The Kentucky Oaks Top 10: Seeking Clarity

#2 Botanical winning the Bourbonette S. last time out | Coady

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For the sport's best 3-year-old fillies it's where the rubber meets the road time. The last round of preps for the GI Kentucky Oaks is upon us. In the GII Fair Grounds Oaks and the Bourbonette Oaks, there were a pair of key races last weekend. This week, we have the GII Gulfstream Park Oaks and the GIII Fantasy S. It's a division where, since 2-year-old filly champ Wonder Wheel (Into Mischief) finished second at 1-2 in the Feb. 11 Suncoast S. at Tampa, there has been no clear leader. Maybe that will change this weekend or next when Keeneland offers the GI Ashland S., which is expected to include three horses in our top 10. If not, this will go down as one of the most wide-open runnings of the Kentucky Oaks ever.
Somewhat ironically, a star filly did emerge last week in Munnys Gold (Munnings), who got a 106 Beyer and broke the seven-furlong track record when winning the Sophomore Fillies S. at Tampa Bay Downs. She is, by far, the fastest 3-year-old filly in training, but, at least for now, she will stay sprinting for trainer Todd Pletcher.

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.
It's put-up-or-shut-up time for the filly who maintains the top spot, but only because no one has done anything to take it away from her. It's still hard to fathom that she lost to Dreaming of Snow (Jess's Dream) in the Suncoast S. and had no obvious excuse that day. A repeat effort is not going to get it done in the Ashland or in the Kentucky Oaks. But it's not unreasonable to expect that she will improve off that race and run well enough to win the Ashland. If so, she'll likely be the favorite in the Oaks. We know she won't have any problem with the track at Keeneland. She's 2-for-2 there with wins in the GI Alcibiades S. and the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. After training at Mark Casse's training center throughout the winter, she's moved over to Keeneland for her final preparations.
Next Start: GI Ashland S., Kee, Apr. 7

2) 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, 6-4-1-0, $374,410. Last Start: Won Bourbonette S. at Turfway Mar. 25. Kentucky Oaks Points: 70.
She's won four in a row with the most recent win coming in the Bourbonette at Turfway. During the streak, no one has come close to her. The only thing-and it's a big thing-that keeps her from being No. 1 in this poll is that all of her wins have come over the synthetic Tapeta surface at Turfway. How will she do on the dirt at Churchill Downs? We won't know until she runs in the Oaks. Outside of her apparent comfort zone on the Tapeta, she's had two other starts, finishing eighth in a maiden on the grass at Kentucky Downs and then second in another turf maiden, this one at Keeneland. She's by Medaglia d'Oro out of a Blame mare, so there's nothing in her pedigree to suggest that she can't handle the dirt.
Next Start: GI Kentucky Oaks, CD, May 5

3) SOUTHLAWN (f, Pioneerof the Nile–Mo d'Amour, by Uncle Mo) O-Robert Masterson. B-WinStar Farm (Ky). T-Norm Casse. Sales history: $290,000 yrl '21 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: GSW, 7-3-0-1, $318,369. Last Start: Fair Grounds Oaks at Fair Grounds Mar. 25. Kentucky Oaks Points: 100.

Southlawn winning the GII Fair Grounds Oaks | Amanda Hodges Weir

One of the storylines for this year's Oaks could be the father-versus-son battle of Mark Casse vs. Norm Casse. Mark trains Wonder Wheel and Norm trains Southlawn, who stormed into our Oaks Top 10 with a 3 1/4-length win in the Fair Grounds Oaks. After two poor performances on the grass and a clunker in the GIII Pocahontas, Southlawn has really come into her own. Before the Fair Grounds Oaks she romped in an allowance race, also at the Fair Grounds. Casse told the Daily Racing Form that the filly's turnaround came following a surgical procedure, known as a myectomy, to clear up a breathing issue. In a division where no one has run particularly fast, she has run back-to-back Beyer figures of 86, which puts her near the head of the class.
Next Start: GI Kentucky Oaks, CD, May 5

4) 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.
She might represent Brad Cox's best chance of winning his third Kentucky Oaks in the span of just five years. A Godolphin homebred, she's won two straight and will look to keep the ball rolling Saturday at Oaklawn in the Fantasy S. After the filly was 10th in her debut on the grass at Kentucky Downs, she has improved with each start and has run Beyer figures of 83 in each of her last two races, wins in the Martha Washington S. and the GIII Honeybee S. A late-runner with a potent stretch kick, she should like the Oaks distance of a mile-and-an-eighth. Took a surprising amount of money in the Kentucky Oaks Future Wager, closing as the favorite at 4-1.
Next Start: GIII Fantasy S., OP, Apr. 1

