Earlier this month, I wrote an article about the undefeated Off the Tracks, who is being pointed towards the Kentucky Oaks. I felt that the connections of this brilliant filly may be pushing it by trying to make the Oaks and that a more conservative approach would be best. You can read more details on this at Slow and Steady with Off the Tracks.
Soon after that I was contacted by Chad Summers, racing manager for J Stables, part owners of Off the Tracks.
“I actually really liked your article, and normally I’d agree, but this isn’t a normal situation,” said Summers.
Summers told me that they knew from the beginning that they wanted to target the Kentucky Oaks with Off the Tracks. The filly just had a way about her; she seemed to carry herself differently from the rest and everyone who came into contact with her fell in love with the daughter of Curlin.
Of course, there were bumps along the way, which is why they stopped on her after the Schuylerville Stakes.
After winning the above race, J Stables was offered a great deal of money for the filly, which they accepted. But while she was being vetted, it was discovered that she had a small non-displaced chip in her knee. It was nothing major, but the deal was dropped and, soon after, they decided put the filly out to pasture for the rest of the season.
“The vet told me, ‘don’t worry about it, you can go on with her.’ We went on with her for two weeks. She breezed once, but, after that, we noticed that she wasn’t acting 100 percent like herself. And, with the [Kentucky Oaks] in mind as the long-term goal, we decided to stop on her and do the surgery,” Summers explained.
Since then, Off the Tracks has come back guns blazing. She won her first start back going 6 ½ furlongs in the Margate Stakes at Gulfstream Park. It was after that race that majority interest in Off the Tracks was sold to Newton Anner Stud Ltd. and she was transferred to the barn of Todd Pletcher. There, it was also made clear that the goal was the Kentucky Oaks, at which point I voiced my concerns. However, like Summers said, this has been the goal for Off the Tracks since the filly was first acquired.
Summers believes that, despite the late start to her 2016 campaign and despite the fact that this could be one of the best Kentucky Oaks in history, Off the Tracks is capable of not just running well, but winning.
“I’ve been around racing for a long time; had the chance to work with horses that were good enough to be in the Derby, the Preakness, the Breeders’ Cup… and she is, hands down, one of the best horses I’ve ever been around,” Summers said.
Summers isn’t concerned about the fitness of the filly, saying that there has been a lot of work that hasn’t been recorded. After the surgery was performed, they brought her along slowly, but exercised her using an underwater treadmill, before sending her to the track. Then, once she returned to the track, they put a lot of long gallops in her, before her recorded breezes, Summers said.
Summers believes that the foundation she was given prior to her works, plus the Margate and Gulfstream Park Oaks, will be enough to have Off the Tracks ready to face Songbird and Cathryn Sophia, among others, in the Kentucky Oaks.
Another reason Summers is so confident is because he believes that his filly will relish the distance. “What people don’t understand about her is that she is not a sprinter. She’s sprinted for us, but that was because they didn’t have any two-turn races. She, in my opinion, will be a lot better going two turns, than she is [going] one-turn,” he said.
If Summers is right — and, given Off the Tracks’ pedigree, he very well could be — then his filly will definitely be a force to be reckoned with in the Kentucky Oaks.
“I take nothing away from Cathryn Sophia and Songbird — I think both of those fillies are spectacular. Songbird could be the best there is out there… but, if we are fortunate enough to get there, on May 6, I’m confident that my filly will look her in the eye.”
If that occurs, it will likely be the first time that Songbird has ever been eyeballed in a race. At that point, anything could happen.
We will know a lot more after the Gulfstream Park Oaks, where Off the Tracks will make her final prep for the Kentucky Oaks. At this point, the field doesn’t look too imposing, so there is a good chance that we could end up with a Kentucky Oaks that contains, an unprecedented, three undefeated fillies.
If everything falls into place and Off the Tracks is the horse that Summers believes her to be, we could bear witness to one of the best Kentucky Oaks performances in the history of the race.