The Kentucky Oaks Top 10 for February 29

Tarifa | Coady

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Things are starting to heat up. Saturday's Busher S. at Aqueduct and Saturday's GII Davona Dale S. at Gulfstream both have the potential to shake things up. The Davona Dale will feature the return of 2-year-old champion filly Just FYI (Justify) and what looks to be an up-and-coming star in Leslie's Rose (Into Mischief). The Busher will feature Jody's Pride (American Pharoah), who was the runner-up behind Just FYI in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Here's a look at the fourth installment of our Kentucky Oaks Top 10.

1) TARIFA (f, Bernardini–Kite Beach, by Awesome Again) O/B-Godolphin (KY); T-Brad Cox. Lifetime Record: 'TDN Rising Star', GSW, 4-3-0-0, $278,925. Last start: WON Feb. 17 GII Rachel Alexandra S. Kentucky Oaks Points: 50. Next Start: GII Fair Grounds Oaks, FG, March 23 or GI Ashland S., Kee, April 5

The Louisiana route to the GI Kentucky Oaks has proven to be a productive series of prep races. Tarifa, coming off her win in the GII Rachel Alexandra S. presented by Fasig-Tipton, could be the next Fair Grounds-based horse to turn into a star. Three of the last six Rachel Alexandra winners have gone on to win the Oaks. And Clairiere (Curlin), the 2021 winner went on to become a four-time Grade I winner. That bodes well for Tarifa, who surged into the top spot in this poll off of a 2 3/4-length win over the highly regarded Intricate (Gun Runner).The Rachel Alexandra was just her fourth start and her first in stakes company, so there's probably plenty of room for improvement for the Godolphin homebred.

2) JUST F Y I (f, Justify–Star Act, by Street Cry {Ire}) O/B-George Krikorian (Ky); T-Bill Mott. Lifetime Record: Ch. 2yo filly, GISW, 3-3-0-0, $1,317,750. Last start: WON Nov. 3 GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Kentucky Oaks Points: 40. Next Start: GII Davona Dale S., GP, Mar. 2.

The Davona Dale should answer a lot of questions surrounding last year's 2-year-old champ. Her record is perfect, she won the Juvenile Fillies, and she's in the hands of Hall of Famer Bill Mott. Despite all that, she's going to have to show that she has progressed and matured since her 2-year-old season and gotten faster. Her best Beyer figure was a 79, which she recorded in the Breeders' Cup. That doesn't even make her the fastest horse in Saturday's Davona Dale. Leslie's Rose (Into Mischief) has run an 88 and an 87, numbers more indicative of a horse with the goods to win the Oaks. Mott will no doubt have her ready, but he's not exactly drilling her in the mornings. She worked five furlongs in 1:02.20 Feb. 24 and five furlongs in 1:03.60 Feb. 17. Both works were at Payson Park.

3) JODY'S PRIDE (f, American Pharoah–Jody's Song, by Scat Daddy) O-Parkland Thoroughbreds & Sportsmen Stable; B-Mr. Steve Weston (Ky); T-Jorge R Abreu. Lifetime Record: SW & GISP, 3-2-1-0, $480,250. Last start: 2nd Nov. 3 GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Kentucky Oaks Points: 15. Next Start: Busher  S., Aqu, Mar. 2.

Trainer Jorge Abreu called an audible at the line of scrimmage and decided to run Jody's Pride in the Busher instead of the Davona Dale. The Busher is a much easier race than the Davona Dale and offers the same amount of Kentucky Oaks points, with 50 points going to the winner. “We feel we can get our points easier in New York than we can in the Davona Dale,” co-owner Steve Weston told the Daily Racing Form. Flavien Prat had been riding this filly but he has commitments on the Mar. 2 card at Santa Anita and will not be available. Jose Lezcano will take over. Jody's Pride's last start was a second-place finish in the Juvenile Fillies, which means, as is the case with Just F Y I, that she might not be fast enough to make it to the Kentucky Oaks winner's circle.

4) KOPION (f, Omaha Beach—Galloping Ami, by Victory Gallop) O-Spendthrift Farm; B-Tall Oaks Farm (Ky); T-Richard Mandella. Sales history: $270,000 yrl '22 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: GSW, 3-2-1-0, $116,600. Last start: 2nd Feb. 10 GIII Las Virgenes S. Kentucky Oaks Points: 20. Next Start: GII Santa Anita Oaks, SA, Apr. 6

With Bob Baffert-trainees effectively banned from the Kentucky Oaks, Kopion could enter the Oaks as the top threat from California. While she may not be as good as the Baffert-trained Kinza (Carpe Diem), who beat her in the GIII Las Virgenes S., her credentials are pretty solid. She ran an 89 in the Las Virgenes, which puts her in the thick of things when it comes to the leaders of this division. Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella has never won a Derby or an Oaks. Maybe this will be the year that changes.

5) LESLIE'S ROSE (f, Into Mischief–Wildwood Rose {Ire}, by Galileo {Ire}) 'TDN Rising Star' O-Whisper Hill Farm; B-John D. Gunther & Eurowest Bloodstock Services (Ky); T-Todd Pletcher. Sales history: $1,150,000 yrl '22 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: 'TDN Rising Star', 2-2-0-0, $89,950. Last start: WON Jan. 11 AOC at Gulfstream Park. Kentucky Oaks Points: 0. Next Start: GII Davona Dale S., GP, Mar. 2.

