Kentucky Oaks Top 10: Strange Year Continues

Wonder Wheel | Coady

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It continues to be a strange year on the road to the GI Kentucky Oaks. It's been a division where no one seemed ready to step to the front and become a clear leader of the group. That, sort of, changed Sunday in the GIII Santa Ysabel S. Sunday at Santa Anita. Faiza (Girvin) stayed undefeated in four starts with a 2 1/4-length win and, under normal circumstances, would have gone to No. 1 on this list. But the filly, who is trained by Bob Baffert and owned by Michael Lund Petersen, was not nominated to the Oaks and is not eligible to run because she stayed in the Baffert barn beyond the deadline for his horses to move to other trainers to be eligible for Oaks points.

Perhaps someone would emerge from the GII Davona Dale S. at Gulfstream, which included two horses that had been in our Top 10 in Red Carpet Ready (Oscar Performance) and Leave No Trace (Outwork). Red Carpet Ready was a well-beaten third and Leave No Trace was eased. The winner was an impossible longshot, 46-1 shot Dorth Vader (Girvin) .

The bottom-line? With nine weeks to go, the division is in disarray and the Kentucky Oaks is anyone's race.

1) WONDER WHEEL (f, Into Mischief–Wonder Gal, by Tiz Wonderful) O-D. J. Stable LLC. B-Three Chimneys Farm, LLC & Clearsky Farm (Ky). T-Mark Casse. Sales history: $275,000 yrl '21 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: Ch. 2yo Filly & MGISW, 6-4-2-0, $1,570,725. Last Start: 2nd Suncoast S. at Tampa Bay Downs Feb. 11. Kentucky Oaks Points: 48.

Despite the loss at 1-2 in her 3-year-old debut in the Suncoast S. at Tampa Bay Downs, Wonder Wheel's connections remain high on their filly.

“As far as her training, she's been breezing and training outstandingly well,” said Jon Green, the general manager of DJ Stable. “That race at Tampa really tightened her up. It served exactly the purpose we wanted. We would have liked to have won, but the main goal was to get her sea legs back under her and make it to the [GI Apr. 7] Ashland and the Oaks will be next on the agenda.”

Green said Wonder Wheel will be transferred from trainer Mark Casse's training center to Keeneland about two weeks before the Ashland.

“That's her home track,” he said. “She loves racing and training there. She will remain there after the Ashland right up until the Oaks.”

In most any other year, the loss in the Suncoast would have knocked her out of the top spot, but with no one else among the top contenders stepping up so far this year, she remains our No. 1 and she is the morning line favorite at 8-1 in the Oaks Future Wager.

2) HOOSIER PHILLY (f, Into Mischief–Tapella, by Tapit) O-Gold Standard Racing Stable, LLC. B-Candy Meadows, LLC (Ky). T-Thomas Amoss. Sales history: $510,000 yrl '21 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: GSW, 4-3-0-1, $462,610. Last Start: 3rd GII Rachel Alexandra S. at Fair Grounds Feb. 18. Kentucky Oaks Points: 25.

It's still hard to know what to make of her third-place finish in the Rachel Alexandra S., presented by Fasig-Tipton. She looked nothing like the filly who was so electrifying when going 3-for-3 as a 2-year-old. If she repeats her effort from the Rachel Alexandra in her next start, she can't be considered a serious threat in the Oaks. But if she runs back to her 2-year-old form, she'll likely be the favorite and the horse to beat. She returned to the work tab Mar. 2, breezing four furlongs in :47.60 at the Fair Grounds. She's 15-1 in the Oaks Future Wager. It's way too early to give up on her.

3) PRETTY MISCHIEVOUS (f, Into Mischief–Pretty City Dancer, by  Tapit) 'TDN Rising Star' O/B-Godolphin (Ky). T-Brendan P. Walsh. Lifetime Record: GSW, 5-4-0-1, $421,310. Last Start: Won GII Rachel Alexandra S. at Fair Grounds Feb. 18. Kentucky Oaks Points: 63.

