Only five races are left in the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series of points contests, and four take place this weekend.
Three are on Saturday – each of which is worth 100-40-20-10 points to the respective top four finishers – beginning with the $300,000 Gazelle Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct (3:38 p.m. [ET] post time). Contested at the same 1 1/8-mile distance as the Kentucky Oaks (G1) on May 4 at Churchill Downs, the two-turn affair attracted six runners.
Headlining the Gazelle is Midnight Disguise, who thus far this year has captured the Busanda Stakes and Busher Stakes over the track. The Linda Rice pupil took the nine-furlong Busanda by 4 1/4 lengths just 11 days after kicking off her sophomore campaign with a runner-up effort in the January 14 East View Stakes. Jockey Trevor McCarthy has been aboard for all three of the Midnight Lute filly’s starts in 2018 and has the call Saturday.
Those lining up against Midnight Disguise include Busher rivals Sara Street and My Miss Lilly.
Sara Street finished second in the Busher most recently while making her stakes bow. The Kiaran McLaughlin trainee broke her maiden in her second career outing, which came February 4 at Aqueduct. The dark bay daughter of Street Sense retains the services of Dylan Davis in this spot.
My Miss Lilly completed the top three under the wire of the Busher one race after filling that same spot in the Forward Gal Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park. Trainer Mark Hennig has tabbed Joe Bravo to take the reins on the gray Tapit filly Saturday.
If forecasted winter weather doesn’t cause any problems, Keeneland will host the $500,000 Ashland Stakes (G1) on Saturday (5:45 p.m. [ET] post time). A field of seven was entered in the 1 1/16-mile contest, including Monomoy Girl, Eskimo Kisses and Patrona Margarita.
Trainer Brad Cox sends out Monomoy Girl off a 2 1/2-length triumph in the February 17 Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds. That was the Tapizar filly’s three-year-old debut and came three months after suffering her only career loss to date when second by a neck in the Golden Rod Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs on November 25. Regular rider Florent Geroux stays in the saddle as Monomoy Girl returns to Kentucky in this spot.
Eskimo Kisses broke her maiden by a neck at Oaklawn Park in early February, then dominated an allowance/optional claimer at that Hot Springs, Arkansas, venue by 11 lengths three weeks later. The Kenny McPeek charge made her stakes bow in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) last out on March 24 and rallied to just miss by a head on the wire. Corey Lanerie will be aboard the To Honor and Serve chestnut for the first time.
Patrona Margarita followed a similar pattern as Monomoy Girl, running at Churchill Downs in her juvenile finale and then showing up at Fair Grounds for her sophomore bow. The Bret Calhoun trainee scored a 3 3/4-length victory in the Pocahontas Stakes (G2) under the Twin Spires last September and finished fourth in the Rachel Alexandra last out after hitting the gate at the start. Regular rider Brian Hernandez Jr. has piloting duties.
Another contender in the Ashland is C. S. Incharge, who switches back to jockey Luis Saez on Saturday. The duo first teamed up when the Dale Romans trainee broke her maiden in an off-the-turf contest at Gulfstream on January 3. The Take Charge Indy lass enters the Ashland off a three-quarter length victory under jockey Joel Rosario in the Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
The $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks (G1) will wrap up the Kentucky Oaks prep action on Saturday (7:30 p.m. [ET] post time) with a field of nine set to go 1 1/16 miles.
Midnight Bisou is looking to keep her 2018 record perfect in three starts after finishing second by a nose in both of her juvenile efforts last year. The Bill Spawr-conditioned filly broke her maiden taking the Santa Ynez Stakes (G2) by 4 1/2 lengths in her three-year-old debut on January 7. She skipped the Las Virgenes Stakes (G2) in February but showed no signs of rustiness when adding the Santa Ysabel Stakes (G3) last out on March 3 to her resume by 2 1/4 lengths. Mike Smith stays aboard.
Thirteen Squared made her sophomore bow in the Las Virgenes on February 4, finishing fourth after leading early in that contest, then returned to be second in the Santa Ysabel last out for conditioner Bob Baffert. Jockey Tyler Baze has been in the irons ever since the Liaison filly broke her maiden by 6 3/4 front-running lengths on December 7 and keeps the mount.
Exuberance, runner-up in the Las Virgenes, and We All Have Dreams, a seventh-length maiden winner, are also in with a chance under Corey Nakatani and Joel Rosario, respectively.
The Kentucky Oaks action returns to Keeneland on Sunday for the $150,000 Beaumont Stakes (G3) sending nine fillies seven furlongs. However, the sprint is only worth 10-4-2-1 to the respective top four runners in regards to Oaks points. Dream It Is and In the Mood are the top draws in the race.
Dream It Is, a Barbara Minshall-trained daughter of Shackleford, is unbeaten in three career starts, the most recent of which came as a nine-length romp in the Schuylerville Stakes (G3) last July at Saratoga. Luis Saez will be aboard for the first time in this spot.
In the Mood threw her hat in the Kentucky Oaks ring with a runner-up effort in the Bourbonette Oaks (G3) over Turfway Park’s synthetic Polytrack on March 17. John McKee has been in the irons for the Eskendereya filly’s past three races, two of which are wins, and keeps the mount for trainer Stephen Sandy.
Well-traveled Happy Like a Fool, clear winner of the Matron Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park last out for conditioner Wesley Ward, returns to the site of her four-length maiden debut win last April. Tyler Gaffalione has the call.
Making her stakes bow in this spot is Uppercut from the shedrow of Peter Eurton. The Discreet Cat filly wired her six-furlong debut at Santa Anita Park on February 17 by 5 3/4 lengths and keeps Mike Smith in the saddle.