By Bill Finley
With the runnings of the GIII Las Virgenes S. at Santa Anita and the Martha Washington S. at Oaklawn, there's now a bit more clarity to the division, particularly in California where Las Virgenes winner Faiza (Girvin) look like she is the best of that group. The Martha Washington was won by the Brad Cox-trained Wet Paint (Blame), but she didn't beat a stellar group and will have to wait for another day to make this list. This will be a quiet weekend for the 3-year-old fillies. Gulfstream does offer the GIII Forward Gal S., but it is a seven-furlong race and most of the entrants look to be sprinters.
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: MGISW, 5-4-1-0, $1,550,725. Last Start: Won GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Keeneland Nov. 4. Kentucky Oaks Points: 40. Next Start: Suncoast S., Tam, Feb. 11
The Eclipse Award-winning filly continues to progress while training at Mark Casse's training center. She worked five furlongs in 59 last week and is gearing up for what will be her 3-year-old debut in the Feb. 11 Suncoast S. at Tampa Bay Downs. “After an easy breeze last week, Wonder Wheel is on course to run in the Suncoast Stakes.,” said DJ Stable General Manager Jon Green. “She may be a tad light from a fitness standpoint, but we prefer two-turn options over the other possible preps. Tyler Gaffalione will have the mount in the Suncoast.” The Suncoast will not be an easy spot as the race is also expected to include GII Demoiselle S. winner Julia Shining (Curlin), so it will be a good test for the champion. Wonder Wheel's Eclipse Award was the second in the juvenile fillies category for DJ Stable, which also won the award in 2018 with Jaywalk (Cross Traffic).
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, 3-3-0-0, $432,610. Last Start: Won GII Golden Rod S. at Churchill Downs Nov. 26. Kentucky Oaks Points: 10
Next Start: GII Rachel Alexandra S., FG, Feb. 18
Hoosier Philly had her first published workout of the year last Saturday, breezing four furlongs in 47.40 at the Fair Grounds. “When she worked this past weekend I saw the same horse that I have been seeing since she first came to the track, which is good,” trainer Tom Amoss said. “I am really pleased that she is enthusiastic about her training. I like her development physically, as well.” The Into Mischief filly remains on target for the Feb. 18 Rachel Alexandra at the Fair Grounds. Should she win that day Amoss will need to make a decision about her future plans, which, he has said all along, could include a start in the GI Kentucky Derby. “We're running in the Rachel Alexandra and will see how she does,” Amoss said in regards to the Derby question. “I can't comment beyond that. I haven't thought that much about it.” A very exciting prospect who could ultimately land in the top spot in this poll, her 3-year-old debut will be a must-see event.
3) FAIZA (f, Girvin–Sweet Pistol, by Smart Strike) 'TDN Rising Star' O-Michael L Petersen. B-Brereton C. Jones (Ky). T-Bob Baffert. Sales history: $90,000 yrl '21 KEESEP; $725,000 2yo '22 FTMMAY. Lifetime Record: GISW, 2-2-0-0, $222,000. Last Start: Won the GI Starlet S. at Los Alamitos on Dec. 10. Kentucky Oaks Points: 0. Next Start: To Be Determined.
With her win in the Las Virgenes, Faiza became the clear leader of the 3-year-old filly division in California. A member of the loaded Bob Baffert stable, she's done nothing wrong. A $725,000 purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Midatlantic 2-Year-Olds Sale, she's now 3-for-3 and her record includes a victory in the GI Starlet S. But while she's getting the job done, she's not blowing anyone away. She won the Starlet by a head and the Las Virgenes by a half-length, each time beating Pride of the Nile. Also, she hasn't been running particularly fast as her 77 Beyer in the Las Virgenes equaled her career best. Then again, she's undefeated, a Grade I winner, cost $725,000 at the sales and is trained by Bob Baffert, all of which makes her a formidable member of this division. Was ridden by Ramon Vazquez in the Las Virgenes, after Flavien Prat was the pilot in her two prior starts.
4) ICE DANCING (f, Frosted–Welcome Dance, by Henny Hughes) O-Perry R Bass, II & Ramona Bass. B-Bass Stables, LLC (Ky). T-Richard Mandella. Lifetime Record: GSW & GISP, 5-2-0-2, $219,600. Last Start: Won GIII Santa Ynez S. at Santa Anita Jan. 8. Kentucky Oaks Points: 12. Next Start: To Be Determined
After winning the GIII Santa Ynez S. on Jan. 8, she sat out the Las Virgenes because trainer Richard Mandella wanted to space her races apart. Still, she's been busy in the mornings, having had two four furlong works since her last race. She's been a completely new horse after finishing fourth, beaten six lengths, in the GII Chandelier S. in October. Mandella regrouped and put her in a maiden race, which she won by a length. Next up was a convincing 3 1/4 length win in the Santa Ynez. If she doesn't progress from here, her connections can always try her on the turf. She is out of Welcome Dance (Henny Hughes), a two-time stakes winner on the grass who started just once on the dirt.
