The Kentucky Oaks Top 10 for Feb. 23

Wonder Wheel | Horsephotos


Doesn't anyone want to be No. 1?

At the beginning of the month, the 3-year-old filly picture looked pretty set. There were two big stars in Wonder Wheel (Into Mischief) and Hoosier Philly (Into Mischief) and then there was everyone else. Surely, one, if not both, would cruise through their preps and enter the GI Kentucky Oaks ready to finish the job. Then Wonder Wheel was defeated in the Suncoast S. as the 1-2 favorite, losing to 38-1 shot Dreaming of Snow (Jess's Dream). And then, a week later, Hoosier Philly threw in a dud, finishing a well-beaten third in the GII Risen Star S. in her 3-year-old debut. She was 2-5.

Within the span of a week, the division went from clear-cut to completely scrambled, with no clear leader. With 10 weeks to go, the Kentucky Oaks is anyone's race.

The GIII Honeybee S. at Oaklawn will be the lone highlight among Oaks preps this weekend. The GIII Santa Ysabel S. was scheduled for Saturday, but will now be run the following week as Santa Anita has canceled its races this weekend due to the forecast of heavy rain.


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.

She lost the top spot to Hoosier Philly after finishing second in the Suncoast, but is back on top because, well, someone has to be No. 1. Certainly, after her loss in the Suncoast, she deserves another chance. One would have expected that with her class she should have gotten by Dreaming of Snow. She had the entire length of the stretch to do so and couldn't get past her. But trainer Mark Casse didn't seem disappointed with the race and has said his filly will move forward off the effort. It's entirely possible and a win in the GI Ashland S. might cement her spot as the top threat for the Oaks. Next Start: GI Ashland S., Kee, Apr. 7.


2) 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 FTKJUL; $725,000 2yo '22 FTMMAY. Lifetime Record: GISW, 3-3-0-0, $342,000. Last Start:  Won GIII Las Virgenes S. at Santa Anita Jan. 28. Kentucky Oaks Points: 0.

With most of the attention in this division focused on Wonder Wheel and Hoosier Philly, the Southern California contingent has been largely overlooked, which could be a mistake because there's a lot of depth to that group. For now, Faiza looks to be the best of the bunch, a status she can solidify in the Santa Ysabel. Faiza has yet to do anything wrong. A $725,000 purchase at the 2022 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale, she's 3-for-3, won the GI Starlet S. and then beat the likes of Justique (Justify) and Pride of the Nile (Pioneerof the Nile) in the GIII Las Virgenes S. But she's yet to turn in the sort of powerful performance that earns a big speed figure that you would expect from a leading contender for the Kentucky Oaks. Maybe she will in the Santa Ysabel. Next Start: GIII Santa Ysabel S., SA, TBD.


3) 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. Feb. 18. Kentucky Oaks Points: 25.

Hoosier Philly | Coady

What happened to Hoosier Philly in the Rachel Alexandra? She looked nothing like the filly who was so impressive in her three starts at two. Trainer Tom Amoss was her biggest fan and proclaimed her to be the best horse he has ever trained. She just didn't have it in the Rachel Alexandra, finishing third, beaten 8 1/2 lengths. Her Beyer figure was a 70, nowhere close to what is needed to win at the Grade I level. “I was very disappointed because we had such high expectations,” Amoss said. “She broke well and then in her third or fourth stride the ground came out underneath her and she stumbled. That was a contributing factor in her effort.” Hoosier Philly returned to the track on Wednesday and Amoss will take his time before figuring out the next step. The GII Fair Grounds Oaks on March 25 looks like a logical spot, but the trainer said he is not ready to commit to any one race. “She came back to the track today and is healthy,” he said. “I anticipate a start with her within the next four or five weeks.” She stays among the top three in this poll only because there's some chance the Rachel Alexandra was an outlier and she will be back to her old self in her next start. Next Start: To Be Determined.


4) 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 GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Keeneland Nov. 4. Kentucky Oaks Points: 15.

When it comes to preparing the GI Spinaway S. winner for her 3-year-old debut in the GII Davona Dale S. on March 4, trainer Phil Serpe continues to take an unconventional route. Concerned about the condition of the main track at Gulfstream after a rainy period, he worked his filly twice on the Tapeta surface. He followed that up with a one-mile work on the dirt at Gulfstream on Feb. 19. Leave No Trace went in 1:47.81. “Those mile works are something I have done with a lot of horses going back to my Monmouth Park days,” Serpe said. “My concern with her was her fitness level. It seems like everybody works fast on the Tapeta course. As I thought about it more I thought we needed to get a good work into her on the dirt after having the last two works on Tapeta, which is why I worked her a mile. The works we do are slow mile works where we don't press on the horse. She did it pretty easily. She's a smart filly. She knows what she is doing out there and is an aggressive horse when she trains. So far so good.” Her biggest attribute is her consistency. While competing in the Spinaway, the GI Frizette S. and the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, she's never been worse than third. Next Start: GII Davona Dale S., GP, Mar. 4.


