TDN Kentucky Oaks Top 10

It’s early in the season, but not too early to get excited about the group eyeing the GI Kentucky Oaks. In Wonder Wheel (Into Mischief) you have a standout 2-year-old and a deserving Eclipse champion. Hoosier Philly (Into Mischief) has so impressed trainer Tom Amoss that he said the GI Kentucky Derby is under consideration. Justique (Justify) has been ultra-impressive at times. They’re the Top 3, but numbers four through 10 make up a group filled with potential.

At least two prominent members of the division will not make it to the Oaks. Trainer Todd Pletcher reports that GI Frizette S. winner Chocolate Gelato (Practical Joke) is behind schedule and will need some more time before returning to the races. Raging Sea (Curlin), who finished third in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, has yet return to training and is not currently on target for the Oaks, reports trainer Chad Brown.


1) WONDER WHEEL (f, Into Mischief–Wonder Gal, by Tiz Wonderful) O-D. J. Stable LLC. B-Three Chimneys Farm, LLC & Clearsky Farm (Ky). T-Mark Casse. Sales history: $275,000 yrl ’21 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: MGISW, 5-4-1-0, $1,550,725. Last Start: Won GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Keeneland Nov. 4. Kentucky Oaks Points: 40. Next Start: Suncoast S., Tam, Feb. 11

Even though she won the GI Alcibiades S., Wonder Wheel was a bit overlooked when sent off at 6-1 in the Juvenile Fillies. Winning by three lengths that day, she proved she was the best of her division and a worthy 2-year-old filly champion. Everyone is jumping on the Hoosier Philly bandwagon, and with good reason, but based on what she accomplished at two, Wonder Wheel deserves to be considered, at least at this point, the No. 1 contender for the Oaks. This is a good horse with no apparent flaws. She has been training at Mark Casse’s facility in Ocala and has, through Tuesday, had works of three furlongs and four furlongs. DJ Stable General Manager Jon Green reports that the filly will have one more work before it is decided where she will make her 3-year-old debut, but said the Feb. 11 Suncoast S. at Tampa is the most likely spot. That could set her up for a run in the GI Ashland S.


2) HOOSIER PHILLY (f, Into Mischief–Tapella, by Tapit) O-Gold Standard Racing Stable, LLC. B-Candy Meadows, LLC (Ky). T-Thomas Amoss. Sales history: $510,000 yrl ’21 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: GSW, 3-3-0-0, $432,610. Last Start: Won GII Golden Rod S. at Churchill Downs Nov. 26. Kentucky Oaks Points: 10. Next Start: GII Rachel Alexandra S, FG, Feb. 18

Trainer Tom Amoss believes that Hoosier Philly is a once-in-a-lifetime horse. “If she stays healthy, she is going to wow the world,” he said. Amoss, who won the 2019 Kentucky Oaks with Serengeti Empress (Alternation), has also called her the best horse he has ever trained. He’s even contemplating running her in the Kentucky Derby. That the trainer has talked in such glowing terms about the filly has definitely made her stock rise and has led to many rating her as the best of her group. It’s easy to see what Amoss likes about Hoosier Philly. She’s 3-for-3 and absolutely demolished the competition in the Rags To Riches S. and the GII Golden Rod S., both at Churchill Downs. So far as her road to the Oaks goes, here’s what Amoss had to say: “She is back at the track and training daily. We are tentatively pointing towards the Rachel Alexandra, but we are not married to that spot.” A very exciting filly.


3) JUSTIQUE (f, Justify–Grazie Mille, by Bernardini) ‘TDN Rising Star’ O-C R K Stable, LLC. B-John D. Gunther & Eurowest Bloodstock (Ky). T-John A Shirreffs. Sales history: $725,000 yrl ’21 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: SW & GSP, 3-2-0-1, $132,000. Last Start: Won Desi Arnaz S. at Del Mar Nov. 19. Kentucky Oaks Points: 0. Next Start: GIII Las Virgenes S., SA, Jan. 28

She has to prove a lot, lot, lot more before she can be compared to Zenyatta (Street Cry {Ire}), but she definitely has a few things in common with the 2010 Horse of the Year, starting with the fact that both come from the John Shirreffs barn. Then there’s her running style. She sits far back early and then closes with an eye-catching and explosive late kick, just like the great Zenyatta. She was scratched from the GIII Santa Ynez S. earlier this month with a temperature, but looks ready for this Saturday’s GIII Las Virgenes S. Her three-race career has not exactly been perfect. Though everything about her suggests she will thrive around two turns, her worst race came in the GII Chandelier S. The only time she went a distance, she was a non-threatening third in the mile-and-a-sixteenth race and got a Beyer figure of just 66. That race is likely an outlier, but is also means she has some questions to answer.


