Owners and trainers of 3-year-old fillies who hope their young stars prove worthy of a spot in the starting gate for the 141st running of Churchill Downs Racetrack’s (“CDRT”) $1 million guaranteed Longines Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) on Friday, May 1 have until Saturday (Feb. 21) to make their fillies eligible for America’s premier race for 3-year-old fillies before the conclusion of its early nomination phase.
The deadline for early nominations to the Kentucky Oaks is 11:59 p.m. (all times Eastern) on Saturday, Feb. 21. Each early nomination to the 1 1/8-mile sister race to the $2 million guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) must be accompanied by a payment of $200.
The Longines Kentucky Oaks shares its rich history and tradition with the Kentucky Derby. Both races were introduced in 1875 at the inaugural racing meet at the track originally known as the Louisville Jockey Club. Both the Oaks and the Derby have been run annually and without interruption since their respective debuts.
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. If one of more horses should scratch from the Longines Kentucky Oaks before 9 a.m. on the morning of the race, fillies from the “also-eligible” list with the highest respective point totals would be allowed to compete.
The 2015 Longines Kentucky Oaks will be telecast live on the NBCSN.
Last year’s historic 140th running of the Longines Kentucky Oaks was won by Winchell Thoroughbreds’ homebred Untapable, who provided jockey Rosie Napravnik, the only woman to ride an Oaks winner, with her second triumph in the race. Untapable’s win also was the second for her owner and her trainer, Steve Asmussen. Untapable went on to become just the third Kentucky Oaks winner to also win the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI). She was unbeaten against her gender in 2014 and was named the Eclipse Award honoree for champion 3-year-old filly. Winchell’s filly was the 27th Kentucky Oaks winner or participant to be crowned as the nation’s champion 3-year-old filly.
Sharing the Feb. 21 deadline for early nominations is the 29th running of the $500,000 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI), which will run immediately prior to the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Saturday, May 2. The 1 1/8-mile race for 4-year-olds and up on the Matt Winn Turf Course has become one of the nation’s top races for older turf horses since its inaugural running in 1987.
Early nominations to the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic must be accompanied by a payment of $100.
Horsemen can nominate horses to either the Longines Kentucky Oaks or Woodford Reserve Turf Classic by contacting Churchill Downs Racing’s Kelly Danner via telephone at (502) 638-3825 or email at Kelly.Danner@KyDerby.com. Nominations also can be made via fax at (502) 638-3915. Nomination forms for the Longines Kentucky Oaks and Woodford Reserve Turf Classic are available online at www.churchilldowns.com.
Churchill Downs representatives have been at tracks around the U.S. this week to accept nominations to those races. They include Racing Secretary Ben Huffman and Assistant Racing Secretary Dan Bork in Florida, Fair Grounds’ Assistant Racing Secretary Scott Jones in Louisiana, Gene Williams in California and Steve Krajcir in Arkansas.
A late nomination period for Longines Kentucky Oaks 141 will open Sunday, Feb. 22 and conclude on Wednesday, April 8. Nomination of any 3-year-old filly to the Oaks during the late nomination phase will require payment of a $1,500 fee. There will be a final opportunity to make a filly eligible for the Kentucky Oaks through a supplemental nomination process that requires payment of $30,000 fee at the time of entry on Tuesday, April 28.
The 2014 running of the Longines Kentucky Oaks attracted 121 early nominations.
Churchill Downs also accepts late nominations to the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic. Those nominations require payment of a $1,000 fee by the late nomination deadline of 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, April 8. Supplemental nominations to the race may be made at the time of entry on Wednesday, April 29 and each requires the payment of a $15,000 fee. The Woodford Reserve Turf Classic is limited to 14 starters, with two “also-eligible” entrants.
The 2014 Eclipse Award earned by Untapable was the second consecutive 3-year-old filly championship bestowed on a Kentucky Oaks participant. King of Prussia Stable’s Princess of Sylmar won the 2013 Kentucky Oaks, but it was the runner-up, Spendthrift Farm LLC’s Beholder, who took top honors at the end of the year. Beholder secured her Eclipse Award with three consecutive victories after her Oaks setback. The string was capped by Beholder’s dominant triumph over two-time champion Royal Delta and Princess of Sylmar in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) at Santa Anita.
Blind Luck won the 2010 Kentucky Oaks to conclude a streak of four consecutive Kentucky Oaks winners to take championship honors for her gender and age division. Others in the streak 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 stars who won the Kentucky Oaks on their way to an Eclipse Award for 3-year-old filly championship honors 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 earned championship honors at the conclusion of their 3-year-old seasons 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.
Mort Fink’s two-time Horse of the Year and two-time turf champion Wise Dan, trained by Charlie LoPresti, edged Seek Again to win the 2014 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic and join Einstein (2008-09) as the race’s only two-time winners. Priscilla Vaccarezza’s Little Mike won the race in 2012, a year during which the Dale Romans-trained gelding also won the Arlington Million (GI) and Breeders’ Cup Turf (GI).
The Woodford Reserve Turf Classic got off to an auspicious start in 1987 when reigning Eclipse Award turf champion Manila won its inaugural running. Manila had won the Breeders’ Cup Turf (GI) in 1986, defeating luminaries that included Theatrical, Estrapade and European star Dancing Brave in that memorable contest. Other American turf champions that have competed in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic include Paradise Creek, who took the race during his 1994 championship campaign, and 1992 Eclipse Award grass champion Sky Classic, runner-up to Cudas in that year’s Turf Classic renewal. Einstein won the 2008-09 renewals and the versatile Brazilian-bred son of 1985 Kentucky Derby winner Spend A Buck was a finalist for the Eclipse Award for top older male in each of those years and a finalist for turf champion in 2008.
The 2014 running of the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic attracted 90 early nominations.