by Kaitlin Free (@kaitlinefree on Twitter)
(1) Sassy Sienna
Jockey : Gary Stevens
Trainer : Brad Cox
How She Got Here: Sassy Sienna qualified for the Kentucky Oaks 115 total points. She secured points with a 4th in the Darley Alcibiades Stakes, a 2nd in the Martha Washington Stakes, a 3rd in the Honey Bee Stakes, and a win in the Fantasy Stakes.
Why She Can Win: Sassy Sienna is a filly that is on the improve, and has shown much more as a 3 year old. She has improved with the extra distance and should still have enough left in the tank to complete the Oaks distance. With the track expected to turn up off, Sassy Sienna has won and placed 2nd on an off track in stakes company including her win in the Fantasy Stakes. Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens has been in the irons all of 2018 and the pair have never finished off the board. Sassy Sienna will keep his services in the Kentucky Oaks and he knows this filly very well.
Why She Cannot: Drawing the 1 post could very well hinder Sassy Sienna’s chances. An
excessive amount of energy could be wasted early on trying to keep from being shuffled back, and if shuffled back she could lose too much ground. This filly likes to be near the front runners and will have to hold position. Despite beating or finishing well with nice fillies at Oaklawn Park, she has never faced a filly of the same caliber as Midnight Bisou or Monomoy Girl. She has also not yet traveled in 2018, with all of her starts coming at Oaklawn Park.
(2) Coach Rocks
Jockey : Luis Saez
Trainer : Dale Romans
How She Got Here: Coach Rocks qualified for the Kentucky Oaks with 100 total points. She secured all 100 points with a win in the Gulfstream Park Oaks.
Why She Can Win: Coach Rocks is another filly that is steadily improving especially as distance increases. A versatile filly, her two victories came with very different set ups. Coach Rocks has showed she can sit off swift company and has not won outside of her home base at Gulfstream Park. Track conditions and stepping up against classier fillies are also a huge question marks.
Why She Cannot: One red flag that jumps out when looking into Coach Rocks’ history is how long it took her to break her maiden. After 7 attempts and 5 different tracks she finally got a win at Gulfstream in February. Eventually the lightbulb did come on, but it is always very concerning to see an issue that significant. Another area where she could run into trouble would be her travel history. While she has a 2nd place finish at Churchill Downs, that was among maiden company and has not won outside of her home base at Gulfstream Park. Track conditions and stepping up against classier fillies are also a huge question marks.
(3) Classy Act
Jockey : Brian Hernandez Jr.
Trainer : W. Bret Calhoun
How She Got Here: Classy Act qualified for the Kentucky Oaks with 30 total points. She secured points with a 2nd in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes and a 4th in the Fair Grounds Oaks.
Why She Can Win: Classy Act is a filly that likes to be forwardly placed and be on the pace if at all possible. She is the most likely filly in the race to dictate the pace and will try to run away playing catch me if you can. Post position 3 is a great spot for Classy Act and her running style and should only help her as long as she gets a clean break. She also will keep usual jockey Brian Hernandez Jr.
Why She Cannot: While Classy Act may be having it her own way at least down the back
stretch, she simply will not withstand the Oaks distance. As distance has increased, she has shown that she is more of the sprinter type. Going a mile and ⅛ is asking a lot of this filly. The class this field has is also a major concern here for Classy Act. While she did finish second to Monomoy Girl, she was running out of gas heading for home and has yet to face the likes of Midnight Bisou. Classy Act has won over a yielding turf surface but has never raced on an off dirt track which will likely come into play on Friday as well citing another significant concern.
(4) Chocolate Martini
Jockey : James Graham
Trainer : Thomas Amoss
How She Got Here: Chocolate Martini qualified for the Kentucky Oaks with 100 total points. She secured all 100 points with a victory in the Fair Grounds Oaks.
Why She Can Win: Chocolate Martini showed an exceptional amount of heart and grit in her Fair Grounds Oaks victory. That kind of emotional conformation will be very important moving forward in her career and can make the difference between a first and a second. With an off track likely, Chocolate Martini is a filly that will move up in the case of rain. With victories on both fast and good dirt, she is a filly that will run her best race with a bit of moisture. Chocolate Martini has simply became a different filly in the last couple months since adding blinkers and climbing out of the claiming ranks. She could have been yours for just $15,000!
Why She Cannot: A major concern regarding Chocolate Martini could be her poor showings at Churchill Downs. Despite both being maiden races, she finished last and next to last in both and seemed to never get going. Since those two races, Chocolate Martini has never raced outside of Fair Grounds so travel and traveling to this specific track should be a cause for pause. While passing all of her other class increases well, this class increase could be a bit over her head. She probably is a notch below the top contenders.
(5) Wonder Gadot
Jockey : John Velazquez
Trainer : Mark Casse
How She Got Here: Wonder Gadot qualified for the Kentucky Oaks with 84 total points. She secured points with a win in the Demoiselle Stakes, a 2nd in the Silverbulletday Stakes and the Fantasy Stakes, and a 3rd in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes and the Fair Grounds Oaks.
