The Road to the Kentucky Oaks heats up this week, with four prep races each offering 50-20-10-5 points toward a starting berth in the 144th edition of the Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs on May 4.
One of those races took place Thursday, and Rayya made a case for a trip across the Atlantic with a romping 3 3/4-length victory in the U.A.E. Oaks (UAE-G3) at Meydan. Her win was impressive enough that the Tiz Wonderful filly is now expected to take on the boys in the U.A.E. Derby (UAE-G2) on Dubai World Cup night, March 31.
Saturday will see three other Kentucky Oaks preps go off from coast-to-coast.
Gulfstream Park hosts the $200,000 Davona Dale Stakes (G2), which drew a field of eight to go a mile on the main track. The contest has a scheduled post time of 3 p.m. (ET).
Take Charge Paula already captured the first leg in Gulfstream’s three-race series for sophomore fillies headed to the Kentucky Oaks and lines back up here. The dark bay miss easily scored by 3 1/2 lengths in the seven-furlong Forward Gal Stakes (G3) while making her seasonal bow on February 3. It was also the Take Charge Indy filly’s first start for new trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, as she began her career with conditioner Kelly Breen. Paco Lopez has been aboard for all but one of Take Charge Paula’s races and retains the mount.
Forward Gal runner-up Sultry, fourth-placer Heavenhasmynikki and sixth-placer Miss Mo Mentum also return in the Davona Dale. Sultry is a stakes winner at Churchill Downs from her juvenile campaign, Heavenhasmynikki suffered her first career loss last out in the Forward Gal and Miss Mo Mentum romped by a combined 12 1/2 lengths in two starts before that race.
Looking to make a splash in the Davona Dale are Fly So High and Cache. The former, a Shug McGaughey-trained daughter of Malibu Moon, wired her maiden in her second career start by 7 3/4 lengths at Aqueduct and posted a 5 1/2-length allowance/optional claiming score over track and distance in her sophomore bow on January 4. Cache captured her career debut at Gulfstream going seven furlongs on January 27 for trainer Mark Hennig. Jose Ortiz pilots Fly So High while Javier Castellano stays in Cache’s saddle Saturday.
At approximately 4:56 p.m., another field of eight fillies will also go a mile in the $200,000 Busher Stakes at Aqueduct.
The contest features Midnight Disguise, a 4 1/4-length winner of the Busanda Stakes last out on January 25 at the Kentucky Oaks distance of nine furlongs. The Linda Rice trainee has suffered just one loss from four starts to date, with that coming as a runner-up effort in the East View Stakes going a mile at Aqueduct on January 14. Trevor McCarthy held the reins for both those contests and will be in the irons Saturday.
My Miss Lilly, third in the Forward Gal last out while making her second career start for trainer Mark Hennig, shipped back to Aqueduct for this one. The Tapit filly broke her maiden at first asking over the track on December 23. War Heroine sandwiched a sixth-placing in the Santa Ynez Stakes (G2) between a maiden debut score last November at Del Mar and the Sweet Life Stakes over Santa Anita Park’s turf on February 11. Manuel Franco rides My Miss Lilly while Junior Alvarado has the call on War Heroine.
Sara Street, You’vegottopaytopla and Blue Union Rags all make their stakes bows in this spot after breaking their maidens last out.
The $100,000 Santa Ysabel Stakes (G3) wraps up the Kentucky Oaks preps on Saturday with a 6 p.m. post time at Santa Anita Park.
The 1 1/16-mile affair will showcase the talents of Dream Tree and Midnight Bisou, who face off for the third time.
Dream Tree got the best of her rival in their first two meetings by just a nose, taking a six-furlong maiden at Santa Anita on October 27 and Del Mar’s Desi Arnaz Stakes on November 18. The Bob Baffert pupil returned in early December to add a 3 1/4-length victory in the Starlet Stakes (G1) at Los Alamitos to her resume and just made her sophomore bow a 3 3/4-length score in the Las Virgenes Stakes (G2) back at Santa Anita on February 4. Regular rider Drayden Van Dyke keeps the mount.
Midnight Bisou was given a couple months’ vacation after the Desi Arnaz and returned a winner on January 7 for trainer Bill Spawr. The Midnight Lute filly posted a 4 1/2-length win in the Santa Ynez Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita most recently and keeps Mike Smith aboard in this spot.
Four other fillies were entered in the Santa Ysabel, including dual stakes winner One Fast Broad, who has finished worse than second only once in her seven-race career, and Spring Lily, a five-length maiden scorer last out on February 4.