Hal and Patti Earnhardt’s unbeaten Indian Blessing, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2007, and winner of the $2 million Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), tops a roster of 165 3-year-old fillies nominated to compete in the 134th running of the $500,000 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) at Churchill Downs on Friday, May 2.
Indian Blessing, a daughter of Indian Charlie trained by Bob Baffert, has a spotless record in five career starts that include victories this year in the Santa Ynez (gr. II) at Santa Anita and the Silverbulletday (gr. III) at the Fair Grounds, and also won the Frizette (gr. I) at Belmont Park at age 2. She is scheduled to run March 8 in the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) at the New Orleans track.
The champion has earned $1,567,200 and is bidding to become the second Kentucky Oaks winner saddled by Baffert, a three-time winner of the Kentucky Derby. Baffert won the 1999 Kentucky Oaks with Mike Pegram’s Silverbulletday, who went on to become just the third filly to earn an Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old filly and return in the spring to take the Kentucky Oaks since the Eclipse Awards were established in 1971. Silverbulletday and 1989 Oaks winner Open Mind are the only fillies to have achieved that double.
Other recent stars who won the Kentucky Oaks on their way to 3-year-old championship honors include Ashado (2004), Bird Town (2003), Farda Amiga (2002), Silverbulletday (1999), Open Mind (1989), and Tiffany Lass (1986). Fillies that failed to win the Oaks but went on to earn Eclipse Award championship honors at the conclusion of their 3-year-old seasons include Wait A While (3rd in 2006), Banshee Breeze (2nd in 1998), and Go for Wand (2nd in 1990).
Other stars nominated to 134th running of the Kentucky Oaks include: Stonerside Stable’s Country Star, winner of the Hollywood Starlet (gr. I) and Keeneland’s Darley Alcibiades (gr. I); Brereton C. Jones’ Proud Spell, winner of the Matron (gr. II) and runner-up to Indian Blessing in both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and the Silverbulletday; IEAH Stable and Lewis Lakin’s unbeaten Pure Clan, winner of the Golden Rod (gr. II) and Pocahontas (gr. III) at Churchill Downs; Koolman Racing Stable LLC’s A to the Croft, runner-up in the Alcibiades and Spinaway (gr. I); Ron McCauley’s Golden Doc A, winner of the recent Las Virgenes (gr. I) at Santa Anita; Cloverleaf Farm II’s Bsharpsonata, a winner of four straight stakes races on turf and dirt that include the Forward Gal (gr. II) and Davona Dale (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park; Fox Hill Farm’s Eight Belles, a 13 1/2-length winner of a division of the recent Martha Washington at Oaklawn Park; Michael House’s Final Fling, winner of the Santa Ysabel (gr. III); Bobby Flay’s Grace and Power, runner-up in the Hollywood Starlet; Michael Bello’s Las Virgenes runner-up Lovely Isle; Heather Stark’s Sky Mom, winner of the Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies and a division of the recent Martha Washington; Heiligbrodt Racing Stable and JMJ Racing Stable’s Rated Fiesty, winner of the Debutante (gr. III); Carl F. Pollard’s Kadira, winner of Bassinet at River Downs and winner vie disqualification in the recent Dixie Belle at Oaklawn Park; and Melnyk Racing Stable’s Vaulcluse, winner of the recent Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
Kiaran McLaughlin nominated 10 3-year-old fillies to the 2008 Kentucky Oaks to lead all trainers in total nominations. Two-time Kentucky Oaks winner Todd Pletcher, who also saddled Ashado to win the 2004 renewal, nominated nine fillies to this year’s race. Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, who took the 1998 Kentucky Oaks with Keeper Hill and its 2001 renewal with Flute, nominated eight fillies, while Hall of Famer and four-time Kentucky Oaks winner D. Wayne Lukas has six fillies on the roster of 2008 nominees.
The 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Oaks was won last year by Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith’s Rags to Riches, who would go on to score an historic victory over eventual 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin and other males in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), the third jewel of racing’s Triple Crown, and earn the Eclipse Award for America’s champion 3-year-old filly.
A crowd of 100,075 – the eighth-largest in Kentucky Oaks history – braved rainy weather to watch the Pletcher-trained daughter of A.P. Indy win the race over a “sloppy” track. Rags to Riches was one of a record 192 fillies nominated to the 2007 Kentucky Oaks.
Nominations to the Kentucky Oaks closed on Feb. 16, and required a nomination fee of $100. Supplemental nominations to the race will be accepted at the time of entry of Tuesday, April 29, for a fee of $25,000. The field for the Kentucky Oaks is restricted to 14 fillies. If a greater number of fillies should be entered, preference will be given to the fillies that have accumulated the highest earnings in graded stakes races.