Moves up three spots in our poll, but only because there have been so many defections. Off her win in the GII Rachel Alexandra S., Pretty Mischievous belongs near the top of the list. But she's going to have to prove that she can do it again as she posted the upset that day at odds of 8-1. Her lone defeat came in the GII Golden Rod S. last fall at Churchill Downs, where she finished third, 5 1/4 lengths behind Hoosier Philly. She has been ridden by Tyler Gaffalione, who also has the mount on Wonder Wheel, so trainer Brendan Walsh may need a new jockey when she makes her next start in either the Ashland or Mar. 25 GII Fair Grounds Oaks.

4) JULIA SHINING (f, Curlin–Dreaming of Julia, by A.P. Indy) 'TDN Rising Star' O-Stonestreet Stables LLC. B-Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC (Ky). T-Todd Pletcher. Lifetime Record: GSW, 3-2-0-1, $204,075. Last Start: 3rd Suncoast S. at Tampa Bay Downs Feb. 11. Kentucky Oaks Points: 16.

With Julia Shining, it's more about what she might be able to do than what she has done. She did win the GII Demoiselle S. last year, but she didn't have a lot of punch when third in the Suncoast S., earning an 81 Beyer figure. That was an 11-point improvement over the figure she got in the Demoiselle. She's by Curlin and is a full-sister to last year's champion older filly Malathaat, all of which suggests she will keep getting better and better. Trainer Todd Pletcher has been going easy on her in the mornings. Her most recent work came Mar. 2 at Palm Beach Downs, where she went a half-mile in :51.68 ahead of an expected next start in the Ashland.

5) AND TELL ME NOLIES (f, Arrogate–Be Fair, by Exchange Rate) O-Peter Redekop B.C., Ltd. B-Lara Run, LLC (Ky). T-Peter Miller. Sales history: $70,000 yrl '21 KEEJAN; $230,000 2yo '22 OBSAPR.  Lifetime Record: GISW, 6-3-1-0, $392,800. Last Start: Second in GIII Santa Ysabel S. at Santa Anita Mar. 5. Kentucky Oaks Points: 30.

And Tell Me Nolies returned to the races in the Santa Ysabel after an eighth-place finish in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and ran well enough to crack the Top 5. She was second, beaten 2 1/4 lengths by Faiza, but with Faiza skipping the Oaks an argument can be made that And Tell Me Nolies is the top threat in the race among Southern California-based horses. She proved her class last year with wins in the GI Del Mar Debutante and the GII Chandelier S. for trainer Peter Miller. Like several other top Oaks candidates, she's just not that fast. The 78 Beyer she earned in the Santa Ysabel was the best number of her career. She is expected to make her next start in the Apr. 8 GII Santa Anita Oaks.

6) THE ALYS LOOK (f, Connect–Foul Play, by Harlan's Holiday) O-Ike & Dawn Thrash. B-G. Watts Humphrey (Ky). T-Brad H. Cox. Sales history: $60,000 yrl '21 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: SW, 5-2-1-1, $150,528. Last Start: Won Silverbulletday S. at Fair Grounds Jan. 21. Kentucky Oaks Points: 24.

The Alys Look may be the best of the four or five horses Brad Cox has in the conversation for the Oaks. Purchased for just $60,000 at Keeneland September, she will have had more than two months off when she makes her next expected start in the GII Fair Grounds Oaks Mar. 25. When last seen, she won the Silverbulletday S., presented by Fasig-Tipton Jan. 21 at the Fair Grounds. It's worth noting that in her prior start she was second behind Pretty Mischievous in the Untapable S. She was dismal in her lone start at Churchill, losing a maiden race by 15 3/4 lengths, but the race was in the slop. She breezed five furlongs in 1:00.20 last Saturday at the Fair Grounds.

7) WET PAINT (f, Blame–Sky Painter, by Street Cry {Ire}) O/B-Godolphin (Ky). T-Brad Cox. Lifetime Record: GSW, 5-3-1-0, $334,100. Last Start: Won GIII Honeybee S. at Oaklawn Feb. 25. Kentucky Oaks Points: 70.

