The TDN Kentucky Oaks Top 10 for January 14

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Vequist | Breeders' Cup/Eclipse Sportswire

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With the year having just begun, it will take a while for the picture for the GI Kentucky Oaks to come into focus. For now, the fillies who thrived last year dominate this Top 10 list, but that can, and likely will, change as the calendar works its way toward the first Friday in May and new names emerge in the major preps for the Oaks.

It is, at the very least, a solid group, headed by GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Vequist, who will be named the champion 2-year-old filly of 2020. For her, and several others on the list, it will all come down to whether or not they peaked at two or if they have made a successful transition from their freshmen campaigns to their 3-year-old campaigns.

Saturday's racing will include the first 2021 Oaks prep of any kind as a field of nine will compete in the Silverbulletday S. at Fair Grounds. All eyes will be on Sun Path, a blowout winner of an allowance race in New Orleans last month. She is trained by Brad Cox, who won last year's Oaks with Shedaresthedevil (Daredevil).

1) VEQUIST (NyquistVero Amore, by Mineshaft)
O-Gary Barber, Wachtel Stable & Swilcan Stable. B-Swilcan Stables (KY). T-Robert E. Reid, Jr. Sales History: $120,000 RNA ylg '19 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: MGISW, 4-2-2-0, $1,235,500.
Last Start: 1st GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, KEE, Nov. 6
Accomplishments Include: 1st GI Spinaway S., SAR, Sept. 6, 2nd GI Frizette S., BEL, Oct. 10
Next Start: GII Davona Dale S., GP, Feb. 27
Equineline PPs. KY Oaks Points: 24

With victories in the GI Spinaway S. and in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last year, she was clearly the most accomplished 2-year-old filly of 2020. There's nothing not to like about the daughter of Nyquist, who has displayed speed, class and the ability to win around two turns and at a mile-and-a-sixteenth.

Soon to be named the champion 2-year-old filly of 2020, Vequist had her first work of 2021 Saturday when she breezed a half-mile in 49.45 at Palm Meadows.

“Right after the Breeders' Cup we sent her to Barry Eisman's place in Ocala for a little R & R,” trainer Butch Reid said. “She had a nice six weeks off while there and I then brought her to Palm Meadows. She had her first breeze Saturday and went a nice half-mile in 49 and change. That served to wake her up. All systems are go.”

And how has she done since her break?

“There are a couple of guys in my barn here at Palm Meadows who happened to be in our barn last summer at Saratoga and they remarked how much she had grown and how much weight she had put on since last summer,” Reid said. “Sometimes, it's a little deceiving to your own eyes when you see them every day, but these guys hadn't seen her in six months and they thought she looked like a different horse. They did a sensational job with her at Ocala. She's put on weight and she's really maturing.”

2) SUN PATH (MunningsTouch the Star, by Tapit)
'TDN Rising Star' O/B-Juddmonte Farms Inc. (KY). T-Brad Cox. Lifetime Record: 3-2-1-0, $91,892.
Last Start: 1st Alw, Dec. 18, FG
Next Start: Silverbulletday S., FG, Jan. 16
Equineline PPs. KY Oaks Points: 0

Could be the best among the “new faces” that did not run in the Breeders' Cup. After finishing second in her debut, the 'TDN Rising Star' won a maiden at Churchill by three lengths and followed that up with a 12 3/4-length romp in an allowance on Dec. 18 at Fair Grounds. She is a full-sister to Bonny South, the winner of the 2020 GII Fair Grounds Oaks.

“At this stage of the game, she's better [than Bonny South],” Cox said. “She showed more this summer than Bonny showed as a 2-year-old. She's got a long way to go to catch up to Bonny's accomplishments, but at this stage of the game, there's more talent and speed there and she does things maybe a touch easier.”

Owned by Juddmonte Farms, trained by Cox and ridden by Florent Geroux, she is certainly in capable hands. Cox has won two of the last three runnings of the Kentucky Oaks.

Her one flaw may be how she gets out of the gate. She broke through the gate prior to the start of the allowance race and she also had gate problems in her two previous starts.

Will be in action this weekend, heading the Silverbulletday.

3) DAYOUTOFTHEOFFICE (Into MischiefGottahaveadream, by Indian Charlie)
O-Blazing Meadows Farm & Siena Farm. B-Siena Farms (KY). T-Timothy Hamm. Lifetime Record: GISW, 4-3-1-0, $556,500.
Last Start: 2nd GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, KEE, Nov. 6
Accomplishments Include: 1st GI Frizette S., BEL, Oct. 10, 1st GIII Schuylerville S., SAR, July 16
Next Start: Undecided
Equineline PPs. KY Oaks Points: 18

Like Vequist, Dayoutoftheoffice spent some time in Ocala relaxing after she finished second in the Juvenile Fillies and only recently returned to the Tampa Bay Downs barn of trainer Tim Hamm.

