Though technically there was only one Kentucky Oaks (G1) points race this weekend, two events will be mentioned in this roundup.
First up, of course, is Monomoy Girl. The Tapizar filly ascended to the top of the Kentucky Oaks Leaderboard with a romping 2 1/2-length victory in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2) on Saturday.
That 1 1/16-mile contest kicked off the Championship portion of the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series of points races, offering up 50-20-10-5 to the respective top four finishers.
Monomoy Girl was making her sophomore bow in the Rachel Alexandra off her first career loss, a tough neck second in the Golden Rod Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs last November 25.
The Brad Cox trainee didn’t get the best of starts, hitting the gate at the start from her far outside post on Saturday. Jockey Florent Geroux settled Monomoy Girl in the rear of the seven-filly field, a spot the usually front-running miss is unfamiliar with. They remained in the rear as Classy Act led the way up front until the final turn. At that point Monomoy Girl began picking off runners until she had taken command in upper stretch.
It looked like clear sailing, but the Kentucky-bred lass suddenly shied away from the left-handed whip. Geroux straightened his mount and she crossed under the line an easy winner.
Monomoy Girl lived up to her 4-5 favoritism in the Rachel Alexandra, which is the second of Fair Grounds’ three-race series for sophomore fillies targeting the Kentucky Oaks. The series wraps up in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) on March 24, but Monomoy Girl is not expected to take part.
Cox announced Sunday that his charge will likely make her final prep for the Kentucky Oaks in Keeneland’s Ashland Stakes (G1) on April 7.
“Moving forward plan A is going to be the Ashland at Keeneland,” Cox said. “I spoke with (part owner) Sol Kumin and we really think the Ashland is going to be plan A. We’ll just see what happens. She did come out in good order and right now the plan is Keeneland.”
That’ll be a good spot for Monomoy Girl, who earned a 96 BRIS Speed rating Saturday, to gain some big-race experience. Her shying out in the stretch on Saturday was a bit alarming, as she brought a respectable four-race skein in to the Rachel Alexandra. There will be a lot more going on than a simple whip waving beside her on Oaks Day, and Keeneland can give her some up front and personal experience with the kind of crowds that will show up at Churchill on May 4.
Classy Act reputed herself well in her stakes debut in the Rachel Alexandra. The Bret Calhoun-trained daughter of Into Mischief stuck around in the stretch to be best of the rest, 1 1/4 lengths up on 2-1 second choice Wonder Gadot.
The dark bay lass, who garnered a career-best 93 BRIS Speed figure Saturday, has captured her past pair in front-running fashion. It’ll be interesting to see if she continues improving enough to make the Oaks field.
Now on to a non-points race for the Oaks – the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields. The nine-furlong affair is a points contest for the Kentucky Derby (G1), awarding 10-4-2-1 to the respective top four, and featured nine runners on Saturday.
The reason it’s mentioned here is that filly Paved easily defeated the boys.
The dark bay lass was actually favored at 2-1 to do just that while making her main track bow. The Michael McCarthy-trained miss opened her career with a pair of thirds over the turf at Santa Anita Park and Del Mar, before returning to that former track’s sod to break her maiden on January 6 by 5 1/2 lengths. That saw the Quality Road filly awarded a nice 100 BRIS Speed rating.
Lining up against winners for the first time in the El Camino Real Derby, Paved settled into a ground-saving spot down on the rail in third as Calexman led the way. Nearing the turn, jockey Drayden Van Dyke angled her out and she rallied outside of Mugaritz, who had taken over after pressing Calexman early on.
Paved kept motoring in the lane to triumph by 1 1/4 lengths over the synthetic Tapeta. Her effort was good for a new career-best BRIS Speed figure of 102 as well as 10 points toward a starting berth in the Kentucky Derby (G1) on May 5 at Churchill Downs.
Paved is currently not nominated to the Triple Crown and those 10 points likely won’t be enough to get her into the Run for the Roses. Her connections haven’t mentioned what’s next, but it would be wonderful if she continued on a path toward the Derby.
Another option for the uber-talented miss is run in an Oaks prep to earn enough points to make the Run for the Lilies. Thanks to the El Camino Real Derby, she’s already proven at the Oaks distance of 1 1/8 miles.
Either way, fingers crossed she shows up under the Twin Spires on the first weekend in May.