Oaks: Choosing the Right Path to Victory
In the past 25 years the female stars of Thoroughbred racing have taken many different avenues to reach the stage of their greatest victory in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) at Churchill Downs.
It’s interesting to note where each filly prepped and how she performed in her three races prior to capturing the lilies.
Although not all Oaks winners have made their final prep in Keeneland’s Ashland Stakes, the race is by far the most prominent springboard to the Run for the Lilies. In the past 25 years, eight Oaks-winning fillies competed in the Ashland, but only one crossed the wire first: Silverbulletday in 1999.
Rachel Alexandra, the probable overwhelming favorite for this year’s Oaks, has taken similar stepping stones toward the first Friday in May as past Oaks victors Tiffany Lass (1986) and Blushing K.D. (1997).
Owned by L and M Partners and trained by Hal Wiggins, Rachel Alexandra is undefeated in her last four starts, and most recently won the March 14 Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) and the April 5 Fantasy Stakes (gr. II) at Oaklawn Park. Tiffany Lass and Blushing K.D. also won those races en route to capturing the lilies.
Could Rachel Alexandra follow in the footsteps of Blushing K.D. and Tiffany Lass, the latter of whom went on to be named 1986 champion 3-year-old filly? Only time will tell.
One horse that gives hope to some of this year’s contenders that may have struggled a bit along the Kentucky Oaks trail is Lucky Lucky Lucky, who was off the board in her two races leading up to the 1984 Oaks, including a distant fourth by more than 19 lengths in her final Oaks prep, the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland.
Considering those significant misses, it’s surprising Lucky Lucky Lucky went off at odds of 6-1 in the Oaks, where she beat Miss Oceana by a narrow nose.
Like Lucky Lucky Lucky, 2009 Oaks hopeful Nan also finished fifth in the Ashland, eight lengths in back of the winner Hooh Why. Before that, she had been fourth in the Santa Anita Oaks and the Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I), both of which were won by Juvenile champion filly Stardom Bound. With Stardom Bound no longer an Oaks contender, however, perhaps Nan, trained by Craig Dollase for J. Paul Reddam, will be able to score a win when it matters most.
Another very popular prep race leading up to the Oaks is the Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park. In the last 25 years, seven Oaks-winning fillies ran in the Santa Anita Oaks prior to their great feats under the Twin Spires, three of which won the Southern California-based race: Lite Light, 1991; Keeper Hill, 1998; and Rags to Riches, 2007.
Who is the greatest filly to ever win the Kentucky Oaks? Rank your top 10!
The following is a complete list of the last 25 Kentucky Oaks winners and their three final performances leading up to the big race:
1984: Lucky Lucky Lucky
1985: Fran’s Valentine
1986: Tiffany Lass
1988: Goodbye Halo
1989: Open Mind
1990: Seaside Attraction
1991: Lite Light
1992: Luv Me Luv Me Not
1995: Gal in a Ruckus
1996: Pike Place Dancer
1997: Blushing K.D.
1998: Keeper Hill
2000: Secret Status
2002: Farda Amiga
2003: Bird Town
Silverbulletday Stakes (gr. III), first; Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II), first; Ashland Stakes (gr. I), fourth
2006: Lemons Forever
2007: Rags to Riches
2008: Proud Spell
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