5) PRETTY MISCHIEVOUS (f, Into Mischief–Pretty City Dancer, by  Tapit) 'TDN Rising Star' O/B-Godolphin (Ky). T-Brendan P. Walsh. Lifetime Record: GSW, 6-4-1-1, $501,310. Last Start: 2nd GII Fair Grounds Oaks at Fair Grounds Mar. 25. Kentucky Oaks Points: 103.
More steady that spectacular. She's won four of six lifetime starts and has never run worse than third. With back-to-back wins in the Untapable S. and the GII Rachel Alexandra S., she was poised to take over leadership of the division, but couldn't get the job done when second in the Fair Grounds Oaks. She didn't run badly but was no match for Southlawn. She'll likely need to improve by three or four lengths to win the Oaks, but that's not impossible. At the very least, you can count on her showing up.
Next Start: GI Kentucky Oaks, CD, May 5

6) 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.
Like Wonder Wheel, she needs to step up in the Ashland and show the world why she was regarded as one of the top 2-year-old fillies in training last year. A full-sister to champion Malathaat (Curlin), she was an impressive winner of her debut and then won the GII Demoiselle S., the same race her big sis won in 2020. But she didn't get off to a good start this year, running third in the Suncoast. Though she was beaten only 1 1/2 lengths, at no point did it look like she was going to win the race. Yes, she can run better in the Ashland, but the jury remains out on her.
Next Start: GI Ashland S., Kee, April 7

7) 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.
It's been a while since a California-based filly won the Oaks, a feat last pulled off by the Bob Baffert-trained Abel Tasman (Quality Road) in 2017. The best 3-year-old filly currently racing in California is Faiza (Girvin), who is also trained by Baffert. But she was not nominated to the Kentucky Oaks. That means that And Tell Me Nolies might be the flagbearer for the West Coast this year. Trained by Peter Miller, the daughter of Arrogate, who sired last year's Kentucky Oaks winner in Secret Oath (Arrogate), she had an outstanding 2-year-old season, winning the GI Del Mar Debutante S. and the GII Chandelier S. There was nothing wrong with her 3-year-old debut, where she finished second behind Faiza in the GIII Santa Ysabel S. Had a seven-furlong work at the San Luis Rey training center on Mar. 25, going in a sharp 1:25.40.
Next Start: GII Santa Anita Oaks, SA, Apr. 8

Punchbowl | Coady

8) PUNCHBOWL (f, Uncle Mo-Devilish Lady, by Sweetsouthernsaint) O-Gary and Mary West. B-Gary and Mary West Stables Inc. (Ky). T-Brad H. Cox. Lifetime Record: 2-2-0-0, $150,528. Last Start: Won an allowance optional claimer at Oaklawn Mar. 5. Kentucky Oaks Points: 0.
She did not make her debut until Feb. 11, so she has been playing a serious game of catchup ever since. Trained by Cox and owned by Gary and Mary West, she won her debut at six furlongs by three-quarters of a length. But it was her second career start that really picked up some heads. Going a mile-and-a-sixteenth in an Oaklawn allowance race, she coasted to a 4 1/4-length win under Florent Geroux. Talented but untested, she does next in the Ashland, where she'll have the chance to prove just how good she is. Was bet down to 11-1 in the Oaks Future Wager.
Next Start: GI Ashland S., Kee, Apr. 7

9) 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.
Still seeking his first win in the Kentucky Oaks, future Hall of Famer Chad Brown has a puncher's chance with Shidabhuti. It's hard to say how good she is. She broke her maiden in September at Monmouth and followed that up with an allowance win in January at Aqueduct. In both races, she didn't beat much and didn't post a fast number. But she was up for the challenge when making her stakes debut in the Mar. 4 Busher S. at Aqueduct, where she won by two lengths. Still needs to prove she can win at the graded stakes level and around two turns.
Next Start: GIII Gazelle S., Aqu, Apr. 7

10) MIRACLE (f, Mendelssohn–Good Omen, by Smart Strike)
O-WinStar Farm LLC & Siena Farm LLC. B-Magnolia Express (NY). T-Todd Pletcher. Sales history: $110,000 wnl  '20 FTKNOV; $250,000 yrl '21 FTSAR; $360,000 2yo '22 OBSMAR. Lifetime Record: GSP, 5-1-3-1, $197,400. Last Start: 2nd in GII Rachel Alexandra S. at Churchill Downs. Kentucky Oaks Points: 20.
Will have her chance to earn her way into the Oaks field when she goes Saturday in the Gulfstream Park Oaks, a race that came up light. That's why she's the 5-2 morning line favorite even though she's 1-for-5 lifetime and her only win came in a maiden race for New York breds in her July 27 career debut. Since, she hit the board in three straight stakes for New York breds, finishing off her 2022 campaign with a second-place finish in the Maid of the Mist S. But trainer Todd Pletcher must have had confidence in her as her threw her into the deep end in her 3-year-old debut, sending her out in the Rachel Alexandra. She finished second, just three-quarters of a length behind Pretty Mischievous, showing she can handle open company.
Next Start: GII Gulfstream Park Oaks, GP, Apr. 1

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