The TDN Kentucky Oaks Rankings for Apr. 14

Secret Oath | Coady

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With the GI Ashland S., the GII Santa Anita Oaks and the GIII Gazelle S. topping last week's action, all the preps have been run and the field for the GI Kentucky Oaks is all but set. Who will be the favorite? Who is the filly to beat? In a year where the division is overrun with quality, those aren't easy questions to answer. It should be a heck of a race.

1) SECRET OATH (Arrogate–Absinthe Minded, by Quiet American) O-Briland Farm; B-Briland Farm, Robert & Stacy Mitchell (KY); T-D. Wayne Lukas. Lifetime Record: GSW & GISP, 7-4-0-2, $590,167. Last Start: 3rd GI Arkansas Derby. Kentucky Oaks Points: 60. Next Start: GI Kentucky Oaks, CD, May 6.

The big news in the Secret Oath camp is that the connections have decided to replace jockey Luis Contreras with Luis Saez. Trainer Wayne Lukas had told the TDN that Contreras would keep the mount for the Oaks, so, apparently, someone had a change of mind. The move is hardly a surprise. Contreras, a regular at Woodbine, is a capable rider but he's not in the class of Saez, who is a rare talent. The guess is that Secret Oath will be the favorite. She's coming off a very good effort against males in the GI Arkansas Derby and, because of Lukas, the 86-year-old icon trying to win another Kentucky Oaks, she will dominate the storylines coming into the race. Her sire Arrogate passed away at age seven in 2020. Win or lose in the Oaks, she figures to go down as the best horse produced by her ill-fated sire.

2) KATHLEEN O. (Upstart–Quaver, by Blame) O-Winngate Stables, LLC; B-Gainesway Thoroughbreds Ltd. & Bridlewood Farm (KY); T-Shug McGaughey. Sales History: $8,000 wlg '19 KEENOV; $50,000 ylg '20 OBSOCT; $275,000 2yo '21 OBSAPR. Lifetime Record: MGSW, 4-4-0-0, $379,730. Last Start: 1st GII Gulfstream Park Oaks. Kentucky Oaks Points: 150. Next Start:  Kentucky Oaks.

Maybe she will be the favorite. Considering what she has accomplished, that wouldn't be a surprise. She's four-for-four in her career and gives every indication that she has yet to reach her peak. She represents a perfect example of why trainer Shug McGaughey is in the Hall of Fame. He's a master when it comes to developing horses and getting them to peak on the big day. Starting with her debut, a maiden win at Aqueduct Nov. 12, she has gotten better with every start. This year, she has reeled off three straight wins at Gulfstream, a surface that doesn't fit her come-from-behind style. It's been 29 years since McGaughey last won the Oaks, which he pulled off in 1993 with Dispute. It is his only win in the race.

3) NEST (Curlin–Marion Ravenwood, by A.P. Indy) O-Repole Stable, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners & Michael House; B-Ashview Farm & Colts Neck Stables (KY); T-Todd Pletcher. Sales History: $350,000 ylg '20 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: GISW, 5-4-0-1, $623,050. Last Start: 1st GI Central Bank Ashland S. Kentucky Oaks Points: 120. Next Start: Kentucky Oaks.

Todd Pletcher won the 2021 Kentucky Oaks with a daughter of Curlin, Malathaat. He will try to do so again with another daughter of Curlin in Nest. Nest could possibly be better than Eclipse Award winner Malathaat. That's how impressive she was when winning the Ashland. After winning the Suncoast S. at Tampa Bay Downs in her 3-year-old debut, she faced much stiffer competition in the Ashland, but made it look easy. Ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr., she drew off in the stretch to win by 8 1/4 lengths. “She looked like a star yesterday,” Pletcher said the morning after the Ashland. “You never expect to win by 8 1/4 lengths, but we felt good about the way she was coming into the race.” Mike Repole is one of her owners. He has spent millions at the sales trying to find superstar colts, but doesn't normally go after many fillies. This one was bought at Keeneland September for $350,000, which looks like a bargain. In most any other year, she'd be the solid favorite in the Oaks. This year, she could be third or fourth choice.

4) ECHO ZULU (Gun Runner–Letgomyecho, by Menifee) 'TDN Rising Star' O-L and N Racing LLC & Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC; B-Betz/J. Betz/Burns/CHNNHK/Magers/CoCo Equine/ Ramsby (KY); T-Steve Asmussen. Sales History: $300,000 ylg '20 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: Ch. 2yo Filly, MGISW, 5-5-0-0, $1,720,000. Last Start: 1st GII Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks. KY Oaks Points: 130. Next Start: Kentucky Oaks.

Could Gun Runner, who got off to a sizzling start as a sire, win both the Oaks and the GI Kentucky Derby? With Echo Zulu and GI Runhappy Santa Anita Derby winner Taiba (Gun Runner), it's entirely possible. She's undefeated and the reigning 2-year-old filly champion, so maybe she deserves to be ranked higher than fourth. But this corner was not enamored with her 3-year-old debut, a nose victory in the GII Fair Grounds Oaks in which she earned the slowest Beyer in her career. She's going to have to run better to win the Kentucky Oaks. Then again, maybe the cagey Steve Asmussen didn't have her at 100%, knowing that the Kentucky Oaks was the real goal? It's a tough call.

5) NOSTALGIC (Medaglia d'Oro–Been Here Before, by Tapit) O/B-Godolphin (KY); T-Bill Mott. Lifetime Record: GSW, 5-3-0-0, $235,400. Last Start: 1st GIII Gazelle S. Kentucky Oaks Points: 101. Next Start: Kentucky Oaks.

