Fourteen fillies plus one also-eligible entered Friday’s 142nd running of the Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs, but unbeaten champion Songbird was not one of them.
The talented filly was ruled out early due to a fever, leaving a much more contentious race in her wake.
Nevertheless, I think there are a couple of standouts in the field and have tabbed Lewis Bay, Cathryn Sophia, Land Over Sea and Rachel’s Valentina to fill out the superfecta on Friday.
1. Lewis Bay (8-1 morning-line odds) – The Chad Brown-trained daughter of Bernardini is the only filly in this year’s Kentucky Oaks field with prior experience winning at the 1 1/8-mile distance. She’s done so twice, once as a juvenile in the Demoiselle (G2) and last out in the Gazelle (G2) while making her second start as a three-year-old. The bay filly has proven herself on fast tracks as well as muddy surfaces, which could come in handy with a chance of rain forecasted throughout the rest of the week. Irad Ortiz Jr. has been aboard for all of her races thus far and retains the mount on Friday.
2. Cathryn Sophia (9-2 morning-line odds) – The bay filly just suffered her first loss last out when third by a half-length in the Ashland (G1) at Keeneland. Prior to that the John Servis pupil racked up four straight wins by a combined 41 1/2 lengths, including the Davona Dale (G1) and Forward Gal (G2) at Gulfstream Park. The daughter of Street Boss is the only runner in this year’s Kentucky Oaks owning a triple-digit BRIS Speed rating, earning that 102 figure for taking the Gin Talking S. in her juvenile finale at Laurel Park on December 5. Javier Castellano has the return call.
3. Land Over Sea (5-1 morning-line odds) – This chestnut daughter of Bellamy Road holds an advantage as the 4 1/2-length winner of the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) in her most recent start. The race has produced many a Kentucky Oaks winner and could continue that tradition with this filly. The Doug O’Neill pupil faced off against Songbird in her five races prior to the Fair Grounds Oaks and reputed herself well with a trio of runner-up finishes and one third-place effort. She sandwiched her Songbird losses between a pair of wins, and gets Mario Gutierrez back in the saddle for the Kentucky Oaks.
4. Rachel’s Valentina (7-2 morning-line odds) – As a daughter of 2009 Kentucky Oaks winner and Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, this Todd Pletcher trainee has a lot to live up to. She’s started out pretty well, taking her first race and following up with a win in the Spinaway (G1) at Saratoga last fall. The Bernardini filly concluded her two-year-old campaign with a runner-up effort in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) in late October and finished second in her one try this year in the April 9 Ashland (G1) at Keeneland. John Velazquez will be in the irons as she attempts to emulate her dam on Friday.