The Kentucky Oaks Top 10: Lack of Points Have Big Names on Outside Looking In

The last of the prep races for the GI Kentucky Oaks have been run, which means we have a pretty good idea who will be in the starting gate come May 5 in a race that is limited to 14 starters. As of now, you need 50 points to make the field, which is not good news for a handful of fillies who once looked like locks to make the race. Last year’s 2-year-old filly champion, Wonder Wheel (Into Mischief), who held the top spot in this poll for several weeks, has 48 points and is 15th on the list. She needs just one defection to get in. Other notable fillies not among the top 14 are Julia Shining (Curlin), Hoosier Philly (Into Mischief) and Punchbowl (Uncle Mo). They are 17th, 18th and 19th, respectively, in the points standings. Since none of these horses are guaranteed to race in the Oaks they have been left off of our Top 10, the last for this year.

1) WET PAINT (f, Blame–Sky Painter, by Street Cry {Ire})

O/B-Godolphin (Ky). T-Brad Cox. Lifetime Record: MGSW, 6-4-1-0, $689,000. Last Start: Won GIII Fantasy S. at Oaklawn Apr. 1. Kentucky Oaks Points: 170.

Wet Paint didn’t run last weekend, but her status as the Oaks favorite was nonetheless solidified. Defining Purpose (Cross Traffic) won the GI Ashland over Punchbowl, Julia Shining and Wonder Wheel. That’s the same Defining Purpose who was sixth, beaten five lengths, by Wet Paint in the GIII Honeybee S. at Oaklawn and was third behind Wet Paint in the Martha Washington S. With Faiza (Girvin), an easy winner of the GII Santa Anita Oaks, passing on the Kentucky Oaks, Wet Paint is your obvious favorite for trainer Brad Cox. She swept Oaklawn’s series of Kentucky Oaks preps and was a handy winner each time. She has been beaten on the turf and on a synthetic surface, but never on the dirt. As good as Cox is overall, his biggest strength seems to be with developing fillies. If she runs her race, it may be a battle for second.

2) BOTANICAL (f, Medaglia d’Oro–Daisy, by Blame)

O-LNJ Foxwoods & Clearsky Farms. B-Clearsky Farms & Godolphin (Ky). T-Brad Cox. Sales history: $220,000 yrl ’21 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: SW, 6-4-1-0, $374,410. Last Start: Won the Bourbonette S. at Turfway Mar. 25. Kentucky Oaks Points: 70.

Another filly from the Brad Cox barn, she’s been a terror on the Tapeta track at Turfway Park, where she romped in four straight races. Can she transfer that form to the dirt? Cox has said he will know more after she has had a couple of works at Churchill Downs. She had her first Churchill work on Apr. 7 and breezed four furlongs in :49.20. She has tactical speed and has won two of her last three in gate-to-wire fashion. But she can also sit off the pace, which she did in the Cincinnati Trophy S., where she was third early. If she runs as well on the dirt as she did on the synthetic surface at Turfway she should be right there.

3) SOUTHLAWN (f, Pioneerof the Nile–Mo d’Amour, by Uncle Mo)

O-Robert Masterson. B-WinStar Farm (Ky). T-Norm Casse. Sales history: $290,000 yrl ’21 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: GSW, 7-3-0-0, $318,369. Last Start: Won the GII Fair Grounds Oaks at Fair Grounds Mar. 25. Kentucky Oaks Points: 100.

At one point it appeared that one of the storylines for the Oaks could be a father-versus-son showdown between Hall of Famer Mark Casse and his son, Norm. But with Mark Casse’s Wonder Wheel having struggled this year, it may be left up to the younger Casse to carry the banner for the family. Not that Norm isn’t a very good trainer in his own right. With 29 percent winners this year, he’s never been hotter. After serving as his father’s assistant, he went out on his own in 2018. Southlawn has won two straight, including the GII Fair Grounds Oaks, and can give Casse the biggest win of his young career.

4) PRETTY MISCHIEVOUS (f, Into Mischief–Pretty City Dancer, by  Tapit) ‘TDN Rising Star’

O/B-Godolphin (Ky). T-Brendan P. Walsh. Lifetime Record: GSW, 6-4-1-1, $501,310. Last Start: 2nd GII Fair Grounds Oaks at Fair Grounds Mar. 25. Kentucky Oaks Points: 103.

She was no match for Southlawn in the Fair Grounds Oaks, where she finished second, 3 1/4 lengths behind her rival. Not that it was a bad race. This filly has never run worse than third and is as consistent as any horse in the division. She’ll show up on May 5. She’s also a two-time winner at Churchill. Trainer Brendan Walsh has never had a Kentucky Oaks or GI Kentucky Derby winner and is also winless in the Breeders’ Cup, but his stable is getting better and bigger every year and it seems like only a matter of time until he has the breakthrough win.

5) DEFINING PURPOSE (f, Cross Traffic–Defining Hope, by Strong Hope)

O-Magdalena Racing (Sherri McPeek), Colette VanMatre & Hames Ball. B-Colette VanMatre (Ky). T-Kenny McPeek. Lifetime Record: 7-3-0-1, $543,688. Last Start: Won the GI Ashland S. at Keeneland Apr. 7. Kentucky Oaks Points: 107.