She's was on the list, off the list and now makes it into the Top 5 with her win Saturday at Aqueduct in the Gazelle. She's had an up-and-down career so far. After finishing fourth in last year's GII Demoiselle S., one of the biggest key races of 2021, she went to the grass, where she was ninth and last in the GIII Sweetest Chant S. at Gulfstream. Trainer Bill Mott sent her back to dirt and she bounced right back with a 6 3/4-length win in a Gulfstream allowance race. She earned her ticket to the Oaks with a 1 1/4-length win in the Gazelle over 11-10 favorite Venti Valentine (Firing Line). Owned by Godolphin, by Medaglia d'Oro out of the Been Here Before, she's certainly got the pedigree to be a star. Mott has never won the Kentucky Oaks.

6) ADARE MANOR (Uncle Mo–Brooklynsway, by Giant's Causeway) O-Michael Lund Petersen; B-Town & Country Horse Farms, LLC & Gary Broad (KY); T-Tim Yakteen. Sales History: $180,000 ylg '20 FTKFEB; $190,000 RNA ylg '20 FTKSEL; $375,000 2yo '21 OBSOPN. Lifetime Record: GSW, 5-2-2-0, $256,600. Last Start: 2nd GII Santa Anita Oaks. Kentucky Oaks Points: 40. Next Start: Kentucky Oaks.

Among the top names headed for the Oaks, Adare Manor became the first to stub her toe when she finished second as the 7-10 favorite in the Santa Anita Oaks for new trainer Tim Yakteen. It was her first race since winning the GIII Las Virgenes S. and perhaps Yakteen, who took over for Bob Baffert, was trying to save something for Kentucky. Nonetheless, this was a race she was not supposed to lose, even if the margin of victory was just a neck. She was dominant when winning the Las Virgenes by 13 lengths, earning a 94 Beyer figure. If she can run back to that race she'd have a chance in the Oaks. But will she? Maybe she peaked too early.

7) HIDDEN CONNECTION (Connect–C J's Gal, by Awesome Again) O-Hidden Brook Farm & Black Type Thoroughbreds; B-St. Simon Place (KY); T-W. Bret Calhoun. Sales History: $49,000 RNA wlg '19 KEENOV; $40,000 ylg '20 KEESEP; $55,000 RNA 2yo '21 OBSAPR; $85,000 2yo '21 OBSOPN. Lifetime Record: 5-2-1-0, $399,525. Last Start: 2nd GII Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks. Kentucky Oaks Points: 57. Next Start: Kentucky Oaks.

She's had one start at Churchill Downs and the result was a 9 1/4-length win in the GIII Pocahontas S. It was the best race of her life. So you know that she will handle the track. And she's going to have to run back to that race to have any chance. She's gone 0-for-3 since and is 0-2 on the year. However, she made a forward move last out when battling Echo Zulu in the Fair Grounds Oaks to lose by just a nose. Her jockey, Reylu Gutierrez, looks like a rising star after winning 51 races at the Fair Grounds meet.

8) VENTI VALENTINE (Firing Line–Glory Gold, by Medaglia d'Oro) O-NY Final Furlong Racing Stable & Parkland Thoroughbreds; B-Final Furlong Racing Stable & Maspeth Stable (NY); T-Jorge Abreu. Lifetime Record: MSW & MGSP, 5-3-2-0, $416,250. Last Start: 2nd GIII Gazelle S. Kentucky Oaks Points: 94. Next Start: Kentucky Oaks.

At odds of 11-10, she was the beaten favorite in the Gazelle. It was far from a bad race. She was second, losing by just 1 1/4 lengths, and got beat by a potential star in Nostalgic. But, at the same time, she had no excuse and the race showed that she belongs in the second tier when it comes to Kentucky Oaks runners. A good horse, but she'll be 40-1 or thereabouts at Churchill. Could clean up against New York-breds, but she deserves a shot in the Kentucky Oaks.

9) YUUGIRI (Shackleford–Yuzuru, by Medaglia d'Oro) O/B-Sekie Yoshihara & Tsunebumi Yoshihara (KY); T-Rodolphe Brisset. Lifetime Record: GSW, 5-2-2-1, $543,610. Last Start: 1st GIII Fantasy S. Kentucky Oaks Points: 114. Next Start: Kentucky Oaks.

Yuugiri is owned and was bred by Sekie Yoshihara and Tsunebumi Yoshihara, who live in Japan. She is trained by Rodolphe Brisset. She punched her ticket to the Kentucky Oaks with a win in the GIII Fantasy S. at Oaklawn, but that race, once Secret Oath opted for the Arkansas Derby, did not come up particularly strong. A better test may have been the GIII Honeybee S., where Secret Oaks trounced her by 9 1/4 lengths. The Oaks will be her fourth start at Churchill Downs. She broke her maiden there in September and then ran second in the Rags to Riches S. and second in the GII Golden Rod S. Another good horse who will be a big long shot in what is a loaded race.

10) Desert Dawn (Cupid–Ashley's Glory, by Honour and Glory) O/B-H and E Ranch, Inc. (AZ); T-Philip D'Amato. Sales history: $32,000 RNA yrl '20 OBSOCT. Lifetime Record: 7-2-0-2, $378,400. Last Start: 1st GII Santa Anita Oaks. Kentucky Oaks Points: 108. Next Start: Kentucky Oaks.

Can an Arizona-bred win the Kentucky Oaks? She'll give it a shot. Was bred by and is owned by Elena and Hollis Crim of H & E Ranch, a 400-acre spread in Globe, Arizona. Normally, the winner of the Santa Anita Oaks would be among the top choices in the Kentucky Oaks, but that won't be the case with this one. She was the longest shot in the field of five at 14-1 and had been off the board in her three prior starts. That includes a sixth-place finish in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, where she was beaten by 18 3/4 lengths. Ran a career best race at Santa Anita, but that probably won't be enough.

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