Why She Can Win: Wonder Gadot comes into the Kentucky Oaks as the newly minted
Canadian 2YO Champion Filly. She is a classy filly that gives you her best every single race. She has consistently finished on the board every race since a troubled 6th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. The extra distance the Oaks adds could play very well into Wonder Gadot’s favor and will be passing tiring horses late. She will get usual jockey John Velazquez back for the Oaks and should improve her chances. Travel and racing experience is also on her side. Leave this filly out at your own risk.
Why She Cannot: Despite running her best every race with what the has to work with, Wonder Gadot is a filly that seems to find trouble often. In a 14 horse field, trouble can easily be found. While Wonder Gadot has raced the most out of our Oaks contenders, she has yet to face the likes of favorites Monomoy Girl and Midnight Bisou. Her best may perhaps be a cut below their’s.
(6) Kelly’s Humor
Jockey : Irad Ortiz Jr.
Trainer : Brad Cox
How She Got Here: Kelly’s Humor qualified for the Kentucky Oaks with 8 total points. She
secured points with a 2nd in the Pocahontas Stakes and the Beaumont Stakes.
Why She Can Win: Kelly’s Humor is a late runner that could be passing tiring horses heading for home in the Oaks. She has a strong second over the surface and suggests she would handle an off track just fine. She also will have the services of top jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. thus giving her a bit of a boost.
Why She Cannot: Kelly’s Humor’s best seems to be a few shades under these fillies. She has yet to win her first graded stakes, and has had four attempts against lesser company. Kelly’s Humor is a filly that is known to travel wide coming home and in a 14 horse field could eliminate her chances completely. Probably will be the longest shot on the board.
Jockey : Drayden Van Dyke
Trainer : Bob Baffert
How She Got Here: Rayya qualified for the Kentucky Oaks with 90 points. She secured points with a win in the UAE Oaks and a 2nd in the UAE Derby.
Why She Can Win: Rayya is the only horse to qualify for both the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby since the start of the points era. She picked up her extra 40 points with a 2nd place finish to Mendelssohn who ran the race of his career in the UAE Derby. Without Mendelssohn in the race, Rayya would head to the Kentucky Derby with 100 points. She is a strong filly that despite finishing 2nd still beat a group of talented colts. This filly could be far more talented than we are giving her credit for and could be poised for a big effort. Rayya certainly belongs here and should be considered a serious contender.
Why She Cannot: Rayya comes into the Kentucky Oaks as a question mark. Travel is her
biggest concern. She has never raced outside of Meydan Racecourse, and probably has never traveled much if at all. Connections did get her here early to train with Baffert, but this will be her first start outside of Dubai. While racing in Dubai and training for a short time in California, Rayya has never seen nor touched a wet surface. The track is expected to come up off and whether she will handle it is anyone’s guess.
Jockey : Calvin Borel
Trainer : Anthony Quartarolo
How She Got Here: Heavenhasmynikki qualified for the Kentucky Oaks with 11 total points. She secured points with a 4th in the Forward Gal Stakes and a 3rd in the Davona Dale Stakes.
Why She Can Win: The racing Gods love a good story and Heavenhasmynikki is the one in the Kentucky Oaks. After being banned as a maiden from the Breeders’ Cup, she has remained consistent and showed some class. A little bit of extra distance should help here here and the post is great. Heavenhasmynikki has the services of Churchill Downs top jockey Calvin Borel and we all know how much he loves to win the Derby and the Oaks. She has a good chance to outrun her odds.
Why She Cannot: Despite putting in decent efforts in stakes company, Heavenhasmynikki’s best is below our top contenders. She was defeated by the likes of Take Charge Paula and Coach Rocks who probably also aren’t in the top tier of fillies here. This filly is so lightly raced that the new factors the Oaks can add (large crowd, travel, off track) could very well be overwhelming to her. It would be hard to imagine Heavenhasmynikki running any better than 4th here.
(9) Take Charge Paula
Jockey : Jose Ortiz
Trainer : Kiaran McLaughlin
How She Got Here: Take Charge Paula qualified for the Kentucky Oaks with 70 total points. She secured points with a win in the Forward Gal Stakes and a 2nd in both the Davona Dale Stakes and the Gulfstream Park Oaks.
Why She Can Win: Take Charge Paula is a filly that gives her best every race and has been remarkably consistent in her stakes performances. She is a well traveled filly with a big number of starts and her extra miles will help her out here. Take Charge Paula also has a stakes win on an off track to her credit and should move up her chances with that accomplishment. Champion Jockey Jose Ortiz will be aboard is very familiar with this filly. A worthy horse to use as an upset chance and perhaps underneath.
Why She Cannot: Take Charge Paula is a tenacious and try hard filly but it could be plausable that she is getting very close to her distance limit. The Oaks distance could be pushing it for her, and more distance-savvy fillies could blow past her late. Take Charge Paula also has a habit of drifting out in the far turn and the stretch which could significantly hinder her chances here. A quirky late running style plus a possible distance limitation could be a major problem.
