The TDN Oaks Top 10 for March 4

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GII Rachel Alexandra winner Clairiere tops TDN Oaks Top 10 | Hodges Photo

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It wasn't that long ago that the picture for the 3-year-old fillies seemed pretty straightforward. Vequist (Nyquist) was the clear leader of the division and there appeared to be a handful of other top fillies that could challenge her supremacy. Has that ever changed. Vequist did nothing right in her 3-year-old debut in the Davona Dale S., finishing ninth, 26 lengths behind the winner. Second choice Millefeuille (Curlin) didn't fare much better, finishing seventh. The winner, Wholebodemeister (Bodemeister), paid $107.60. Meanwhile, GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies runner-up Dayoutoftheoffice (Into Mischief) has not had a published workout since Jan. 25. And Malathaat (Curlin), the winner of the GII Demoiselle S., missed some training time and only recently returned to the work tab. The bottom line is that this division is a mess. Hopefully, the picture will look better after this weekend, which features the Busher Invitational at Aqueduct, the GIII Honeybee S. at Oaklawn and the GIII Santa Ysabel S. at Santa Anita.

1) CLAIRIERE (CurlinCavorting, by Bernardini)
O/B-Stonestreet Stables (KY). T-Steve Asmussen. Lifetime Record: GSW, 3-2-1-0, $270,492.
Last Start: 1st GII Rachel Alexandra S. presented by Fasig-Tipton, FG, Feb. 13
Accomplishments Include: 2nd GII Golden Rod S., CD, Nov. 28
Next Start: GII Fair Grounds Oaks, FG, Mar. 20
Equineline PPs. KY Oaks Points: 54
She winds up in the top spot after Vequist ran so poorly in the Davona Dale. That's not to say that she is a clear-cut favorite for the GI Kentucky Oaks. Anything but. But she is coming off of a win in the GII Rachel Alexandra, is in the capable hands of Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen and defeated a good one in Travel Column (Frosted) in her last start. She's a late-running filly by Curlin, so distance should not be a problem for and she is likely to get better in the months ahead.  Breezed five furlongs in 1:00.60 on Monday.

2) ZAAJEL (Street SenseAsiya, by Daaher)
O/B-Shadwell Stable (KY). T-Todd Pletcher. Lifetime Record: GSW, 2-2-0-0, $84,140.
Last Start: 1st GIII Forward Gal S., GP, Jan. 31
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs. KY Oaks Points: 10
Really hasn't done enough to merit being second on this list, but who else is better? At the very least, Zaajel has a lot of potential. She broke her maiden impressively for trainer Todd Pletcher and came right back to win the GIII Forward Gal S at seven furlongs. Pletcher will, no doubt, pick out a route for her next start. That will be the test and if she passes it she will have proven that she belongs in the same sentence with the top horses in the division. Her dam has had five runners, with four winners, including Aljaaweed (Curlin), the runner-up in the 2019 GII Remsen S.

3) 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 & GISP,
4-2-1-1, $269,184.
Last Start: 2nd GII Rachel Alexandra S. presented by Fasig-Tipton, FG, Feb. 13
Accomplishments Include: 1st GII Golden Rod S., CD, Nov. 28, 3rd GI Darley Alcibiades S., KEE, Oct. 2
Next Start: GII Fair Grounds Oaks, FG, Mar. 20
Equineline PPs. KY Oaks Points: 32
Also moves up, from fifth to third, due to attrition in the ranks. If you like Clairiere, you probably can't dislike this filly.  She had the lead at the stretch call in the Rachel Alexandra before losing to Clairiere by a neck. An $850,000 purchase at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale, she beat Clairiere in the last start at two for both of them, the GII Golden Rod S. Also comes from a powerful barn in the Brad Cox stable. As has been the case over the last few years, Cox is loaded in this division and will be looking fr his third Oaks win since 2018.

4) SIMPLY RAVISHING (Laoban–Four 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: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs. KY Oaks Points: 13
Trainer Kenny McPeek continues to take his time with the filly that won last year's GI Darley Alcibiades S., but it appears that she is getting close to a race. She worked five furlongs in :59.27 seconds on Feb. 26. Because she had an up-and-down 2-year-old campaign, she's a hard horse to gauge. What will we get this year, the horse who romped in the Alcibiades or the horse who was fourth in the Golden Road at odds of 7-10? Trainer Kenny McPeek did everything right last year with Swiss Skydiver (Daredevil), but failed to win the Oaks. You know he'd like to make amends this year.

5) MALATHAAT (Curlin–Dreaming 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: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs. KY Oaks Points: 10
She drops down a couple of spots because she missed a work and had to sit out the Davona Dale. Trainer Pletcher reports that it was not a significant issue and she is already back on the work tab, having breezed a half-mile in :49.21 Sunday. He said he will look for a race for her in April. Though the problem has been described as minor, it's never a good thing when a horse misses time this close to a race as tough as the Oaks. And if Pletcher sticks to his time line, she'll come into the Oaks off of one prep as a 3-year-old. That, too, is a difficult position to be in. But she is a talented, undefeated (3-for-3) daughter of Curlin and may yet be good enough to overcome the challenges that she's about to face.

