Farrell on course for Kentucky Oaks glory

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Jen Caldwell

May 4th, 2017

The 143rd running of the Kentucky Oaks (G1) has drawn an uber-talented field of sophomore fillies. From Paradise Woods to Miss Sky Warrior to Salty, these fillies have been burning up the track en route to the 1 1/8-mile Run for the Lilies.

But who will come out on top Friday? That is the big question, and it’s impossible for me to go against a filly I’ve been high on since her juvenile season.

1st – FARRELL (#7, 5-1)

The Wayne Catalano-trained Farrell has done nothing wrong since romping home a six-length winner of the Golden Rod Stakes (G2) last November at Churchill Downs. That capped off the dark bay filly’s two-year-old campaign, all of which took place under the Twin Spires. In addition to the Golden Rod, she broke her maiden in her second outing on a wet-fast track and finished third in the Rags to Riches Stakes while making her stakes bow on October 30.

Catalano shipped Farrell to Fair Grounds to kick off her sophomore season, and the Malibu Moon miss hasn’t disappointed. She easily captured the Silverbulletday Stakes on January 21 and added a 3 1/2-length wire job in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2) to her resume in late February. The Kentucky-bred lass continued her winning ways in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) on April 1, scoring by 3 1/4 lengths and landing on top of the Kentucky Oaks Leaderboard.

Despite all that, Farrell is 5-1 on the Oaks morning line under regular rider Channing Hill. The filly has proven herself time and again, and Friday’s feature could be yet another triumph added to her already impressive resume.

2nd – MISS SKY WARRIOR (#10, 9-2)

Miss Sky Warrior is another listed at higher than expected odds (9-2) for the Kentucky Oaks. The dark bay miss is riding a five-race win streak; in fact, her only loss came in her debut last September 11 at Belmont Park.

Since then, Miss Sky Warrior broke her maiden by seven lengths at Parx Racing and captured both the Tempted Stakes (G3) and Demoiselle Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct to complete her juvenile season. She’s raced only twice this year, but posted a half-length win in the Davona Dale Stakes (G2) and dominated the Gazelle Stakes (G2) by 13 lengths last out with regular pilot Paco Lopez holding the reins.

Trained by Kelly Breen, Miss Sky Warrior is the only runner in the Kentucky Oaks who has already proven victorious at the nine-furlong distance. Only two races on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series of points races took place at race distance of 1 1/8 miles – the Demoiselle and Gazelle – and Miss Sky Warrior had no trouble schooling her rivals in both those events. Watch for her to fly down the Churchill stretch on Friday.

3rd – PARADISE WOODS (#4, 5-2)

Paradise Woods, the 5-2 morning-line choice, made a case to be the favorite for the Kentucky Oaks after conquering the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) by 11 lengths in just her third career start for trainer Richard Mandella. The bay filly had never faced stakes rivals before that contest, but had no trouble with returning jockey Flavien Prat perched in the saddle.

Paradise Woods is one of only two fillies in the 14-strong Oaks field who has earned a triple-digit BRIS Speed rating, boasting a 110 Speed figure for her Santa Anita Oaks romp. That could be more than enough to propel her past everyone else in this group despite having just made her racing bow on January 26 and trying a track other than Santa Anita Park for the first time in this spot.

Longshot – DADDYS LIL DARLING (#12, 20-1)

Daddys Lil Darling could upset the whole apple cart at 20-1, especially considering the forecast calls for all-day rain showers. The Kenny McPeek trainee rallied for a half-length victory in the Pocahontas Stakes (G2) over a muddy track at Churchill last year, and readied for the Kentucky Oaks with a closing second in the Ashland Stakes (G1) at Keeneland on April 8.

The Scat Daddy filly gets Julien Leparoux in the saddle on Friday and the duo could find themselves visiting a soggy winner’s circle.

Farrell and trainer Wayne Catalano photo courtesy of Jamie Newell/