(10) Midnight Bisou
Jockey : Mike Smith
Trainer : William Spawr
How She Got Here: Midnight Bisou qualified for the Kentucky Oaks with 160 total points. She secured points with wins in the Santa Ynez Stakes, Santa Ysabel Stakes, and the Santa Anita Oaks.
Why She Can Win: Midnight Bisou comes into the Kentucky Oaks as good as a horse can look. She has been a perfect 3 for 3 in her stakes performances and won them with ease. Midnight Bisou can pretty much run any style she needs to and has never been worse than second in her career. A G1 winner on an off track, the conditions on Friday will sway very much in her favor. The post position is great and Mike Smith aboard makes it all even better. She is the filly to beat here.
Why She Cannot: The only Achilles’ heel that Midnight Bisou could have is the travel. All of her starts have came at Santa Anita aside from a 2nd at Del Mar. Unfamiliar surroundings can and have effected some horses.
(11) My Miss Lilly
Jockey : Joe Bravo
Trainer : Mark Hennig
How She Got Here: My Miss Lilly qualified for the Kentucky Oaks with 112 total points. She secured points with a 3rd in the Forward Gal and Busher Stakes, and a win in the Gazelle Stakes.
Why She Can Win: My Miss Lilly is another gritty filly coming into the Kentucky Oaks. Showing up in every race, she has never been off of the board in her career. My Miss Lilly is one of a few fillies in this field with a victory over an off track. Both distance and a wet track shouldn’t effect her and there is a good chance she will be in the mix headed for home.
Why She Cannot: A couple factors jump out regarding My Miss Lilly’s chances – gate antics and finding trouble, as well as travel history and a light schedule. This filly has a history of gate trouble and has struggled with wide trips and drifting. In a large field and wider draw, she has no room to make those errors. My Miss Lilly also is a very lightly raced filly with only 4 starts, all of them coming at Aqueduct aside from a 3rd place at Gulfstream Park. Aqueduct form coming into Churchill Downs can be shaky at best. Mix all of these together and she is probably a cut below our top fillies.
(12) Patrona Margarita
Jockey : Ricardo Santana Jr.
Trainer : W. Bret Calhoun
How She Got Here: Patrona Margarita qualified for the Kentucky Oaks with 35 total points. She secured points with a win in the Pocahontas Stakes, a 4th in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes, and a 3rd in the Ashland Stakes.
Why She Can Win: Patrona Margarita loves Churchill Downs and should be comfortable on Oaks Day. Take out a very tough trip in the Debutante Stakes and she is unbeaten at this track. Another tenacious filly to add to an already gritty field, she always shows up to pick up her checks. Very well could be the long shot to use in your exotics.
Why She Cannot: Patrona Margarita unfortunately has been soundly beaten by several other fillies in this group. Her best isn’t in the same category. An off track and a bad post also runs the risk of throwing her off even more.
(13) Eskimo Kisses
Jockey : Corey Lanerie
Trainer : Kenneth McPeek
How She Got Here: Eskimo Kisses qualified for the Kentucky Oaks with 80 total points. She secured points with a 2nd in both the Fair Grounds Oaks and the Ashland Stakes.
Why She Can Win: Eskimo Kisses is a very interesting filly coming into the Kentucky Oaks. A granddaughter of Kentucky Derby winner Winning Colors, this horse likes to run late. Eskimo Kisses will love the extra distance and will relish on an off track. She has a history of loving an off going and simply floats over the mud. She will have Corey Lanerie in the irons – a master at Churchill Downs. Look for Eskimo Kisses passing tiring horses late. She will be one with enough in the tank left and has a shot to run them down.
Why She Cannot: Eskimo Kisses’ post position hurts her quite a bit. An inside draw to conserve ground and drop back into the rail and she has a big shot to win the race. She got the opposite draw and will have to change tactics. Lanerie could have to use her early to avoid trouble and drop back to the rail. With Midnight Bisou and a couple others drawing way better, this could be enough to eliminate a win here.
(14) Monomoy Girl
Jockey : Florent Geroux
Trainer : Brad Cox
How She Got Here: Monomoy Girl qualified for the Kentucky Oaks with 154 points. She
secured points with a 2nd in the Golden Rod Stakes, and wins in both the Rachel Alexandra Stakes and the Ashland Stakes.
Why She Can Win: Monomoy Girl comes into the Kentucky Oaks as the favorite and only has been defeated once narrowly. She has stood alone in the mid-west as a horse to beat and has pointed to this race all along. This filly is a fan of Churchill Downs and will appreciate an off going should that happen. Monomoy Girl is a well traveled filly that has passed all tests thrown at her. She has looked rocks solid all spring and is looking even better this week. There is absolutely no reason to think Monomoy Girl won’t run a giant race and she is one of the two top contenders.
Why She Cannot: Separating Monomoy Girl and Midnight Bisou has been incredibly difficult to a point where you almost can’t. Monomoy Girl drawing the outside post in this field is that separation. This large factor will give Midnight Bisou an edge here and could be the difference between a win and a place.