An overflow field of 15 sophomore fillies will go postward in the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs on Friday. The feature on a massive day of racing attracted a superb cast of three-year-olds who will travel 1 1/8 miles on the dirt in one of the more competitive renditions the race in recent memory.
Kentucky Oaks Picks
- #1 Secret Oath
- #10 Kathleen O.
- #7 Echo Zulu
- #4 Nest
- #2 Nostalgic
Kentucky Oaks Contenders
#1 SECRET OATH (6-1) dominated fillies this season and comes in off a fine third-place showing in the Arkansas Derby (G1) against the boys for conditioner D. Wayne Lukas. The fantastic Arrogate filly will be fully fit with seven route tries under her belt to date, and if she is able to overcome a tricky rail post, then she rates as the one to beat in my opinion. Luis Saez takes the reins.
#2 NOSTALGIC (15-1) has never been better for conditioner Bill Mott. The Godolphin homebred put in her best showing her when eclipsing the Gazelle S. (G3) last time out, and another move forward will give her a big chance on Friday beneath Jose Ortiz. The price is right, too.
#3 HIDDEN CONNECTION (20-1) owns a Grade 3 score from a single race on the course for trainer Bret Calhoun. The daughter of Connect had a fine prep for this tilt with a gritty second in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), and she could peak in her third start off the layoff. Reylu Gutierrez has the assignment.
#4 NEST (5-2) roared home an emphatic 8 1/4-length winner of the Ashland S. (G1) for Todd Pletcher. The once-beaten Curlin filly has shown continued progression in her lifetime, and she has posted two strong morning drills in the interim. She will be tracking the pace from the outset with regular pilot Irad Ortiz in the controls.
#5 GODDESS OF FIRE (15-1) was clearly second-best when finishing runner-up in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) in her latest voyage. The daughter of Mineshaft has yet to break through with a signature tally, but she has been close on a few occasions and has a lot of appeal for the exotics at a nice price. John Velazquez will guide the Pletcher pupil.
#6 YUUGIRI (30-1) led at every call to register her first graded stakes victory in the Fantasy S. (G3) at Oaklawn Park last time out. The bay filly has never missed the board in her five-race career, but she will need a lifetime best to upset this cast on Friday. Florent Geroux will guide the consistently good sophomore.
#7 ECHO ZULU (4-1) brings her unbeaten mark to the Oaks for Steve Asmussen. Three-time Grade 1 star she got a bit tired late in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) most recently in her first try of the season, but she showed heart late and will improve off of that performance. The two-year-old champion hasn’t been headed in four straight and is the obvious one to catch beneath Rosario.
Echo Zulu work out at Churchill Downs before the Kentucky Oaks (Photo by Coady Photography)
#8 VENTI VALENTINE (20-1) has finished first or second in each of her five lifetime tries to date for Jorge Abreu. The dual stakes victress has a versatile running style and is rounding up to a peak showing third time out in 2022. Tyler Gaffalione is in the silks for the New York-bred Firing Line filly, who looms as a contender.
#9 DESERT DAWN (20-1) upset the Santa Anita Oaks (G2) and comes under the radar for Philip D’Amato. The three-year-old Cupid certainly turned the corner in her most recent endeavor, but the Arizona-bred will have to prove it to me in a full field of classy competitors before I can back her with confidence. Umberto Rispoli will pilot the California invader.
#10 KATHLEEN O. (7-2) is four-for-four while displaying a devastating turn of foot on each occasion for Shug McGaughey. The daughter of Upstart gives the impression of a filly who will thrive on the move to nine furlongs, and she has posted a trio of fine morning moves in anticipation of her biggest test dela to date. Javier Castellano retains the mount.
#11 COCKTAIL MOMENTS (30-1) has won or placed in every career showing to date, which included a daylight victory at Churchill Downs in her debut at two. The dark bay daughter of Uncle Mo was a second game in the Ashland S. (G1) last time and possessions a lot of exotics appeal to the field for trainer Kenny McPeek. Corey Lanerie will make one run late atop the interesting longshot.
#12 CANDY RAID (30-1) hit home to post a clear victory on the All-Weather in the Bourbonette Oaks most recently for trainer Keith Desormeaux. The Candy Ride filly has never run that well on the dirt, however, and she would be a huge surprise against this field.
#13 SHAHAMA (15-1) rates as the wildcard in the cast while making her US debut. Daughter of Munnings went four-for-four in Dubai this campaign, winning each race by a good margin from off the pace, and she could be any kind in her first run for Pletcher. The Kentucky-bred will have Flavien Prat in the silks, which is an obvious positive.
#14 TURNERLOOSE (20-1) late tired in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) following a nice tally in the Rachel Alexandra S. (G2) for conditioner Brad Cox. The talented Nyquist miss draws widest in the main body in the field, and she looks to be a cut below the top fillies in the field at this stage of her development. Manny Franco inherits the ride.
#15 BEGUINE (30-1) is first on the also-eligible list for Peitz. The chestnut has improved in each career performance to date, but she will need a major leap forward to challenge this group late if she draws into the group.