4) ICE DANCING (f, Frosted–Welcome Dance, by Henny Hughes) O-Perry R Bass, II & Ramona Bass. B-Bass Stables, LLC (Ky). T-Richard Mandella. Lifetime Record: GSW & GISP, 5-2-0-2, $219,600. Last Start: Won GIII Santa Ynez S. at Santa Anita Jan. 8. Kentucky Oaks Points: 12. Next Start: To Be Determined

Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella showed early on how much confidence he had in this filly, running her as a maiden in the GI Del Mar Debutante and the Chandelier S. She was third in the Del Mar race and fourth in the Chandelier. After that race, Mandella went back to square one and found a maiden race for her. Since then, everything has gone right. She broke her maiden on Nov. 25 and then romped in the GIII Santa Ynez S. on Jan. 8. Mandella is never one to rush a horse and it’s a safe bet that we have yet to see this filly’s best. She will not run Saturday in the Las Virgenes S. “We’re not going to run her this weekend,” Mandella said. It’s too quick back. I don’t have a plan yet. There is the Santa Ysabel Stakes here, but I might look around.” Could emerge as the clear leader of the Southern California division.


5) LEAVE NO TRACE (f, Outwork–Tanquerray, by Good Journey) O-WellSpring Stables. B-Red Cloak Farm, LLC (Ky). T-Philip Serpe. Sales history: $8,000 yrl ’21 FTFFEB; $40,000 yrl ’21 FTMOCT. Lifetime Record: GISW, 4-2-1-1, $598,650. Last Start: 2nd in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Keeneland Nov. 4. Kentucky Oaks Points: 15. Next Start: GII Davona Dale S., GP, Mar. 4

A $40,000 purchase at the 2021 Fasig-Tipton Mid-Atlantic Eastern Fall Yearling Sale, she’s been an overachiever ever since bought that day by owner Dr. Robert Vukovich. Trainer Phil Serpe doesn’t get many opportunities with Grade I level horses, but he’s pushed all the right buttons with this filly, winning the GI Spinaway S. before finishing third in the Frizette and second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Wonder Wheel beat her by three lengths in the Juvenile Fillies, so she may need to improve this year, but there’s no reason why that can’t happen. Blue-collar or not, she shows up every time. She has breezed twice after being given a break over the winter, the most recent work a four-furlong move in 49.31 at Gulfstream.


6) JULIA SHINING (f, Curlin–Dreaming of Julia, by A.P. Indy) ‘TDN Rising Star’ O-Stonestreet Stables LLC. B-Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC (Ky). T-Todd Pletcher. Lifetime Record: GSW, 2-2-0-0, $194,075. Last Start: Won the GII Demoiselle S. at Aqueduct Dec. 3. Kentucky Oaks Points: 10. Next Start: Suncoast S., Tam, Feb. 11

Give Todd Pletcher a filly by Curlin and good things happen. Pletcher finished second in last year’s Oaks with Nest (Curlin) and won the 2021 Oaks with Malathaat (Curlin). Both won 2022 Eclipse Awards. The latest to come around is Julia Shining, a full sister to Malathaat. She turned a lot of heads when winning her debut at Keeneland. She was climbing early in the race, but exploded once she leveled off. Next out, she won the GII Demoiselle, the same race won by Nest and Malathaat. There’s a lot to like, but she needs to prove more before ascending on this list. As the 1-2 favorite, she won the Demoiselle by just a neck and had to work hard to do so and her best Beyer figure is a 71, which she produced in her debut. Looks like she’ll face Wonder Wheel in the Suncoast, a $150,000 ungraded race that has attracted two of the best fillies in the division.


