Previewing this year’s likely Kentucky Oaks field
Before we get to the Kentucky Oaks field, a quick update on the prospective field for the Derby: two of Todd Pletcher’s trainees, Malagacy and Battalion Runner, have apparently been withdrawn from contention and will not race in the Derby. That means that Lookin At Lee will indeed be racing in the Derby, as well as Sonneteer, with Royal Mo waiting in the wings in case another horse is withdrawn. Let’s have a brief look at Sonneteer and Royal Mo.
Sonneteer (by Midnight Lute, out of Ours) – Sonneteer will be heading into the Derby a maiden, meaning he has yet to win a race. He does, however, have a decent amount of racing experience, having contested more than twice the number of races as some of his compatriots. The Derby will be his eleventh start for owner Calumet Farm. He is trained by Keith Desormeaux and ridden by Kent Desormeaux, a brother combination that brought Exaggerator to a second-place finish in last year’s Derby and a victory in last year’s Preakness. Sonneteer did finish second in the Rebel Stakes and fourth in the Arkansas Derby, so don’t write him off.
Royal Mo (by Uncle Mo, out of Royal Irish Lass) – the second entry for the owner-trainer combination of Jerry and Ann Moss and John Shirreffs, Royal Mo finished third behind stablemate Gormley in the Santa Anita Derby. He is from the second crop of young sire Uncle Mo, who sired last year’s Derby winner Nyquist. Will Royal Mo be able to make it two in a row for his sire, provided he gets a spot in the race?
Now, we look at the probable field for the Kentucky Oaks, run the day before the Derby. Ranked in order of number of accumulated points…
- Farrell (by Malibu Moon, out of Rebridled Dreams) – Farrell appears to be one of the ones to beat in the Kentucky Oaks. Owned by Coffee Pot Stables and trained by Wayne Catalano, this filly has won her last four races in preparation for the Kentucky Oaks. Her last race was the Fair Grounds Oaks at Fair Grounds, at a distance of 1 1/16 miles, just 1/16 of a mile (or half a furlong) shorter than the Oaks will be. Keep an eye on her!
- Miss Sky Warrior (by First Samurai, out of Sky Minister) – this filly, like Farrell, has been on a winning streak as of late, winning the Gazelle at Aqueduct, the Davona Dale Stakes at Gulfstream Park, and the Demoiselle Stakes at Aqueduct. Miss Sky Warrior is owned by Arlene’s Sun Star Stable and trained by Kelly Breen.
- Ever So Clever (by Medaglia d’Oro, out of Foxy Danseur) – this filly is trained by Steve Asmussen, who has already won the Kentucky Oaks twice (Summerly in 2005, Untapable in 2014), and owned by Clearview Stable. Ever So Clever won the grade 3 Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park on April 14th, her first victory in a stakes race.
- Sailor’s Valentine (by Mizzen Mast, out of Sortilege) – Sailor’s Valentine is owned a partnership of Semaphore Racing and Homewrecker Racing and is trained by Eddie Kenneally. In her last race, the grade 1 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland, she trounced her competition and put herself in the running for the Oaks. Prior to the Ashland, she placed second in an Allowance-level race.
- Paradise Woods (by Union Rags, out of Wild Forest) – Paradise Woods could become trainer Richard Mandella’s first Kentucky Oaks winner if she can overcome her lack of mileage. The Kentucky Oaks will be only her fourth race, though she certainly looked like a winner when she dominated the rest of the field in the Santa Anita Oaks on April 8th, winning by a cool 11 ¾ lengths.
- Salty (by Quality Road, out of Theycallmeladyluck) – like rival Paradise Woods, the Kentucky Oaks will be Salty’s fourth race, and also like Paradise Woods, she was impressive in her last race. In Salty’s case, the race was the Gulfstream Park Oaks, and she won by a decent margin of 4 ¼ lengths. Trainer Mark Casse has yet to claim victory in the Kentucky Oaks. Will Salty be his first?
- Abel Tasman (by Quality Road, out of Vargas Girl) – even if you were to overlook Abel Tasman’s recent race record – second to Paradise Woods in the Santa Anita Oaks and second to Unique Bella in the Santa Ysabel – and her decent pedigree, and her legendary trainer Bob Baffert (who trained American Pharoah to Triple Crown glory in 2015, not to mention his many other accolades), she would still have one major factor that makes her a force to be reckoned with: her jockey, Mike Smith. To name a few, Mike Smith is the current jockey for Arrogate and Songbird (the Eclipse award winners in the three-year-old division) and has a special touch with the ladies, piloting Azeri, Zenyatta, and Royal Delta to victory. Again, just to name a few. Abel Tasman is owned by China Horse Club and Clearsky Farms.
- Daddys Lil Darling (by Scat Daddy, out of Miss Hot Salsa) – owned by Normandy Farm and trained by Kenny McPeek, Daddys Lil Darling has as good a chance as any to win the Kentucky Oaks. In her last start, she placed second to Sailor’s Valentine in the Ashland Stakes, no small feat, and last November placed second to Farrell in the Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs.
- Tequilita (by Union Rags, out of Sangrita) – trained by Michael Matz and owned by Dorothy Matz, Tequilita will try to bring it home for the husband-wife dynamic duo. The daughter of Union Rags turned in excellent performances with her second-place finish in the Gulfstream Park Oaks behind Salty on April 1st and her victory in the Forward Gal Stakes on February 4th.
- Lockdown (by First Defense, out of Rising Tornado) – a Bill Mott trainee, Lockdown will try to win the Kentucky Oaks for owner Juddmonte Farms. The filly swept to victory in the Busanda Stakes at Aqueduct on January 15th and more recently placed second to Miss Sky Warrior in the Gazelle on April 8th.
- Wicked Lick (by Maclean’s Music, out of Here Music) – Wicked Lick had to settle for second place last time out, behind Farrell in the Fair Grounds Oaks. Trained by Brendan Walsh and owned by Lee Mauberret, Wicked Lick previously placed fourth in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes and second in the Silverbulletday Stakes, both at Fair Grounds.
- Vexatious (by Giant’s Causeway, out of Dream of Summer) – owned by legendary Calumet Farm and trained by Neil Drysdale, Vexatious should prove interesting to watch in the Kentucky Oaks. Her two recent third-place finishes in the Fantasy Stakes and the Fair Grounds Oaks point to a filly with a fair bit of potential. Can she beat her rivals and bring home victory this time?
- Jordan’s Henny (by Henny Hughes, out of Sophiano) – another gray or roan filly in the field, Jordan’s Henny will enter the Kentucky Oaks off a third-place finish in the Gulfstream Park Oaks and a second in the Davona Dale Stakes. She is owned by E. Woolsey. Anything can happen in a horse race, remember. There’s usually a surprise waiting in the wings.
- Mopotism (by Uncle Mo, out of Peppy Rafaela) – by the same sire as last year’s Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist, Mopotism also has the same connections (owner Reddam Racing LLC, trainer Doug O’Neill, and jockey Mario Gutierrez) as Nyquist. Mopotism finished fourth in the Santa Anita Oaks and second in the Las Virgenes, both at Santa Anita Park.
So there you go: the probable field for this year’s Kentucky Oaks, set for Friday, May 5th. The Oaks and the Derby are arguably two of the most popular races in the United States, and this year’s editions should be just as thrilling as usual. Who are your picks to win?