Never count out trainer Kenny McPeek. He’s never afraid to throw a longshot into a big race and has won dozens of stakes when few gave him a chance. That was the case with Defining Purpose in the Ashland, where she was 20-1 for a reason. She was coming off a blah performance in the GIII Honeybee S. and, before that, finished third as the even-money favorite in the Martha Washington. She’s 0-for-2 against Wet Paint, so it’s hard to make a case that she can beat her. But stranger things have happened, especially when it comes to a horse who appears to be on the improve. Note that Brian Hernandez, Jr. rode both Defining Purpose and Pretty Mischievous in their last races.

6) AFFIRMATIVE LADY (f, Arrogate–Stiffed, by Stephen Got Even)

O-AMO Racing USA. B-Alastar Thoroughbred Co., LLC (Ky). T-H. G. Motion. Sales history: $210,000 yrl ’21 KEESEP; $400,000 2yo ’22 OBSAPR. Lifetime Record: GSW, 6-2-1-2, $270,568. Last Start: Won GII Gulfstream Park Oaks Apr. 1. Kentucky Oaks Points: 110.

From day one, Graham Motion has campaigned this horse like she was something special. After losses in back-to-back maiden races at the start of her career, Motion had her in the GII Demoiselle S., where she lost by just a neck to Julia Shining. It was back in another stakes, the Busanda S., where she finished third. Finally, in her fifth career start, she landed in a maiden at Gulfstream, which she won. The GII Gulfstream Park Oaks was next and, with a two-length win, she earned her way into the Kentucky Oaks field. The Gulfstream race didn’t come up particularly strong, so she’ll have to prove herself against tougher company at Churchill.

7) GAMBLING GIRL (f, Dialed In–Tulipmania, by Empire Maker)

O-Repole Stable. B-Gallagher’s Stud (NY). T-Todd Pletcher. Sales History: $200,000 yrl ’21 FTNAUG. Lifetime Record: SW & GSP, 9-2-2-2, $257,410. Last Start: 2nd GIII Gazelle S. at Aqueduct Apr. 8. Kentucky Oaks Points: 61.

While Mike Repole’s main focus Derby week will come with Forte (Violence), the likely favorite in the first leg of the Triple Crown, it looks like he’s got an outside shot of pulling off the Oaks-Derby double with Forte and Gambling Girl. His trainer, Todd Pletcher, has a chance to become only the fourth trainer to pull off the Oaks-Derby double and the first since Ben Jones, who won the 1952 Oaks with Real Delight and Derby with Hill Gail. Jones also did it in 1949. To do so, Gambling Girl will need to run the race of her life. She flourished much of last year against New York-breds, but has been facing open company since appearing in the Dec. 3 Demoiselle. After two more losses in open company stakes, she was second last weekend in the GIII Gazelle S. at Aqueduct. That gave her enough points to make the Oaks, but she still needs to prove she can win an open company stakes, where she’s 0-for-4 so far.

8) PROMISEHER AMERICA (f, American Pharoah–Promisedyouheaven, by Unbridled’s Song)

O-Hoffman Thoroughbreds & Tom F. McCrocklin. B-Robert & Lawana Low (Ky). T-Raymond Handal. Sales History: $75,000 2yo ’22 OBSAPR. Lifetime Record: GSW, 4-2-1-0, $198,138. Last Start: Won GIII Gazelle S. at Aqueduct Apr. 8. Kentucky Oaks Points: 100.

She cost just $75,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sale Spring sale and was beaten 20 1/2 lengths in her debut in December at Aqueduct. Yet, somehow here she is, an Oaks starter after scoring a massive upset in the Gazelle at 26-1. Underrated trainer Ray Handal must have figured something out because she has improved in every race after her poor showing in her debut and became a stakes winner last Saturday at Aqueduct. She’s also gotten better as the races have gotten longer. That said, she beat a weak field in the Gazelle and if she is going to win the Oaks she’s going to have to do it as a 30-1 shot.

9) AND TELL ME NO LIES (f, Arrogate–Be Fair, by Exchange Rate)

O-Peter Redekop B. C. Ltd. B-Lara Run LLC (Ky). T-Peter Miller. Sales History: $70,000 yrl ’21 KEEJAN; $230,000 2yo ’22 OBSAPR. Lifetime Record: GISW, 7-3-2-0, $472,800. Last Start: 2nd GII Santa Anita Oaks at Santa Anita Apr. 8. Kentucky Oaks Points: 70.

No better than the second best 3-year-old filly racing on the West Coast as she has finished second behind Faiza in both of her 3-year-old starts. In the Santa Anita Oaks, it wasn’t even close as Faiza whipped her by 6 1/2 lengths. These 3-year-old fillies are not a particularly fast bunch and this one, despite her accomplishments, might be the slowest of the group. Her 78 in the Santa Anita Oaks was a career-best Beyer figure and she’s only slightly faster than she was last year when she was running in the low to mid-seventies.

10) SHIDABHUTI (f, Practical Joke–A. P. Candy, by Candy Ride {Arg})

O-Peter Brant. B-Gabriel Duignan & Gerry Dilger (Ky). T-Chad Brown. Sales history: $77,000 wnlg ’20 KEENOV; $310,000 yrl ’21 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: SW & GSP, 4-3-0-1, $219,600. Last Start: 3rd in GIII Gazelle S. at Aqueduct Apr. 8. Kentucky Oaks Points: 80.

Had a chance to force her way up the list when taking on five others in the Gazelle. She came in undefeated for trainer Chad Brown, but had been racing in largely soft spots. Her Gazelle showing was ok, but just ok. She was third, beaten two lengths. Will have to do much better in the Oaks to be a contender. Wouldn’t be the first time Brown got the very most out of a horse he trains, but he really has his work cut out for him with this filly.

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