easily extend that to five on Friday. The Wayne Catalano charge began her career under the TwinSpires at Churchill last fall, breaking her maiden by five lengths in her second outing and scoring a six-length victory in the Golden Rod Stakes (G2) to close out her juvenile campaign.
The Malibu Moon filly carried her winning ways into her sophomore season, racking up easy scores in the Silverbulletday Stakes and Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds before romping by 3 1/4 lengths in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) last out on April 1. Jockey Channing Hill has been aboard for all of Farrell’s starts and retains the mount Friday.
Miss Sky Warrior is also riding a win streak. The Kelly Breen-trained daughter of First Samurai dropped her career debut last September at Belmont Park but has been unbeaten in five starts since, including a 13-length domination of the Gazelle Stakes (G2) last out on April 8 at Aqueduct. The dark bay lass is the only filly in the field with prior winning experience at the Oaks distance of 1 1/8 miles, thanks to a half-length score in last year’s Demoiselle Stakes (G2) and the aforementioned Gazelle. Regular rider Paco Lopez has the call.
Paradise Woods has made just three starts thus far, but two of those resulted in the easiest of wins for trainer Richard Mandella. The Union Rags filly finished second in her debut at Santa Anita Park on January 26, broke her maiden by 4 1/4 lengths on March 11 and then wired the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) by 11 lengths while facing winners for the first time. She earned a 110 BRIS Speed rating for that latter contest, and is one of only two fillies in the Kentucky Oaks boasting a triple-digit Speed figure. Flavien Prat stays in the irons.
Daddys Lil Darling is one of the more experienced runners in this field with eight starts and boasts two wins, including the Pocahontas Stakes (G2) last September on a muddy Churchill Downs track. That off-track experience could come in very handy with rain forecasted overnight and throughout Friday. The Kenny McPeek trainee enters the Oaks off a rallying half-length second in the Ashland Stakes (G1), and gets Julien Leparoux in the pilot’s seat.
Salty debuted for trainer Ian Wilkes, just missing by a neck at Gulfstream Park in February, but was transferred to Mark Casse via new ownership and is now unbeaten for that conditioner from two starts. The Quality Road lass powered home an easy 4 1/4-length victress of the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) last out and only looks to get better with experience. Joel Rosario has the call.
Abel Tasman will be getting blinkers added for the Kentucky Oaks. The Bob Baffert-trained captured the Starlet Stakes (G1) to close her juvenile campaign and opened 2017 with a runner-up effort behind sidelined star filly Unique Bella. With that rival out of the picture, Abel Tasman appeared poised for success in the Santa Anita Oaks last out, but no one had seen Paradise Woods coming. The Quality Road miss teams with Mike Smith yet again as she seeks to turn the tables Friday.
Ever So Clever returns to the site of her half-length second in the Pocahontas last year and brings a win in the Fantasy Stakes (G3) with her. The Steve Asmussen pupil didn’t factor when fifth in Oaklawn Park’s other two three-year-old filly stakes, the Martha Washington Stakes and Honeybee Stakes (G3), but may be rounding into form just in time for a top-three placing.
Forward Gal Stakes (G2) winner Tequilita had a three-race win streak snapped when second in the Gulfstream Park Oaks but could get up for a piece of the pie on Friday. Wicked Lick was no match for Farrell at Fair Grounds, but she prove best of the rest in both the Silverbulletday and Fair Grounds Oaks while finishing fourth in the Rachel Alexandra. Another top-four effort is not out of the question.
Jordan’s Henny and Vexatious could also factor in the superfecta at the end. The former ran second by a half-length to Miss Sky Warrior in the Davona Dale Stakes (G2) and was third in the Gulfstream Park Oaks. Vexatious filled the third spot in both the Fair Grounds Oaks and Fantasy.
Sailor’s Valentine is out to prove her half-length triumph at 22-1 in the Ashland was no fluke. The Eddie Kenneally trainee actually hasn’t done too bad in her career, but her BRIS Speed numbers look a little low against this field. Lockdown and Mopotims were both well-beaten in their last pair. The former was outmatched when second in the Gazelle while the latter faded to fourth in the Santa Anita Oaks.
Summer Luck is an also-eligible and would need a defection to draw into the field.