“She's put on some weight and she seems happy,” Hamm said. “She's doing great.”

The daughter of Into Mischief snuck up on a lot of people when she won the GIII Schuylerville S. at Saratoga by six lengths as a 19-1 outsider. She followed that up with a two-length win in the GI Frizette S. and was the third choice in the Juvenile Fillies at 4-1. She ran well that day to finish second, but it was a performance that raises some questions. In her first try around two turns, she led in the stretch before Vequist ran by her for the win. Could she have distance limitations? That's a question that will likely be answered early on in 2021.

Hamm said she will make her 3-year-old debut in either the Davona Dale or the GIII Honeybee S. on March 6 at Oaklawn.

4) TRAVEL COLUMN (FrostedSwingit, by Victory Gallop)
'TDN Rising Star' O-OXO Equine. B-Mr. & Mrs. Bayne Welker, Jr. & Denali Stud (KY). T-Brad Cox. Sales History: $850,000 ylg '19 FTSAUG. Lifetime Record: GSW, 3-2-0-1, $209,184.
Last Start: 1st GII Golden Rod S., CD, Nov. 28
Accomplishments Include: 3rd GI Darley Alcibiades S., KEE, Oct. 2
Next Start: GII Rachel Alexandra S. presented by Fasig-Tipton, FG, Feb. 13
Equineline PPs. KY Oaks Points: 12

Another Brad Cox runner and 'TDN Rising Star' who prospered later on in the year and now has designs on the Kentucky Oaks. A $850,000 purchase at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Yearling sale, she didn't run particularly well when a distant third in the GI Darley Alcibiades S., but was a much different horse when recording an impressive win in the GII Golden Rod S. at Churchill Downs. She wound up last behind moderate fractions after being knocked around at the start and had to alter course in the stretch to find running room. Still, she prevailed by a length. Daughter of Frosted looks like she can improve and should be a major player on the road to the Oaks.

5) MALATHAAT (CurlinDreaming of Julia, by A.P. Indy)
'TDN Rising Star' O-Shadwell Stable. B-Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings (KY). T-Todd Pletcher. Sales History: $1,050,000 ylg '19 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: GSW, 3-2-0-0, $172,150.
Last Start: 1st GII Demoiselle S., AQU, Dec. 5
Accomplishments Include: 1st Tempted S., AQU, Nov. 6
Next Start: GII Davona Dale S., GP, Feb. 27
Equineline PPs. KY Oaks Points: 10

There appears to be a lot of upside to this filly who went for seven figures at the yearling sales and now runs for Shadwell Stable. The 'TDN Rising Star' is three for three and already has a win at a mile-and-an-eighth, in the GII Demoiselle S. at Aqueduct. That she is by Curlin suggest that the best is yet to come.

In some respects, the Demoiselle was not her most impressive performance. Sent off at 2-5, she looked beaten in mid-stretch but had enough class to grind out a win by three-quarters of a length in a race run over a sloppy track.

“She was never comfortable and not running into a spot I wanted,” jockey John Velazquez said afterward. “She never really put that much effort into keeping a spot. Finally, when I tipped her out heading to the quarter-pole, she started running.”

While this could be the year that Malathaat blossoms, she will need to run faster. Her best Beyer number so far is the 83 she got when winning the Tempted S. She got a 76 in the Demoiselle.

6) GIRL DADDY (Uncle MoCara Marie, by Unbridled's Song)
'TDN Rising Star' O-Albaugh Family Stables. B-China Horse Club International Ltd. (KY). T-Dale Romans. Sales History: $500,000 ylg '19 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: GSW & GISP, 3-2-0-1, $321,240.
Last Start: 3rd GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, KEE, Nov. 6
Accomplishments Include: 1st GIII Pocahontas S., CD, Sept. 3
Next Start: Undecided
Equineline PPs. KY Oaks Points: 14

Daughter of Uncle Mo was a creditable third in the Juvenile Fillies, losing the place position by a nose, in what was her first career defeat. She earned a 90 Beyer figure that day, the best of her brief career. She had been impressive in her two earlier starts, a maiden win at Ellis Park and a two-length victory in the GIII Pocahontas at Churchill Downs. There are no serious knocks on the 'TDN Rising Star', but she may have to improve to be able to beat the likes of Vequist and some others. Will try to give trainer Dale Romans his first Oaks win.

