The 142nd edition of the Kentucky Oaks (GI) drew a competitive field of 14 for America’s premier race for 3-year-old fillies. The Kentucky Oaks was supposed to be a showcase event for Songbird, who would have been the odds-on favorite to win the race. Instead, a fever knocked her off of the Oaks trail and we are left wondering what could have been. However, the show must go on and there is still plenty of talent to go around in this edition of the Kentucky Oaks.
So where do we start? Let’s start by analyzing some key races and see what we can make of them. We will keep it brief (but to the point) to better understand the field.
2016 Ashland Stakes (GI)
The Ashland Stakes (GI) provided us with a little bit of everything in what was clearly one of the races of the year so far in this young racing season. Cathryn Sophia looked like she would continue her East Coast dominance of the division when she made a bold move heading for home and momentarily took the lead. Rachel’s Valentina had other ideas and fought her way back to the lead until deep stretch, when Weep No More mowed them both down in the desperate final strides of the race.
If you were to look for a key race, this is the one. The fourth-place finisher Carina Mia (who dictated the pace in the Ashland) is all class as well, but, unfortunately, she ran into some bad luck earlier this season which cost her an opportunity to earn enough Kentucky Oaks points to be entered into this race .
2016 Fair Grounds Oaks (GII)
It was nice to see Land Over Sea get a victory after being soundly defeated by Songbird five times. She took her act to Louisiana and won the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII), defeating the likes of Dream Dance and Venus Valentine.
Land over Sea was mid-pack throughout and made a nice move going wide as they approached the far turn. It did not look like she would get by Adore at the top of the stretch, but was able to wear that filly out and win the race comfortably.
Dream Dance came up the rail to pass a tiring Adore to grab second place. This lass returned to the races a few weeks later and won an allowance race at Keeneland.
Venus Valentine showed very little in here as she trailed throughout and finished in fifth place, 10 lengths behind Land Over Sea.
I do not put much stock in this race as a prep because Land Over Sea did not beat much in here to get excited about. I expect Land Over Sea to be a player in the Kentucky Oaks (GI), but there is not much there to support the other two.
2016 Gazelle Stakes (GII)
Lewis Bay was extremely impressive in the Gazelle Stakes (GII) as she stalked comfortably outside of the speed and opened up when asked. The Chad Brown charge might be a fan of Aqueduct or just coming into her own. Visually, it was one of the more impressive victories of the 3-year-old filly season.
Royal Obsession, the first of three Steve Asmussen-trained fillies that will run in the Kentucky Oaks (GI), ran a nice race to get up for second. She was stuck behind the leaders and was able to swing to the outside to launch her stretch rally. She was no threat to the winner, but she kept coming at her.
Mo D’ Amour was in contention throughout and had every opportunity to be a factor in the race. She failed to fire down the stretch and finished a disappointing third.
2016 Fantasy Stakes (GIII)
Steve Asmussen has Terra Promessa and Taxable coming out of the Fantasy Stakes (GIII). Both of his runners were clearly the best in this prep race, but it is hard to judge the quality of the field. I suspect it was a two-horse-race from the beginning and the results proved correct.
Terra Promessa really looked like she wanted to roll early but Ricardo Santana, Jr. was able to keep her in a nice stalking position behind the leaders. When he pushed the button, she made her move and passed the leaders with ease, but had to repel a late rally by Taxable to win the Fantasy Stakes (GIII).
Taxable was well behind early and let Terra Promessa do some of the dirty work for her and wear down the frontrunners. When they turned for home she made a big run to get to her stablemate, but ran out of real estate and finished a fast-closing second.
2016 Gulfstream Park Oaks (GII)
It is not very often that you see a horse making just the second start of its career win a Grade II stakes race as Go Maggie Go did when she won the Gulfstream Park Oaks. It was an impressive performance to say the least, but a performance that might have been different if Cathryn Sophia would have played it safe and not left the state of Florida to tackle the Ashland Stakes (GI). The fact that Go Maggie Go was up close throughout and drew away down the stretch was a good indication of her talent.
Paola Queen ran a sneaky good race, finishing second behind her. She led throughout (under strong fractions) until Go Maggie Go challenged her on the turn. It looked as if Go Maggie Go would win by daylight but this lass stood tough and grinded out a solid second place finish in front of Off the Tracks.
2016 Santa Anita Oaks (GI)
In case you forgot what we are missing in the 2016 edition of the Kentucky Oaks (GI), watch the ease of Songbird’s victory in the Santa Anita Oaks (GI). I understand she did not beat much and Mokat shows up in here to compete, but Songbird is simply on another planet compared to the others in this race.
Mokat rallied to finish second behind Songbird, but was never close. Songbird shut it down early in this one and this lass was all-out to get within four lengths of her. It is tough to get a good judgment of Mokat’s talent because of who she was racing against. On one hand, she was racing against a superstar; on the other hand, the horses she beat were not near the quality of the ones she will be facing on Friday.
The absence of Songbird in the 2016 Kentucky Oaks (GI) leaves an empty feeling to an otherwise competitive race. Even though she isn’t here, there is talent galore in this field and you need to dig in and find that winner of the first leg of the Oaks/Derby double. Here are some suggestions for your studies:
- Make sure you watch these races above and match them with Brisnet speed figures or whatever numbers you may use (Daily Racing Form, Timeform, etc.)
- Ask yourself who looks like they are ready to tackle the mile and an eighth assignment for this race and who isn’t.
- Which horse has improving form and which horse seems to be regressing?
- At what price point will you bet a favorite?
- At what price point will you try to beat the favorite?
By following some of these steps you have started the journey to picking your Kentucky Oaks winner. It is not an easy task this year, but with a little thought and effort it can be a prosperous one.
Have a great Kentucky Oaks/Derby weekend!