Final preps can, and do, play a role in how runners perform in a big race. So what is the prep race that has produced the most Kentucky Oaks (G1) winners?

That is a lot of ground to cover considering the 143rd running of the contest takes place later this evening. Also, races change over time, their names, distances, and sometimes even tracks over which they take place.

To make this task more manageable, let’s look at the final prep for the Kentucky Oaks winner since 2000.

SECRET STATUS – 2000

Secret Status captured the Florida Oaks (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs before her 6 3/4-length romp in the Kentucky Oaks. The contest is a good example of races that change over time. It’s still run at Tampa Bay Downs but was switched to the turf course in 2011 and has taken place on grass ever since.

FLUTE – 2001

Flute was sent off at 13-1 in the 2001 Santa Anita Oaks (G1) but dueled with the winner before ending up a length second. She wasn’t the favorite in the Kentucky Oaks but did go off at lower odds of 3-1 to score by 2 3/4 lengths.

FARDA AMIGA – 2002

Farda Amiga was a longshot in both her final prep and the Kentucky Oaks. She finished fourth at 35-1 in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1), though only beaten two lengths, and was sent off at 20-1 in the Run for the Lilies, where she rallied for the 1 1/4-length victory.

BIRD TOWN – 2003

Bird Town took advantage of a seven-furlong Keeneland contest to earn her way into the Kentucky Oaks. She ran second in the Beaumont Stakes (G2) at 3-1 before returning three weeks later to upset the Oaks by 3 1/4 lengths at 18-1. On a sidenote, her half-brother Birdstone popped up one year later to take the Belmont Stakes (G1) and spoil Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1) winner Smarty Jones’ Triple Crown bid.

ASHADO – 2004

Ashado was a major player during her sophomore season in 2004 and would eventually be named champion three-year-old filly after closing out the year by beating her elders in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1). Before that, though, the dark bay miss just missed by a half-length in the Ashland Stakes (G1) at Keeneland prior to a 1 1/4-length victory in the Oaks as the 2-1 favorite.

SUMMERLY – 2005

Summerly also used the Ashland as her final prep, but didn’t do near as well as Ashado when fourth, beaten 19 1/4 lengths. The chestnut lass rebounded in a big way, though, to wire the Kentucky Oaks by two lengths one race later.

LEMONS FOREVER – 2006

Lemons Forever finished third while making her stakes debut in the Bourbonette Breeders’ Cup Stakes (G3) at Turfway Park and was sent off at 47-1 for the Kentucky Oaks next out, but captured her initial stakes score in the Run for the Lilies by 1 1/2 lengths.

RAGS TO RICHES – 2007

Rags to Riches romped as the favorite in both the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) and Kentucky Oaks (G1), but gained more fame for becoming the first filly since 1905 to take the Belmont Stakes (G1). To date, she is only the third filly to win the “Test of the Champion,” joining Ruthless (1867) and Tanya (1905).

PROUD SPELL – 2008

Proud Spell was sitting pretty ahead of the 2008 Kentucky Oaks with a nice win in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), but actually made her final prep a third-place run in the Ashland Stakes (G1). That didn’t stop her from romping by five lengths on the first Friday in May as the near 7-2 favorite.

RACHEL ALEXANDRA – 2009

Rachel Alexandra went undefeated as a sophomore and beat the boys twice – first in the Preakness Stakes (G1) and then in the Woodward Stakes (G1). But before all that she wired the Fantasy Stakes (G2) by 1 3/4 lengths en route to establishing the largest-winning margin for the Kentucky Oaks of 20 1/4 lengths. Her exploits saw the 2016 Hall of Fame inductee crowned Horse of the Year in 2009.

BLIND LUCK – 2010

Blind Luck was sent off the 1-2 favorite in the Fantasy Stakes (G2) and prevailed by an easy 2 1/2-lengths. However, the chestnut miss didn’t have it that easy as the 6-5 favorite in the Kentucky Oaks, just getting her nose in front on the wire to score after a very wide run.