5) MUNNYS GOLD (f, Munnings–Haraawa, by Medaglia D'Oro) 'TDN Rising Star' O-Robert E. and Lawana L. Low; B-Nicksar Farms; T-Todd Pletcher. Sales history: $300,000 ylr '21 FTKJUL. Lifetime Record: 2-2-0-0. Last Start: Won an Allowance race at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 25. Kentucky Oaks Points: 0. Next Start: GII Davona Dale S., GP, Mar. 4 or Any Limit S., GP, Mar. 18
After turning in an eye-catching performance in June at Monmouth, where she won by 14 ½ lengths and earned a 101 Beyer figure, Munnys Gold disappeared, only to return last week at Gulfstream in a six-furlong allowance race for Florida-breds. Sent off at 1-20, she won by 6 1/4 lengths and this time got an 88 Beyer. We know she's fast, but is she a two-turn horse, an Oaks candidate? Trainer Todd Pletcher is waiting to find out. “She's a bit headstrong so she'll have to convince me that she wants to stretch out,” Pletcher said. The GII Davona Dale S. at a mile on March 4 is a possibility, but so is the six-furlong Any Limit S. On March 18. If Pletcher chooses the shorter race that would be a pretty good sign that he doesn't think this one is Oaks material.
6) LEAVE NO TRACE (f, Outwork–Tanquerray, by Good Journey) O-WellSpring Stables. B-Red Cloak Farm, LLC (Ky). T-Philip Serpe. Sales history: $8,000 yrl '21 FTFFEB; $40,000 yrl '21 FTMOCT. Lifetime Record: GISW, 4-2-1-1, $598,650. Last Start: 2nd in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Keeneland Nov. 4.Kentucky Oaks Points: 15. Next Start: GII Davona Dale S., GP, Mar. 4.
Gearing up for the Davona Dale S., Leave No Trace has had three published workouts this year for trainer Phil Serpe. The GII Gulfstream Parks Oaks will be next and then, if she continues to progress, a run in the Kentucky Oaks. She's come quite a long way after being purchased out of the Fasig-Tipton Midatlantic 2-Year-Olds Sale for just $40,000. Before that, she sold for $8,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky February Mixed Sale. After winning the GI Spinaway S., she finished second in the GI Frizette S. and then second in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Leave No Trace was the first graded stakes winner for sire Outwork. She was the first Grade I winner for trainer Phil Serpe since Birdonthewire (Proud Birdie) won the 1994 Vosburgh S.
7) 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, 2-2-0-0, $194,075. Last Start: Won the GII Demoiselle S. at Aqueduct Dec. 3. Kentucky Oaks Points: 10
Next Start: Suncoast S., Tam, Feb. 11
Curlin has been on quite a run, one that includes being the sire of three of 2022's Eclipse Awards winners. In Julia Shining, he has another horse with a world of potential. A full-sister to Eclipse Award winner Malathaat (Curlin), she's 2-for-2 and coming off a win in the GII Demoiselle S. It's hard to know what to make of that race. She won by just a neck and, as the 55-100 favorite, didn't exactly square off against stellar competition. But with her pedigree and her late-running style, she has looked like a horse who will only get better at three. How good is she? We'll find out soon as she is scheduled to take on champion Wonder Wheel in the Feb. 11 Suncoast S. at Tampa Bay Downs.
8) THE ALYS LOOK (f, Connect–Foul Play, by Harlan's Holiday) O-Ike and 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 the Silverbulletday S. at Fair Grounds Jan. 21. Kentucky Oaks Points: 24. Next Start: GII Fair Grounds Oaks, FG, Mar. 25
Brad Cox has several Oaks candidates, though none that, at least so far, are regarded as among the best in the division. The Alys Look fits that bill. Just a $60,000 yearling buy, she outran stablemate and beaten Juvenile Fillies favorite Chop Chop (City of Light) to win her 3-year-old debut in the Silverbulletday S. at the Fair Grounds. She will no doubt need to improve in order to be able to knock off the best of her division, but one of Cox's strengths is his ability to get horses to peak at the most opportune time.
9) JUSTIQUE (f, Justify–Grazie Mille, by Bernardini) 'TDN Rising Star' O-C R K Stable, LLC. B-John D. Gunther & Eurowest Bloodstock (Ky). T-John A Shirreffs. Sales history: $725,000 yrl '21 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: SW & GSP, 3-2-0-1, $132,000. Last Start: 3rd in the GIII Las Virgenes S. at Santa Anita Jan. 28. Kentucky Oaks Points: 9. Next Start: To Be Determined.
The John Shirreffs-trained filly has run four times and has looked sensational twice and rather ordinary twice. The latest disappointment came in the Las Virgenes where she was a third-place finisher and lost by three lengths. The other sub-par effort came in the Chandelier, where she was a non-threatening third. The connection is that both those races were around two turns where her better starts came around one turn. So is she just a one-turn horse? Maybe. Yet that doesn't make a lot of sense. By Justify out of a Bernardini mare, she's bred to go long and her late-kick closing style also suggest a horse who should like a distance. She missed a scheduled start in the Santa Ynez when sick, so maybe she needed the start in the Las Virgenes. But she still has to prove that she can get a distance. The jury remains out.
10) OCCULT (f, Into Mischief–Magical Feeling, by Empire Maker) O-Alpha Delta Stables, LLC. B-Peter E. Blum Thoroughbreds, LLC (Ky). T-Chad C. Brown. Sales history: $625,000 yrl '21 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: SW, 3-2-0-0, $107,450. Last Start: Won the Busanda S. at Aqueduct Jan. 14. Kentucky Oaks Points: 20. Next Start: To Be Determined
Looks like the best of the bunch when it comes to 3-year-old fillies training in New York. After breaking her maiden in her second career start, she was a handy winner of the Jan. 14 Busanda S. at Aqueduct for trainer Chad Brown. Brown is shopping for a spot for her next start. Don't get caught up on the fact that she's a New York winter horse. She's obviously got some quality and Brown has used the New York route in the past with a number of good horses.