7) FAIZA (f, Girvin–Sweet Pistol, by Smart Strike) ‘TDN Rising Star’ O-Michael L Petersen. B-Brereton C. Jones (Ky). T-Bob Baffert. Sales history: $90,000 yrl ’21 KEESEP; $725,000 2yo ’22 FTMMAY. Lifetime Record: GISW, 2-2-0-0, $222,000. Last Start: Won the GI Starlet S. at Los Alamitos on Dec. 10. Kentucky Oaks Points: 0. Next Start: GIII Las Virgenes S., SA, Jan. 28

Considering how high the bar is set, Bob Baffert is relatively light when it comes to 3-year-old fillies. For now, it looks like Faiza is his best hope. A $725,000 purchase from the 2022 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale, she looked every bit worthy of that price tag when breaking her maiden by 3 1/2 lengths at Del Mar in November. Baffert wheeled her back in the GI Starlet S. at Los Alamitos and got a win, but she had to work awfully hard to get the job done. She won a stretch battle with the 12-1 shot Pride of the Nile (Pioneer ofthe Nile). It’s dangerous to underestimate any horse in the Baffert stable, but this is another one who needs to show more before being considered among the top threats for the Oaks.


8) THE ALYS LOOK (f, Connect–Foul Play, by Harlan’s Holiday) O-Ike and Dawn Thrash. B-G. Watts Humphrey (Ky). T-Brad H. Cox. Sales history: $60,000 yrl ’21 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: SW, 5-2-1-1, $150,528. Last Start: Won the Silverbulletday S. at Fair Grounds Jan. 21. Kentucky Oaks Points: 24. Next Start: GII Fair Grounds Oaks, FG, Mar. 25

While Brad Cox doesn’t have nearly the depth in this division that he does with his 3-year-old colts, he’s got some interesting prospects, among them The Alys Look. Just a $60,000 yearling purchase, the filly kicked off her 3-year-old campaign last Saturday with a one-length win over stablemate Chop Chop (City of Light) in the Silverbulletday S. presented by Fasig-Tipton. It wasn’t the best field, but she looked good in the victory and might be on the improve. She has been a much different horses since Cox took the blinkers off after her second career start, where she was beaten 15 3/4 lengths in a maiden at Churchill.


9) OCCULT (f, Into Mischief–Magical Feeling, by Empire Maker) O-Alpha Delta Stables, LLC. B-Peter E. Blum Thoroughbreds, LLC (Ky). T-Chad C. Brown. Sales history: $625,000 yrl ’21 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: SW, 3-2-0-0, $107,450. Last Start: Won the Busanda S. at Aqueduct Jan. 14. Kentucky Oaks Points: 20. Next Start: To Be Determined

Occult won in her stakes debut when capturing the Jan.14 Busanda S. at Aqueduct. But if she is that good, why isn’t she with Chad Brown’s first string in Florida? The answer is that Brown has no problem developing good horses in New York during the winter months. His Kentucky Oaks runner-up Search Results (Flatter), as well as his two winners of the GI Preakness S., Cloud Computing (Maclean’s Music) and Early Voting (Gun Runner), all used the Big A road to the Oaks and Derby. A $625,000 yearling buy by Into Mischief whose in the hands of Chad Brown and is now a stakes winner, Occult checks a lot of boxes. Brown said he’s not sure where Occult will run next and that he will look for a race in early March for her.


10) CHOP CHOP (f, City of Light–Grand Sophia, by Giant’s Causeway) Selective, LLC. B-Cobra Farm & MRJ Thoroughbreds, LLC (Ky). T-Brad H. Cox. Sales history: $230,000 yrl ’21 FTKJUL. Lifetime Record: GISP, 5-2-0-0, $455,450. Last Start: 2nd in the Busanda S. at Aqueduct Jan. 14. Kentucky Oaks Points: 12. Next Start: GII Rachel Alexandra S, FG, Feb. 18

Was simply second best behind stablemate The Alys Look in the Silverbulletday S. presented by Fasig-Tipton as the 4-5 favorite. So her 3-year-old campaign did not get off to the best of starts. But she still ran well enough for her to be considered at least a mid-level threat for the Kentucky Oaks. This remains the filly that lost to divisional leader Wonder Wheel by just a nose in the GI Alcibiades S. and went off as the 2-1 favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, where she finished 13th.


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