6) 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: Ch. 2yo Filly & MGISW, 5-2-2-0, $1,237,500.
Last Start: 9th GII Davona Dale S., GP, Feb. 27
Accomplishments Include: 1st GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, KEE, Nov. 6 1st GI Spinaway S., SAR, Sept. 6, 2nd GI Frizette S., BEL, Oct. 10
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs. KY Oaks Points: 24
What happened to her in the Davona Dale? That's among the biggest mysteries so far this year in racing, how a horse can go from winning the Juvenile Fillies to running so dismally in a 3-year-old debut. Trainer Butch Reid has said he has found nothing seriously wrong with her, so all one can do is scratch their heads. It would be a rare feat to come back from a race that was that bad and win a race like the Oaks. But until her connections say she is off the Oaks trail, she has to be included somewhere on this list. Reid has not picked out her next start but said it definitely won't be at Gulfstream. He is concerned she doesn't like the South Florida heat.

7) KALYPSO (Brody's Cause–Malibu 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: 2nd GIII Las Virgenes S., SA, Feb. 6
Accomplishments Include: 1st GII Santa Ynez S., SA, Jan. 3, 1st Anoakia S., SA, Oct. 18, 2nd GI Starlet S., LRC, Dec. 5
Next Start: GIII Santa Ysabel S., SA, Mar. 7
Equineline PPs. KY Oaks Points: 18
She's set to go Sunday in the Santa Ysabel, where a win would cement her status as the top 3-year-old filly in California, a division that has been hit with some fairly serious defections through injury. A $240,000 purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Select Yearling Sale, she's proven to be a good buy.  She's never run a bad race and is already a Grade II winner, having captured the Santa Ynez S. Trainer Bob Baffert is known for winning the GI Kentucky Derby, but he's hardly a slouch when it comes to the Oaks. He's won the race three times and will be going for his first win since 2017 with Abel Tasman (Quality Road).

8) SUN PATH (MunningsTouch the Star, by Tapit)
O/B-Juddmonte Farms Inc (KY). T-Brad Cox. Lifetime Record:
4-2-1-0, $97,892.
Last Start: 4th Silverbulletday S., FG, Jan. 16
Accomplishments Include: 1st Allowance, FG, Dec. 18, 1st MSW, CD, Nov. 8
Next Start: GIII Honeybee S., OP, Mar. 6
Equineline PPs. KY Oaks Points: 1
She deserves another chance. As the 7-10 favorite, she didn't run up to expectations when fourth in the Silverbulletday S. at the Fair Grounds in her last start. Before that, she looked like a serious prospect when winning an allowance race by 12 3/4 lengths. It's become unusual to see a Brad Cox-trained horse disappoint in a big race, so it would be no surprise if she were to rebound in Saturday's Honeybee S. at Oaklawn. Hasn't missed a beat in the mornings with four works since her last race. One bad sign: Florent Geroux has gotten off of her to ride Cox's other horse in the race, Coach (Commissioner).

9) WHOLEBODEMEISTER (Bodemeister–Wholelottashakin, by Scat Daddy)
O/B-Sabana Farm (KY). T-Juan Avila. Lifetime Record: GSW,
7-3-0-1, $175,922.
Last Start: 1st GII Davona Dale S., GP, Feb. 27
Next Start: GI Kentucky Oaks, CD, Apr. 30
Equineline PPs. KY Oaks Points: 52
Wouldn't have been on anyone's Oaks list before her stunning upset in the Davona Dale. Not only did she win at 52-1, but she thrashed her opponents, winning by 6 1/2 lengths. Trainer Juan Carlos Avila says she won't run her again until the Oaks. “That will be two months between races, which will be perfect for her.” Avila is setting himself up for more criticism. He took the same approach with King Guillermo (Uncle Mo) for last year's Kentucky Derby and his plan didn't come close to working out. Despite her big win, she'll still be a longshot going forward as many handicappers will likely dismiss the Davona Dale as a fluke.

10) THE GRASS IS BLUE (Broken VowShine Softly, by Adebaran)
O-Louis Lazzinnaro LLC. B-Phillips Racing Partnership (KY).
T-Chad Brown. Sales History: $20,000 yrl '19 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: SW, 5-3-0-1, $121,978.
Last Start: 1st Busanda S., Aqu, Jan. 24
Accomplishments Include: 3rd Anne Arundel County S., Lrl,
Dec. 26
Next Start: Busher Invitational S., AQU, Mar. 6
Equineline PPs. KY Oaks Points: 10
The jury is still out on this one. She comes from the powerful Chad Brown barn and was a solid winner when taking the Busanda by a length. But class handicappers will see that she started her career off in a $25,000 maiden claimer and has yet to start in a graded stakes. It looks like Brown made a smart move when deciding to keep her with his New York division for the winter. The New York preps for the Oaks usually don't come up that tough and there's plenty of money to be made, starting with the $250,000 Busher.

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