Farrell, Unique Bella neck-in-neck on Kentucky Oaks Leaderboard

Mar 05, 2017 Jennifer Caldwell/Brisnet.com

Purse earnings in non-restricted stakes is all that separate Farrell and Unique Bella on the Kentucky Oaks Leaderboard. Farrell currently sits on top due to more of those earnings but Unique Bella has tied it up in terms of points, with each filly boasting 70 points thus far.

The Road to the Kentucky Oaks continues to heat up as the Championship portion of the points series progresses, but here’s a look back at the previous two weeks’ action.

Busher Stakes – Aqueduct – February 25, 2017

YORKIEPOO PRINCESS lived up to her 9-5 favoritism in the Busher Stakes at Aqueduct, rallying five wide in upper stretch and taking over to pull off the 1 3/4-length victory. The Edward Barker trainee ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:47.69 over the inner track with Irad Oritz Jr. in the saddle to earn her third straight stakes score.

In fact, the dark bay daughter of Kantharos is actually riding a four-race win streak on dirt. Yorkiepoo Princess broke her maiden by 12 1/4 lengths last October at Belmont Park in an off-the-turf race and then finished up the track when trying a turf stakes next out. Moved back to the dirt she proceeded to romp in the Furlough Stakes and Ruthless Stakes before taking on the Busher.

Though she earned 50 points toward a starting berth in the May 5 Kentucky Oaks (G1), Yorkiepoo Princess isn’t nominated to the race. In fact, not one of the top four in the Busher is nominated to the Oaks.

The way she’s been running, Yorkiepoo Princess could very well stay in New York. If so, her connections will then have to decide whether to cut her back to six furlongs for the Ciciada Stakes on March 25 or wait until the April 8 Gazelle Stakes (G2) going nine furlongs. The latter race is another points contest for the Oaks and will award 100-40-20-10 to the top four. We’ll have to see if the winner on that day is nominated to the Kentucky Oaks.

Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2) – Fair Grounds – February 25, 2017

FARRELL continued her quest for Kentucky Oaks glory with yet another wire job, this time in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds.

The dark bay miss had a bumpy start to the 1 1/16-mile affair, breaking out and colliding with Shane’s Girlfriend, but that didn’t stop her from surging to the fore. Farrell led every step of the way, turning back a challenge from Valadorna and being geared down by jockey Channing Hill in the lane to finish 3 1/2 lengths the best on the wire.

Trained by Wayne Catalano, Farrell jumped to the top of the Kentucky Oaks Leaderboard, adding 50 points to her previous total of 20 to claim the number one spot. She’s not been challenged in her past three races now, including a six-length romp in the Golden Rod Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs last November, and may actually train up to the Kentucky Oaks off this victory.

If Farrell’s connections do decide on another start before May 5, both the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) on April 1 and Ashland Stakes (G1) at Keeneland on April 8 look to be in the cards.

Davona Dale Stakes (G2) – Gulfstream Park – March 4, 2017

MISS SKY WARRIOR extended her current win streak to four straight when capturing her three-year-old debut in the Davona Dale Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park. It was also the first foray outside of the Northeast for the Kelly Breen pupil, who last year competed in New York and at Parx Racing.

Miss Sky Warrior faced a well-matched group in the one-mile Davona Dale, and jockey Paco Lopez allowed the dark bay lass to settle just behind the first flight of runners while on the outside. She ranged up to tackle dueling leaders Jordan’s Henny and Modacious on the turn, sweeping by and then holding the former when she re-rallied in the stretch.

Miss Sky Warrior did what was needed to win and not much else. Summer Luck came flying at the end to just miss second by a neck and galloped out well past her. If Miss Sky Warrior wants to take on the likes of Farrell and Unique Bella, she’s going to have to step up her game a bit. If Breen keeps the First Samurai filly in Florida, her next opportunity to not only earn points but more experience is the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) going 1 1/16 miles on April 1.

Santa Ysabel Stakes (G3) – Santa Anita Park – March 4, 2017

UNIQUE BELLA found herself challenged in the Santa Ysabel Stakes (G3) for the first time since beginning her career last June.

The popular Jerry Hollendorfer charge broke to the inside with her head in the air and fought jockey Mike Smith heading into the first turn. She bullied her way between Tap It All and Spooky Woods, knocking that latter runner off stride for a second, before taking command of the race down the backstretch. Unique Bella finally settled down upon hitting the front and opened up on the field.

However, she seemed to slow down when entering the stretch, and that allowed Abel Tasman to range up on her outside. Smith went to the whip for the first time since the gray daughter of Tapit made her racing debut and Unique Bella picked up the pace once again. She was 2 1/4 lengths clear on the wire while finishing 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.11

You can either say Unique Bella is better than what she showed in the Santa Ysabel or that she proved her talent by re-breaking. Either way, she earned her fourth straight win and added another 50 points to her Kentucky Oaks tally. She now sits in second on the Kentucky Oaks Leaderboard with 70 points. That is the same number as Farrell has earned, but Unique Bella owns $33,407 less non-restricted stakes earnings than her main Oaks foe.

Next up for the sophomore lass is the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) on April 8 and then, if all goes well, it’s on to the Run for the Lillies.

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