Background Check: Kentucky Oaks

In this continuing series, we examine the past winners of significant filly/mare races by the lasting influence they’ve had on the breed. Up today is the GI Kentucky Oaks, second only in stature at Churchill Downs to the GI Kentucky Derby.

The Derby isn’t alone as the oldest continuously held major sporting event in the U.S. The Oaks is right there with it, having been held every year, without interruption for wars or pandemics, since racing first began at Churchill in 1875 when the Louisville oval was known as the Louisville Jockey Club. Although the ‘Lilies for the Fillies’ is somewhat of a prelude to the big event in the public consciousness, it’s also a special Classic all on its own. Whether it was Silverbulletday’s popular win as the shortest-priced favorite in Oaks history or Rachel Alexandra’s 20 1/4-length tour de force or D. Wayne Lukas’s record-tying fifth Oaks score last year with Secret Oath, the race has provided so many wonderful moments.

With 149 Kentucky Oaks winners (including two victresses from a 1959 split division), following are highlights of some of the most important by what impact they’ve had on the sport through their sons and daughters.

Lemons Forever (2003, Lemon Drop Kid–Critikola {Arg}, by Tough Critic), bred by Farfellow Farms Ltd.: The only Kentucky Oaks winner to be officially honored as Broodmare of the Year, she produced champion Forever Unbridled (Unbridled’s Song) and additional GISW Unbridled Forever (Unbridled’s Song). Her daughters are young and she still has a few more in the pipeline herself, so more could be in her future.

2006 winner Lemons Forever is the only Oaks winner
to be named a Broodmare of the Year | Horsephotos

Seaside Attraction (1987, Seattle Slew–Kamar, by Key to the Mint), bred by Hermitage Farm, Inc., A. G. Clay, and Robert N. Clay: She only had five foals, but four of them were graded winners, including champion Golden Attraction (Mr. Prospector) and GISW Cape Town (Seeking the Gold). Both of her daughters are dams of two or more stakes winners apiece, with French champion Desert Lord (GB) (Green Desert) among their offspring.

Blush With Pride (1979, Blushing Groom {Fr}–Best in Show, by Traffic Judge), bred by Mr. & Mrs. Darrell Brown: Broodmare of the Year Better Than Honour (Deputy Minister), dam of GI Belmont S. winners Rags to Riches (A.P. Indy) (also a champion and Kentucky Oaks winner) and Jazil (Seeking the Gold), is one of her daughters. Other top runners tracing to her to date are European champion Peeping Fawn (Danehill) and GISWs Thewayyouare (Kingmambo), Streaming (Smart Strike), and Paris Lights (Curlin).

Hidden Talent (1956, Dark Star–Dangerous Dame {GB}, by Nasrullah {GB}), bred by Harry F. Guggenheim: Dam of Broodmare of the Year Too Bald (Bald Eagle), her descendants include U.S. champion Capote (Seattle Slew), Canadian champion Lake Country (Caucasus), plus MGISWs Exceller (Vaguely Noble {Ire}) and Broad Brush (Ack Ack).

Lalun (1952, Djeddah {Fr}–Be Faithful, by Bimelech), bred by H. F. Guggenheim: Her two top sons were champion Never Bend (Nasrullah {GB}) and Travers winner Bold Reason (Hail to Reason). Both hit the board in the Kentucky Derby and both had significant influence on the breed.

Real Delight (1949, Bull Lea–Blue Delight, by Blue Larkspur), bred by Calumet Farm: This mare produced three black-type winners, but it’s the next generations through her daughters that will keep her in pedigrees. Among the legions of top-class horses descending from her are Hall of Famer and leading sire Alydar (Raise a Native), Broodmare of the Year Sweet Tooth (On-and-On), champions Our Mims (Herbager {Fr}) and Christmas Past (Grey Dawn II {Fr}), and GISWs Sugar and Spice (Key to the Mint), Codex (Arts and Letters), and Grand Slam (Gone West).

