The names of 121 3-year-old fillies – including 17 from the sprawling stable of six-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher – are included on the roster of nominees to compete in the $1 million-guaranteed Longines Kentucky Oaks (Grade I), America’s premier race for 3-year-old fillies scheduled to be run for the 140th consecutive year at Churchill Downs on Friday, May 2.
The 1 1/8-mile sister race to the $2 million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum Brands! (GI) has, like the Derby, been run annually without interruption since those events made their respective debuts at the track then known as the Louisville Jockey Club in 1875. The Longines Kentucky Oaks is traditionally run on the eve of the Kentucky Derby and its 2014 renewal will be televised live on the NBC Sports Network.
Pletcher has saddled three winners of the Kentucky Oaks, a group that includes champions Ashado and Rags to Riches and King of Prussia Stable’s 2013 winner Princess of Sylmar. The Pletcher-trained array of 2014 early Oaks nominees is headed by Glencrest Farm LLC’s unbeaten Onlyforyou, a daughter of Malibu Moon who counts Gulfstream Park’s Davona Dale (GII) and Forward Gal (GII) among her four career triumphs.
Other Pletcher trainees on the roster of Kentucky Oaks nominees include Alto Racing’s Sweet Whiskey, winner of Gulfstream Park’s Old Hat; unbeaten Dame Dorothy and Busanda winner Fierce Boots, both owned by celebrity chef Bobby Flay; Repole Stable’s Stopcharginmaria and Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings and Philip Steinberg’s Got Lucky, the 1-2 finishers in Aqueduct’s Demoiselle (GII); and Repole’s Our Amazing Rose, a romping winner in her lone start last fall at Saratoga.
Outside of Pletcher’s universe, the roster of Oaks nominees features the most accomplished members of this year’s crop of 3-year-old fillies. Heading that list is Mark Dedomenico, Allen Aldrich, Lisa Hernandez, Stuart Downey and Philip Lebherz’s She’s a Tiger. The Jeff Bonde trainee was the champion 2-year-old filly of 2013, winner of the Del Mar Debutante (GI) and runner-up in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) at Santa Anita. In the latter, She’s a Tiger finished first, but was demoted to runner-up when stewards disqualified her for interference in the homestretch.
Other marquee names among the nominees include Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC’s Untapable, the Steve Asmussen-trained winner of the Rachel Alexandra (GIII) at Fair Grounds and the Pocahontas (GII) at Churchill Downs; Christopher Dunn and Loooch Racing Stable’s Ria Antonia, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner now trained by two-time Kentucky Oaks winner Bob Baffert; Arnold Zetcher and Michael Tabor’s Fashion Plate, the front-running winner of Santa Anita’s Las Virgenes (GI) for trainer Simon Callaghan; and Charles Fipke’s homebred Unbridled Forever, winner of the Silverbulletday at Fair Grounds and the daughter of Lemons Forever, who won the 2006 Kentucky Oaks at odds of 47-1 in the biggest upset in the history of the race. Dallas Stewart trains Unbridled Forever and was the trainer and co-owner of her dam.
Other accomplished early nominees include Spinaway (GI) winner Sweet Reason, who finished fourth for trainer Leah Gyarmati as the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies; Rosalind, runner-up in Keeneland’s Alcibiades (GI) and third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies; Please Explain, winner of the Suncoast at Tampa Bay Downs; Bird Maker, runner-up in Churchill Downs’ Golden Rod (GII); Alcibiades winner My Conquestadory; Santa Ynez (GII) winner Awesome Baby; Davona Dale runner-up House Rules; Aragorn Ami, winner of Oaklawn Park’s Martha Washington; Delta Princess (GIII) winner Tepin; and Fiftyshadesofgold, winner of the Two Altazano at Sam Houston.
The 2013 running of the Longines Kentucky Oaks attracted 120 early nominations.
The Oaks field is limited to 14 starters and up to four fillies designated as “also-eligible” to start. Eligibility to compete in the Oaks is determined by points amassed during the “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” system, which determines the eligibility of nominees to compete in the race. If one of more horses should scratch from the Longines Kentucky Oaks by 9 a.m. (Eastern) on the morning of the race, fillies from the “also-eligible” list with the highest respective point totals would be allowed to compete.
Although Princess of Sylmar won the 2013 Longines Kentucky Oaks, it was runner-up Beholder who earned the Eclipse Award presented to the nation’s champion 3-year-old filly at year’s end. Beholder was the 17th Kentucky Oaks winner or participant since 1972 to be named champion of her division. Blind Luck won the 2010 Kentucky Oaks to conclude a string of four consecutive Kentucky Oaks winner to earn championship honors. The others were Rachel Alexandra (2009), Proud Spell (2008) and Rags to Riches (2007). Rachel Alexandra and Rags to Riches defeated males in Triple Crown races in their subsequent starts, with the former defeating Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird in the Preakness (GI) on her way to Horse of the Year honors, and Rags to Riches edged eventual two-time Horse of the Year Curlin in a dramatic renewal of the Belmont Stakes (GI).
Other Kentucky Oaks winners named as 3-year-old filly champions include Ashado (2004), Bird Town (’03), Farda Amiga (’02), Silverbulletday (’99), Open Mind (’89), Tiffany Lass (’86), Davona Dale (’79) and Susan’s Girl (’72). Fillies that failed to win the Oaks but were named divisional champions include Wait a While (3rd in ’06), Banshee Breeze (2nd in ’98), Go for Wand (2nd in ’90) and Wayward Lass (3rd in ’81). Believe You Can, winner of the 2012 Oaks, and 2011 winner Plum Pretty were among three Eclipse Award finalists in their respective 3-year-old seasons.
A late nomination period for Longines Kentucky Oaks 140 is underway through Wednesday, April 9. A nomination of any 3-year-old filly to the Oaks during the late nomination phase will require payment of a $1,500 fee. A final opportunity to make a filly eligible for the Kentucky Oaks is available through the race’s supplemental nomination process. That process requires payment of $30,000 fee at the time of entry to the 2014 Longines Kentucky Oaks on Tuesday, April 29.