All eyes last week were on the Suncoast S. at Tampa Bay Downs, where 38-1 shot Dreaming of Snow (Jess’s Dream) scored a huge upset over 2-year-old filly champion Wonder Wheel (Into Mischief) and the highly regarded Julia Shining (Curlin). That wasn’t enough for Dreaming of Snow to make this week’s Top 10 for the GI Kentucky Oaks, but it was certainly a herculean effort to defeat two such highly regarded horses.
The spotlight this week will be on the Fair Grounds, where the mega-talented Hoosier Philly (Into Mischief) will make her 3-year-old debut in Saturday’s GII Rachel Alexandra S. presented by Fasig-Tipton. The Rachel Alexandra field also includes Chop Chop (City of Light), the beaten favorite in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and runner-up in the Silverbulletday S., and Untapable S. winner ‘TDN Rising Star’ Pretty Mischievous (Into Mischief).
GIII Santa Ynez S. winner Ice Dancing (Frosted) comes off the list as trainer Richard Mandella reports that she had to have a chip removed and will miss the Oaks. Munny’s Gold (Munnings) has also been dropped from the list as it appears that her immediate future will include races in sprints.
1) 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
With previous No. 1 Wonder Wheel going down to defeat in the Suncoast S., Hoosier Philly takes over the top spot for trainer Tom Amoss. Her start in the Rachel Alexandra has been widely anticipated since she concluded her 2-year-old campaign and Amoss professed that she was not just the best filly, but the best horse he has ever trained. That’s high praise from someone who won the 2019 GI Kentucky Oaks with Serengeti Empress (Alternation). So far as Saturday’s race goes, Amoss had this to say: “We have a lot of expectations for her based on what she’s done so far, so there’s a lot of anticipation about how she’s going to come back at three,” he said. “Her morning preparation has been just as it was when she was two, so that gives us some feeling of confidence going into the race. But still, it is just her first race at three.” The bettors are on board. Though Amoss has only hinted at a possible start in the GI Kentucky Derby for his star, Hoosier Philly closed at 11-1 in the latest round of the Derby Future Wager. Only the “all others” selection and Forte (Violence) closed at lower odds. Is the hype justified? We’ll know more after the Rachel Alexandra.
2) 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: 2nd Suncoast S. at Tampa Bay Downs Feb. 11. Kentucky Oaks Points: 48. Next Start: To Be Determined
There are a couple of ways of looking at Wonder Wheel’s loss in the Suncoast S. at Tampa Bay Downs. It was her first start of the year and the connections said she got tired in the stretch. With much larger goals out there, it was not a race she had to win and she will certainly run better next time. “[Jockey] Tyler [Gaffalione] said she just got a little tired at the end,” trainer Mark Casse told the Daily Racing Form after the race. “I’m not at all unhappy. In fact, it kind of reminded me of her Spinaway effort.” Wonder Wheel was second in last year’s GI Spinaway S., her only defeat as a 2-year-old. Then again…shouldn’t a horse of her caliber have been able to get by a horse with modest credentials in Dreaming of Snow? She had the entire length of the stretch to pass her and just couldn’t do it. Dreaming of Snow was 38-1 for a reason–her form coming into the race was nothing to brag about. All of which makes Wonder Wheel’s next start very important. With anything less than an A effort, she will fall from the ranks of the top contenders for the Kentucky Oaks. The jury is out.
3) 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: To Be Determined
So far, ‘TDN Rising Star’ Faiza has yet to run a big number, as the 77 Beyer she got when winning the GIII Las Virgenes S. in her most recent outing is her best to date. Other than that, she’s hard to knock. After breaking her maiden in November at Del Mar, she came back to win the GI Starlet S. at Los Alamitos and then ground out a half-length win in the Las Virgenes. She’s had one work since, covering three furlongs in 37.80 on Feb. 11 at Santa Anita. Like the Bob Baffert-trained 3-year-old colts, she might have to be moved into another barn so that she can be eligible to run in the Oaks. As of now, Baffert is banned from starting horses at Churchill Downs. By Girvin, Faiza cost $725,000 at the 2022 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale. Girvin, who got off to a fast start last year at stud, began his stallion career in Florida but now stands in Kentucky at Airdrie Stud.
4) 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
She may not have always won but at two this blue-collar filly was one who always showed up. A $40,000 purchase at the 2021 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Fall Yearling Sale, the daughter of Outwork won the GI Spinaway S. and then was third in the GI Frizette S. and second in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Having finished behind Wonder Wheel in the Breeders’ Cup and Chocolate Gelato (Practical Joke) in the Frizette, Leave No Trace may need to improve as a 3-year-old in order to win a race like the Oaks. Trainer Phil Serpe has taken to preparing her for her 3-year-old debut in the GII Davona Dale S. by working her on the Tapeta surface at Gulfstream, where she has worked five furlongs in :59.25 and four furlongs in :48.85. Leave No Trace is owned by Dr. Robert Vukovich and his wife Laura, who have a farm in Colts Neck, New Jersey.
