Road to the Kentucky Oaks is heating up

Jan 28, 2018 Jennifer Caldwell/

The Road to the Kentucky Oaks is well underway in the New Year, so it’s time to catch up with what the girls have been doing.

One of the races, the Starlet Stakes (G1) at Los Alamitos, actually took place last year on December 9. The 1 1/16-mile affair only attracted four runners, and Dream Tree took full advantage of that fact to post an easy 3 1/4-length victory.

Yesterday’s News eased up to lead the way onto the backstretch as the compact field stayed in close quarters. Dream Tree settled to her outside with Exuberance and Piedi Bianchi keeping each other company just behind.

Both Yesterday’s News and Dream Tree ran under snug holds from their riders, who only let loose entering the turn. The duo immediately separated themselves from Piedi Bianchi and Exuberance while circling the bend wide. Yesterday’s News tried to lead all the way home, but Dream Tree hit another gear in the lane and easily swept on by, opening up under a hand ride from jockey Drayden Van Dyke to be clear on the line.

Dream Tree only faced three rivals in this spot, but she couldn’t have won any easier. The Bob Baffert-trained bay previously had managed nose scores in her initial two races, but the stretch out from six and seven furlongs to 1 1/16 miles obviously appealed to the Uncle Mo miss. She earned a career-best 94 BRIS Speed rating while moving her record to a perfect three-for-three, and looks to be a major factor on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks.

The first race of 2018 in the series of points races for the Kentucky Oaks (G1) was the Santa Ynez Stakes (G2) run January 7 at Santa Anita Park, but the contest is getting short shrift here. Not to say the winner, Midnight Bisou, wasn’t impressive, but the race itself is only seven furlongs.

The Bill Spawr-trained Midnight Bisou had an uneventful trip between rivals, was widest of all rounding the turn and ran down 25-1 shot Steph Being Steph to score by a drawing-away 4 1/2 lengths.

The daughter of Midnight Lute is an exciting entrant on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks, and actually broke her maiden in this spot while earning a 93 BRIS Speed rating. Her resume is further enhanced by the fact she just missed by a nose to Dream Tree in her prior two efforts.

While it was good to see what she could do, it will be even more exciting to see if Midnight Bisou can duplicate it at a distance going forward.

Now the Silverbulletday Stakes at Fair Grounds, which drew eight fillies to make their sophomore bows over a fast track while going a mile-and-70 yards on January 13, was a much more formful race.

Once the gates opened, Shes Our Fastest won the battle for the early lead while pressed by even-money favorite Wonder Gadot and America’s Tale to her outside. Meanwhile, Stronger Than Ever settled into a ground-saving trip along the rail in the very back of the field.

Shes Our Fastest opened up on the backstretch as Wonder Gadot backed up to stalk while wide and Stronger Than Ever was still last and well out of it. Entering the turn for home, Wonder Gadot began her move and easily passed the early pacesetter to take command rounding the bend. Meanwhile, Stronger Than Ever had angled off the rail under Florent Geroux and split rivals to take up running position on the outside.

Set down by Geroux, Stronger Than Ever collared Wonder Gadot and stuck her head in front. The two fillies battled it out in the lane, but Stronger Than Ever refused to yield her slight advantage and scored her first stakes win.

Despite the impressive-looking score, the Kenny McPeek filly only garnered an 87 BRIS Speed rating. She did prove her heart and willingness to fight for the victory, and got the best of a more highly regarded rival, so it’ll be interesting to see if Stronger Than Ever can live up to her name in future contests.

Wonder Gadot also earned an 87 BRIS Speed rating and reputed herself well in her seasonal bow. The Mark Casse trainee is one of the few with wining experience at the Kentucky Oaks distance of 1 1/8 miles and should continue to move forward off this start.

Aqueduct is the only track to run Kentucky Oaks preps at the actual Oaks distance of 1 1/8 miles, and the January 25 Busanda Stakes was one of those points races.

Midnight Disguise proved victorious by 4 1/4 lengths in the nine-furlong affair under Trevor McCarthy. The massive filly settled in the rear of the field well off the rail as Oldfashioned Style led the way up front. She slowly inched forward, picking off runners one-by-one, on the far outside until finally catching Oldfashioned Style entering the lane.

Midnight Disguise continued plodding along, drawing away from the visibly leg-weary Oldfashioned Style late, to score her first stakes win.

The Busanda was a tired-looking race, and the numbers reflected that. Both Midnight Disguise and Oldfashioned Style labored in the stretch, and the winner only earned a 78 BRIS Speed rating for the win. Though she proved capable of getting the distance, Midnight Disguise will have to run a bit faster if she hopes to contend in the Run for the Lilies on May 4.

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