An undefeated runner, a filly who has never been worse than second, and a grade I winner seeking to improve her 3-year-old form will come together March 30 for the $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots—all with hopes of launching a bid for the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) at Churchill Downs.
Five of the last eight winners of the 1 1/16-mile Fair Grounds Oaks—the filly equivalent of the Louisiana Derby (gr. II)—have gone on to victory in Churchill's Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) on the first Friday in May. The most recent was Brereton Jones's Believe You Can, who accomplished the double Oaks parlay last spring. This year's edition of the Fair Grounds Oaks, to be run as race seven with an approximate post time of 4:20 p.m. CDT, is worth 100 points to the winner under Churchill Downs' new qualifying system for the May 3 Kentucky Oaks field.
At 9-5 on the morning line, Unlimited Budget is second choice behind 6-5 favorite Flashy Gray, runner-up in the the March 9 Honeybee Stakes (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park. Prior to her 2 3/4-length finish behind Rose to Gold in Arkansas after chasing the pace throughout, the well-traveled Flashy Bull filly made her sophomore debut Feb. 10 at Gulfstream Park with a 4 3/4-length allowance win earned by a three-wide move after chasing the leader. It was her second straight victory; she broke her maiden with an impressive 10 1/4-length tally in her second start as a juvenile Nov. 8 at Churchill Downs.
Flashy Gray, set to break from post 5, is conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott for West Point Thoroughbreds and Tom Keithley, and will have Junior Alvarado in the saddle.
Not to be discounted is Maggi Moss's So Many Ways, who won the Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) and the Schuylerville (gr. III) last summer at Saratoga Race Course to complete an undefeated juvenile campaign which she launched with an eight-length score at Parx Racing. Established as the 6-1 third choice in the early Oaks line, the daughter of Sightseeing suffered from a poor start in her only appearance as a sophomore in a minor stakes at Gulfstream March 1 and finished third.
$500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II, Race 7, approximate post 4:20 p.m. CDT), 3YO fillies, 1 1/16 miles (dirt)
All carry 121 pounds.