Wet Paint is the overall Kentucky Oaks points leader. Another horse from the Cox barn, she's on a roll. After winning the Martha Washington S. at Oaklawn, she looked good winning the GIII Honeybee S. by three lengths Feb. 25 at Oaklawn.

“She improved yesterday,” Cox said after the Honeybee. “Had to pass more fillies and won going away. Very impressive with the gallop out. A mile and an eighth, with her pedigree, is something she should be able to handle. We'll see how it goes.”

Wet Paint has lost on the grass and on the Tapeta surface at Turfway Park, but is 3-for-3 on the dirt. She hasn't been beating world-beaters, but has a nice late kick and being in the Cox barn is an obvious plus. She is expected to start next in the Ashland.

8) SHIDABHUTI (f, Practical Joke–A. P. Candy, by Candy Ride {Arg}) O-Peter Brant. B-Gabriel Duignan & Gerry Dilger (Ky). T-Chad Brown. Sales history: $77,000 wnlg '20 KEENOV; $310,000 yrl '21 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: SW, 3-3-0-0, $189,600. Last Start: Won Busher S. at Aqueduct Mar. 4. Kentucky Oaks Points: 50.

Shidabhuti is an interesting newcomer to the list from the Chad Brown barn. She broke her maiden at Monmouth in September and then came back to win an allowance race in December at Aqueduct. The knock on her coming into the Mar. 4 Busher Invitational S. at Aqueduct was her numbers. She had run a pair of 62 Beyers in her first two starts, way too slow to win a race like the Oaks. But she passed the test in the Busher, staying undefeated after beating stablemate and race favorite Asset Purchase (Dialed In). Brown and owner Peter Brant are best known for their turf horses, but in Shidabhuti they may have a dirt runner to be reckoned with. She is expected to make her next start in the Apr. 7 GIII Gazelle S.

9) DREAMING OF SNOW (f, Jess's Dream–Snow Fashion, by Old Fashioned) O-Team Equistaff, LLC & Winning Stables, Inc. B-Karyn Philipp (FL). T-Gerald Bennett. Sales history: $35,000 yrl '21 OBSOCT; $60,000 2yo '22 OBSMAR. Lifetime Record: SW, 5-3-0-0, $170,850. Last Start: Won Suncoast S. at Tampa Bay Feb. 11. Kentucky Oaks Points: 20.

The key race this year so far on the road to the Oaks? You can make a case that it was the Jan. 14 Gasparilla S. at Tampa Bay Downs. Dreaming of Snow finished fourth in that spot and came back to win the Suncoast over Wonder Wheel at 38-1. Dorth Vader finished sixth in the Gasparilla and came back to win the Davona Dale at 46-1.

Dreaming of Snow's win in the Suncoast was a shocker, pulled off by trainer Gerald Bennett, mainly known as a claiming trainer. Was it a fluke or is she for real? We'll find out in her next start, which is expected to be in the Apr. 1 GIII Fantasy S.

10) BOTANICAL (f, Medaglia d'Oro–Daisy, by Blame) O-LNJ Foxwoods & Clearsky Farms. B-Clearsky Farms & Godolphin (Ky). T-Brad Cox. Sales history: $220,000 yrl '21 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: SW, 5-3-1-0, $196,610. Last Start: Won Cincinnati Trophy S. at Turfway Mar. 4. Kentucky Oaks Points: 20.

Botanical is a tough read. She's won three straight, including a blowout 6 1/2-length win in the Cincinnati Trophy S. at Turfway. The problem is that she has never run on the dirt, having had three races on the synthetic and two more on the turf. Can she transfer that form to the dirt? It's anybody's guess. Cox reports that she will stay on the synthetic for her next start when she goes in Turfway's Mar. 25 Bourbonette Oaks, but said he does consider her a Kentucky Oaks prospect.

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