How (1948, Princequillo {GB}–The Squaw II {Fr}, by Sickle {GB}), bred by D. Djordjadze: She is the dam of Broodmare of the Year Pocahontas (Roman), whose five stakes winners included champion and excellent sire Tom Rolfe (Ribot {GB}), as well as good sire Chieftain (Bold Ruler) and the dam of outstanding European sire Alzao (Lyphard).

Nellie L. (1940, Blenheim II {GB}–Nellie Flag, by American Flag), bred by Calumet Farm: Among the Grade I winners of the last 50 years tracing to this 1943 Oaks winner are champion and Kentucky Derby winner Bold Forbes (Irish Castle), who was her grandson, and Life At the Top (Seattle Slew), Saratoga Six (Alydar), Lakeway (Seattle Slew), Jilbab (A.P. Indy), and England’s Dunbeath (Grey Dawn II {Fr}).

Miss Dogwood (1939, Bull Dog {Fr}–Myrtlewood, by Blue Larkspur), bred by Brownell Combs: Breed-shaping sire Mr. Prospector (Raise a Native) is a grandson of her daughter Sequence (Count Fleet), who is also the ancestress of GISWs Sewickley (Star de Naskra), Shared Interest (Pleasant Colony), Forestry (Storm Cat), and Cash Run (Seeking the Gold), as well as Canadian Broodmare of the Year Amelia Bearhart (Bold Hour) and her dual Canadian Horse of the Year son Chief Bearhart (Chief’s Crown), who was also a U.S. champion.

Breed-shaping sire Mr. Prospector traced to 1942 Oaks winner
Miss Dogwood | Dell Hancock

Two Bob (1933, The Porter–Blessings, by Chicle {Fr}), bred by C. V. Whitney: What a mare. Her Hall of Fame daughter Two Lea (Bull Lea) produced Hall of Famer and 1958 Kentucky Derby winner Tim Tam (Tom Fool), as well as seven-time black-type winner and sire On-and-On. Another daughter founded the Chris Evert (Swoon’s Son) line, the latter being a Hall of Famer whose descendants include champion Chief’s Crown (Danzig), MGISWs Sightseek (Distant View) and Tates Creek (Rahy), and so many more top horses. Derby winning filly Winning Colors (Caro {Ire}) also is a direct descendant of Two Bob, as is solid sire Best Turn (Turn-to {Ire}), and a slew of other high-caliber horses.

Fiji (1931, Bostonian–O Girl, by Ormondale), bred by Jack S. Young and Tom B. Young: A daughter produced 1953 Kentucky Derby winner Dark Star, the only horse to defeat Native Dancer, and a granddaughter produced 1964 Kentucky Oaks winner Blue Norther.

Alcibiades (1927, Supremus–Regal Roman {GB}, by Roi Herode {Fr}), bred by Hal Price Headley: Four of her eight foals were black-type winners, including champion and influential sire Menow (Pharamond II {GB}). European champion and another influential sire in Sir Ivor (Sir Gaylord) descended from an Alabama-winning daughter, while a slew of other high-class stakes winners trace to her.

Black Maria (1923, Black Toney–Bird Loose {Fr}, by Sardanapale {Fr}), bred by Himyar Stud or Colonel E. R. Bradley (conflicting accounts): She had only one foal, but one was all she needed. Her descendants include Preakness winner and excellent sire Polynesian, of course responsible for Native Dancer.

Audience (1901, Sir Dixon–Sallie McClelland, by Hindoo), bred by Mrs. Byron McClelland): Among her foals were Whisk Broom II (Broomstick), an eventual Hall of Famer who won major races in both the U.S. and England before becoming a top sire, and Matinee, a blue hen for the Whitneys whose descendants include Hall of Famer Top Flight (Dis Donc {Fr}).

Modesty (1881, War Dance–Ballet, by Planet), bred by George H. Clay: A number of stakes winners trace to this grand chestnut, most notably Regret (Broomstick), the first female winner of the Kentucky Derby in 1915. The GIII Modesty S., to be run on the Oaks undercard after moving to Churchill from Arlington, is named after her.

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