5) RED CARPET READY (f, Oscar Performance–Wild Silk, by Street Sense) O-Ashbrook Farm & Upland Flats Racing; B-Lynn B. Schiff (Ky); T-Rusty Arnold. Sales history: $180,000 ylr '21 FTSAUG; $100,000 RNA 2yo '22 OBSAPR. Lifetime Record: GSW, 3-3-0-0, $265,470. Last Start: Won GIII Forward Gal S. at Gulfstream Park Feb. 4. Kentucky Oaks Points: 20.

She's got a lot of ability, but does that mean she's a top Kentucky Oaks contender? It's a tough call. The daughter of Oscar Performance is three for three and is coming off an impressive win in the GIII Forward Gal S. But she's never run beyond seven furlongs or around two turns, so she has to prove that she can stretch out. Her pedigree certainly says that she can. The Davona Dale will be an important test. For Red Carpet Ready, a win there, at a mile, would mean she's very much a top contender for the Oaks. Next Start: GII Davona Dale S., GP, Mar. 4.


6) 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.

Pretty Mischievous | Photo by Hodges Photography

She came into the Rachel Alexandra with decent credentials, three wins from four starts and a victory in the Untapable S. But she was totally overshadowed by Hoosier Philly. But she proved she belonged among the top names in the division with a three-quarter length win. The race got an 83 Beyer which, in a year where no one in this division has been posting big numbers, puts her in the mix. She's by Into Mischief, which means three of the top six in this poll are by the super sire. The dam, Pretty City Dancer (Tapit) won the 2016 Spinaway before selling for $3.5 million at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Mixed Sale. Next Start: GI Ashland S., Kee, Apr. 7 or GII Fair Grounds Oaks, FG, Mar. 25.


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, 3-2-0-1, $204,075. Last Start: 3rd Suncoast S. at Tampa Bay Downs Feb. 11. Kentucky Oaks Points: 16.

Her big sister, Malathaat (Curlin), was undefeated when she won the 2021 Kentucky Oaks. That's not going to happen with Julia Shining as she suffered her first career defeat when third in the Suncoast S. Even with her fast start, Malathaat kept on improving, winning an Eclipse Award as the champion 3-year-old filly in 2021 and another as the champion older mare last year. Is Julia Shining as good? Probably not. She had no excuse when third in the Suncoast. Her best Beyer figure to date is the 81 she got in the Suncoast. Malathaat got a 95 when winning the Oaks. There's a lot of upside with this filly but she will need to show more in the Ashland in order to look like a top threat for the Oaks. Next Start: GI Ashland S., Kee, Apr. 7.


8) 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.

Trainer Brad Cox sat out the Rachel Alexandra with this one and will await the Fair Grounds Oaks. “She breezed (on Feb. 19) and is on target for the Fair Grounds Oaks,” Cox said. “We just didn't want to dance all the dances. Wanted to have some horse left for the spring and the rest of the year and we just thought it would be the right time to give her some time between races.” Cox's lineup for the Oaks isn't as deep as his Derby contingent, but he's got a few serious threats and this may be the best of them. She defeated stablemate Chop Chop (City of Light) to win the Silverbulletday S. It's worth noting that Chop Chop was fifth when last seen in the Rachel Alexandra. Next Start: GII Fair Grounds Oaks, FG, Mar. 25.


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 & MGSP, 4-2-0-2, $156,000. Last Start: 3rd GIII Las Virgenes S. at Santa Anita Jan. 28. Kentucky Oaks Points: 9.

The Santa Ysabel should answer every question there is about this filly. It could even be a must-win race for her as she needs to prove that she can win around two turns. That's the question that has been dogging her since she finished third in the Las Virgenes and never seriously threatened. Trainer John Shirreffs says he's confident that distance is not a problem. We'll see. There's nothing wrong with having a stakes quality sprinter in the barn. Next Start: GIII Santa Ysabel S., SA, TBD.


10) PRIDE OF THE NILE (f, Pioneerof the Nile–Inny Minnie, by  Hard Spun) O-West Coast Stables, LLC. B-Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC (Ky). T-Doug F. O'Neill. Sales history: $140,000 yrl '21 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: GISP, 5-2-2-0, $185,800. Last Start: 2nd GIII Las Virgenes S. at Santa Anita Jan. 28. Kentucky Oaks Points: 12.

If Faiza is the best 3-year-old filly on the West Coast, then Pride of the Nile is likely the second best. She has turned in a couple of big efforts in her last two starts, but hasn't been able to beat Faiza. She was second, beaten a head, in the Starlet and second again, beaten a half-length, in the Las Virgenes. Can she turn the tables on her rival? That will be answered in the Santa Ysabel. A consistent filly who has finished out of the money only once in her career, the question is whether or not she is good enough. Seeks to give two-time Derby winning trainer Doug O'Neill his first win in the Oaks. Next Start: GIII Santa Ysabel S., SA, TBD.

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