7) SIMPLY RAVISHING (LaobanFour Wishes, by More Than Ready)
O-Harold Lerner, Magdalena Racing & Nehoc Stables. B-Meg Levy (NY). T-Ken McPeek. Sales History: $50,000 ylg '19 FTKOCT. Lifetime Record: GISW, 5-3-0-0, $414,200.
Last Start: 4th GII Golden Rod S., CD, Nov. 28
Accomplishments Include: 1st GI Darley Alcibiades S., KEE, Oct. 2, 1st P.G. Johnson S., SAR, Sept. 3
Next Start: Undecided
Equineline PPs. KY Oaks Points: 13

Hard to get a read on this filly. Trainer Ken McPeek, so adept at finding quality horses at the sales for modest prices, plucked this one out of the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October Yearling sale for $50,000. She won her first three races, including the GI Alcibiades, and it looked like she might be on her way to championship honors. Instead, she finished fourth in the Breeders' Cup and followed that up with a fourth-place finish in the Golden Rod as the 7-10 favorite. At the very least, she will need to return to the form she showed in the Alcibiades to be considered a top Oaks contender. Did she peak too early?

8) KALYPSO (Brody's CauseMalibu Cove, by Malibu Moon)
O-David A. Bernsen, Rockingham Ranch & Chad Littlefield. B-Spendthrift Farm (KY). T-Bob Baffert. Sales History: $240,000 ylg '19 FTKJUL. Lifetime Record: GSW & GISP, 5-2-2-1, $245,600.
Last Start: 1st GII Santa Ynez S., SA, Jan. 3
Accomplishments Include: 1st Anoakia S., SA, Oct. 18, 2nd GI Starlet S., LRC, Dec. 5
Next Start: GII Las Virgenes S., SA, Feb. 6
Equineline PPs. KY Oaks Points: 14

Early indications are that the California-based 3-year-old fillies are not a particularly strong group. The Beyer numbers for most of their races have been on the slow side. For now, Kalypso looks as good as any. A $240,000 purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Select Yearling Sale, she improved quite a bit to win the GII Santa Ynez S. over stablemate Frosteria (Frosted), who is still a maiden, for the Bob Baffert barn. The Santa Ynez is a seven-furlong race, so she still needs to show that she can thrive at longer distances. While this one is not worthy as of yet of cracking the top three or four, it would be a mistake to discount anything that Baffert sends out.

9) VARDA (Distorted HumorShe'll Be Right, by Sky Mesa)
O-Baoma Corporation. B-Masters 2013 & Distorted Humor Syndicate (NY). T-Bob Baffert. Sales History: $100,000 ylg '19 SARAUG; $700,000 2yo '20 OBSAPR. Lifetime Record: GISW, 3-2-1-0, $254,500.
Last Start: 1st GI Starlet S., LRC, Dec. 5
Accomplishments Include: 2nd GII Chandelier S., SA, Sept. 26
Next Start: GII Las Virgenes S., SA, Feb. 6
Equineline PPs. KY Oaks Points: 14

Another horse from the Baffert stable, the good news is that she is a Grade I winner, which she accomplished in the GI Starlet S. at Los Alamitos. The bad news is that she hasn't run nearly fast enough to be considered among the best in her division. Sent off at 17-1 in the five-horse Starlet, her time for the mile-and-a-sixteenth was 1:44 2/5, good for just a 68 Beyer. That puts her 25 points behind Vequist's best. That doesn't mean she can't improve. But will need to post a significantly faster number before climbing to the top of this list.

10) SOUPER SENSATIONAL (CurlinKateri, by Indian Charlie)
'TDN Rising Star' O-Live Oak Plantation. B-Newtownanner Stud (KY). T-Mark Casse. Sales History: $725,000 ylg '19 FTSAUG. Lifetime Record: SW, 2-2-0-0, $77,753.
Last Start: 1st Glorious Song S., WO, Oct. 17
Next Start: Silverbulletday S., FG, Jan. 16
Equineline PPs. KY Oaks Points: 0

She's never run outside of Canada and has only raced on a synthetic surface, so she is a bit of an unknown as she heads into Saturday's Silverbulletday at Fair Grounds. A $725,000 buy at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Yearling sale, she runs for Live Oak Plantation and trainer Mark Casse. The 'TDN Rising Star' looked outstanding in her two career starts, winning easily in a maiden event at Woodbine before following that up with a four-length win in the Glorious Song S. Another who is by Curlin, so there's no reason why she won't keep getting better.

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