PLUM PRETTY – 2011

Plum Pretty decimated her rivals in the Sunland Park Oaks, scoring by an effortless 25 lengths. She put that contest on the map as a Kentucky Oaks prep when taking the main event next out by a quarter-length at 6-1.

BELIEVE YOU CAN – 2012

Believe You Can just eked out a head victory in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) at 7-2, but left no doubt who was best in the Kentucky Oaks when powering to a three-quarter length triumph at 13-1.

PRINCESS OF SYLMAR – 2013

Just like Plum Pretty, Princess of Sylmar stamped the Gazelle Stakes (G2) as a good Kentucky Oaks prep when finishing second in 2013. She was 3-2 on that occasion but scored in the Oaks by a half-length after being sent off a 38-1 longshot.

UNTAPABLE – 2014

Untapable raced just twice as a sophomore before trying the Kentucky Oaks, but dominated both the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G3) and Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) prior to capturing the Run for the Lilies by 4 1/2 lengths. She would go 7-6-0-0 as a three-year-old, with her only loss coming against the boys when fifth in the Haskell Invitational (G1).

LOVELY MARIA – 2015

Lovely Maria easily proved best as the 9-5 favorite in the Ashland Stakes (G1) at Keeneland but was sent off at 6-1 in the Kentucky Oaks next out. She easily outran those odds when scoring by 2 3/4 lengths.

CATHRYN SOPHIA – 2016

Cathryn Sophia was also favored to win the Ashland Stakes (G1), leaving the gate at 1-2, but could not hang on to her lead in the stretch and finished third by a half-length. The bay filly more than made up for that in the Kentucky Oaks, pulling away to a 2 3/4-length victory at 9-2.

YEAR

 

WINNER

 

PREP RACE

 

TRACK

 

FINISH POSITION

2000

Secret Status

Florida Oaks (G3)

Tampa Bay Downs

1st

2001

Flute

Santa Anta Oaks (G1)

Santa Anita Park

2nd

2002

Farda Amiga

Santa Anita Oaks (G1)

Santa Anita Park

4th

2003

Bird Town

Beaumont (G2)

Keeneland

2nd

2004

Ashado

Ashland (G1)

Keeneland

2nd

2005

Summerly

Ashland (G1)

Keeneland

4th

2006

Lemons Forever

Bourbonette Breeders’ Cup (G3)

Turfway Park

3rd

2007

Rags to Riches

Santa Anita Oaks (G1)

Santa Anita Park

1st

2008

Proud Spell

Ashland (G1)

Keeneland

3rd

2009

Rachel Alexandra

Fantasy (G2)

Oaklawn Park

1st

2010

Blind Luck

Fantasy (G2)

Oaklawn Park

1st

2011

Plum Pretty

Sunland Park Oaks

Sunland Park

1st

2012

Believe You Can

Fair Grounds Oaks (G2)

Fair Grounds

1st

2013

Princess of Sylmar

Gazelle (G2)

Aqueduct

2nd

2014

Untapable

Fair Grounds Oaks (G2)

Fair Grounds

1st

2015

Lovely Maria

Ashland (G1)

Keeneland

1st

2016

Cathryn Sophia

Ashland (G1)

Keeneland

1st

So, in the past 17 years the Ashland (5) and Santa Anita Oaks (3) have combined to produce eight winners of the Kentucky Oaks. The Fantasy (2) and Fair Grounds Oaks (2) are next with four total winners, while the remaining races – Florida Oaks, Beaumont, Bourbonette, Sunland Park Oaks and Gazelle – each tallied one.

What stands out the most, far more than prep race, is where the Kentucky Oaks winner finished in her final race. The Kentucky Oaks winner has been first across the wire nine times the past 17 years.

Only six runners in this year’s Kentucky Oaks finished first in their final preps – Ever So Clever, Farrell, Miss Sky Warrior, Paradise Woods, Sailor’s Valentine and Salty. Of those, Paradise Woods captured the Santa Anita Oaks and Sailor’s Valentine upset the Ashland at 22-1.

Those two could combine for a nice exacta tonight.