5) RED CARPET READY (f, Oscar Performance-Wild Silk, by Street Sense) O-Ashbrook Farm and Upland Flats Racing; B-Lynn B. Schiff; T-Rusty Arnold. Sales history: $180,000 ylr ’21 FTSAUG. Lifetime Record: GSW, 3-3-0-0, $265,470. Last Start: Won the GIII Forward Gal S. at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 4. Kentucky Oaks Points: 20. Next Start: To Be Determined
Joins the Top 10 after a win in the GIII Forward Gal S. at Gulfstream at seven furlongs. She’s 3-for-3 and obviously has a lot of ability, having also won the Fern Creek S. after breaking her maiden by 10 lengths. But she must prove she can go a distance. Trainer Rusty Arnold thinks that she can and is pointing for the one-mile GII Davona Dale S. “She’s not a rank filly that just tries to run off, so I’m pretty optimistic she will stretch out,” Arnold said. That she has been winning while sprinting on the dirt goes against logic when it comes to her pedigree. She is by Oscar Performance (Kitten’s Joy), which should mean that her best fit is distance races on the turf. That might be her future, but, for now, she looks like a talented filly who could be very dangerous if making the adjustment to longer, two-turn races.
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: 3rd Suncoast S. at Tampa Bay Downs Feb. 11. Kentucky Oaks Points: 16. Next Start: To Be Determined
Her story mirrors that of Wonder Wheel. She ran OK to finish third in the Suncoast S. and should move forward off of the race, but surely her connections were expecting better than a third-place finish while going down to defeat to a 38-1 winner. The ‘TDN Rising Star’ lost by 1 1/2 lengths and had no apparent excuses. Then again, she is a filly who has shown a ton of potential and is a full-sister to champion Malathaat. She very easily can bounce back and, for her, the Ashland will be a huge test. Along with Hoosier Philly, is one of only two fillies nominated to the Triple Crown. Trainer Todd Pletcher likely did so with the GI Belmont S. in mind.
7) 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
Will sit out this weekend’s Rachel Alexandra and point to the GII Fair Grounds Oaks for trainer Brad Cox. She defeated stablemate Chop Chop last out in the Silverbulletday, posting a mild upset. Only a $60,000 yearling purchase, she was anything but an overnight sensation and lost her second career start, a maiden race at Churchill Downs, by 15 3/4 lengths. She’s been a different horses since then, going two-for-three. Like a lot of Cox-trained horses, she seems to be on the improve and could prove to be the best 3-year-old filly from one of the sport’s top barns. Cox has won two of the last five runnings of the Oaks.
8) 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: 3rd in the GIII Las Virgenes S. at Santa Anita Jan. 28. Kentucky Oaks Points: 9. Next Start: To Be Determined
Since Justique is 2-for-2 sprinting and 0-for-2 going a route of ground, there is speculation that she is a one-turn horse, even though she closes from another area code. Trainer John Shirreffs does not agree. “I don’t think she really has a problem going around two turns,” Shirreffs said. “I know other people think that she does. She just hasn’t had the right situation yet. Santa Anita sometimes has a big speed bias and it’s hard for horses to close. Del Mar didn’t have that and she really shined there. I think that’s been a big factor.” The ‘TDN Rising Star’ looked great in her two sprint races, but was a non-threatening third last time out in the Las Virgenes. She’ll have to do better next time out in the Santa Ysabel to be considered a top threat for the Oaks.
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, the winner of the Busanda S. at Aqueduct in her most recent start, remains in New York for trainer Chad Brown and has had three four-furlong workouts since her last start. Brown has yet to announce where she will run next. She probably didn’t beat much in the Busanda, but she’s got the credentials to be a major player in this division. She’s by Into Mischief and is trained by Chad Brown, signs pointing to a bright future. She’ll need to get better, but there’s no reason why she can’t.
10) CHOP CHOP (f, City of Light-Grand Sofia, by Giant’s Causeway) O-Selective LLC. B-Cobra Farm & MRJ Thoroughbreds. T-Brad Cox. Sales history: $230,000 ylr ’21 FTKJUL. Lifetime Record: GSP, 5-2-2-0, $455,450. Last Start: 2nd in the Silverbulletday S. at Fair Grounds Jan. 21. Kentucky Oaks Points: 12. Next Start: GII Rachel Alexandra S., FG, Feb. 18
Can they beat Hoosier Philly in the Rachel Alexandra? If it’s going to happen, the horse that will likely pull it off is Chop Chop. She started her career with two straight grass starts before losing by just a nose to Wonder Wheel in the GI Darley Alcibiades S. After finishing up the track as the betting favorite in the Juvenile Fillies, she finished second in the Silverbulletday, losing by a length to stablemate The Alys Look. Trainer Brad Cox takes the blinkers off for the Rachel Alexandra, where she’ll need a good performance to remain among the top members of her division.