The Davona Dale comes down to a classic case of speed figures-versus-class. Leslie' Rose is considerably faster than Just F Y I, but she has won only a maiden and an allowance race. Just F Y I, of course, is a two-time Grade I winner and an Eclipse champion. It's just that on the figures, she's not that fast. A $1,150,000 purchase at Keeneland September by Mandy Pope's Whisper Hill Farms, Leslie's Rose has the breeding, the speed and the right trainer in Todd Pletcher. A very nice prospect.

6) POWER SQUEEZE (f, Union Rags–Callmethesqueeze, by Awesome Again) O-Lea Farms, LLC; B-Forging Oaks Farm (KY); T-Jorge Delgado. Sales history: $50,000 yrl '22 KEESEP; $90,000 2yo '23 OBSAPR. Lifetime Record: MSW, 5-3-1-0, $188,650. Last start: WON Feb. 10 Suncoast S. Kentucky Oaks Points: 20. Next Start: GII Gulfstream Park Oaks, GP, Mar. 30.

Trainer Jorge Delgado has taken his time with this filly, a $90,000 purchase at OBS April. It took her three starts to break her maiden and then he ran her in two minor stakes, the Cash Run S. and the Suncoast S. Life Talk (Gun Runner) was the 2-5 favorite in the Suncoast and she didn't have it, running last. Outside of her there wasn't much in the way of competition for Power Squeeze, so this might have been the case of her beating up on a weak field. We'll learn a lot more about her when she tackles tougher in the GII Gulfstream Park Oaks.

7) INTRICATE (f, Gun Runner–Complex Analysis, by Distorted Humor) O-Bradley Thoroughbreds, Laura Leigh Stable, Scot Estes & Cambron Equine, LLC; B-LBD Stable, LLC (Ky); T-Brendan Walsh. Sales history: $200,000 yrl '22 KEESEP; $280,000 2yo '23 OBSAPR. Lifetime Record: GSW, 4-2-1-0, $362,180. Last start: 2nd GII Rachel Alexandra S. Kentucky Oaks Points: 35. Next Start: GII Fair Grounds Oaks, FG, Mar. 23

Her star dimmed a bit when she couldn't handle Tarifa in the Rachel Alexandra, but there's no reason why she can't improve off of that effort and be a major player. Looked very good winning last year's GII Golden Rod S. at Churchill, winning by 5 1/4 lengths. “She's a very easy filly to train and does it all by herself. She's just been starting to come around and really put things together today. We've always thought she's a true two-turn filly,” Walsh said after the Golden Rod. Pretty Mischievous (Into Mischief) finished third in the Golden Rod only to go on and win the Oaks. Both fillies are trained by  Walsh. Don't count this filly out.

8) WEST OMAHA (f, West Coast–Birthday Bash, by Medaglia d'Oro) O/B-Gary & Mary West Stables (Ky); T-Brad Cox. Lifetime Record: SW, 4-2-2-0, $203,000. Last start: 3rd in Feb. 24 GIII Honeybee S. Kentucky Oaks Points: 40. Next Start: TBD.

After winning the Jan. 20 Silverbulletday S. presented by Fasig-Tipton at the Fair Grounds, West Omaha looked like she was among the top tier in the 3-year-old filly division. That may no longer be the case for the Brad Cox-trainee. Sent off as the 11-10 favorite in the GIII Honeybee S. at Oaklawn, she could do no better than third. She lost by four lengths. It was a definite regression from her earlier races and she will need to turn things around in her next start.

9) LEMON MUFFIN (f, Collected–Pelt, by Canadian Frontier) O-Aaron Sones; B-Mr & Mrs Theodore R Kuster & Collected Syndicate (KY); T-D Wayne Lukas. Sales history: $20,000 yrl '22 KEESEP; $140,000 2yo '23 OBSAPR. Lifetime Record: GSW, 6-1-4-0, $305,250. Last start: WON GIII Honeybee S. Kentucky Oaks Points: 50. Next Start: GIII Fantasy Stakes, OP, Mar. 30.

Only Hall of Famer Wayne Lukas would take a five-time loser in the maiden ranks who had never gone beyond six furlongs and run her in a two-turn graded stakes, and win. That's exactly what Lukas did and he was rewarded with a huge win with Lemon Muffin in the Honeybee at odds of 28-1. “I think I'm the oldest guy to ever win the Honeybee,” said the 88-year-old trainer. “I felt good about her. She was dying to go two turns and I knew it. I kind of handicapped her. I kept her short a couple of times. I've got to give credit to the owner [Aaron Sones]. Aaron Sones called me and said, 'Would you have the guts to put her in the Honeybee?' And, I said: 'Yes. I think that's where we ought to go.' So, he pushed me in that direction. I followed up on it and I loved it.” Jockey Keith Asmussen collected his first graded stakes win in the Honeybee aboard Lemon Muffin.

10) RECHARGE (f, Gun Runner–Remit, by Tapit) O/B-Winchell Thoroughbreds (KY); T-Steve Asmussen. Lifetime Record: SW, 3-3-0-0, $189,498. Last start: WON Feb. 18 Sunland Park Oaks. Kentucky Oaks Points: 20. Next Start: GIII Fantasy S., OP, Mar. 30.

A winner of the Sunland Park Oaks might not normally be considered a top threat for the Kentucky Oaks, but things might be different with this one. A Winchell Thoroughbreds homebred by Gun Runner, she in good hands in the Steve Asmussen barn and seems to be improving with each race, starting with her maiden win Dec. 14 at Remington Park. It's hard to say if she's good enough, but the answer to that question will no doubt come in her next start when she should meet much tougher competition.

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