Lewis Bay has a good shot at Kentucky Oaks glory
Fourteen fillies entered the race, plus one also-eligible hoping someone defects so she can draw in. It’s actually a well-matched field, but there’s only one who has won at the Oaks distance of nine furlongs.
That filly, Lewis Bay, has actually compiled two wins at 1 1/8 miles, and is my pick to come out on top Friday. The bay daughter of Bernardini boasts two victories at the distance thanks to taking her stakes debut in the Demoiselle (G2) last November at Aqueduct.
That concluded Lewis Bay’s juvenile season, and she opened 2016 with a runner-up effort in the Davona Dale (G2) at Gulfstream Park on February 27. Trainer Chad Brown sent her back to New York following that effort and the Kentucky-bred miss responded with a nice 1 1/2-length score in the 1 1/8-mile Gazelle (G2) at Aqueduct.
That earned Lewis Bay a 99 BRIS Speed rating, which tops everyone but Cathryn Sophia in this field. Irad Ortiz Jr. has been aboard Lewis Bay for all her starts thus far and retains the mount on Friday.
Cathryn Sophia is hard to overlook after just suffering her first loss last out in the Ashland (G1) at Keeneland. Before that the John Servis pupil racked up four straight victories by a combined 41 1/2 lengths, including the Davona Dale and Forward Gal (G2) at Gulfstream to open her sophomore season.
The Street Boss filly bypassed the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) in favor of the Ashland, where she held the lead briefly in the stretch before being passed late to finish a half-length back in third. Cathryn Sophia is the only filly in this year’s Kentucky Oaks to have earned a triple-digit BRIS Speed rating and keeps Javier Castellano in the irons.
Land Over Sea broke her maiden on the turf at Del Mar last summer, then ran into a juggernaut named Songbird for her next five starts. She reputed herself well against that rival, finishing second three times and third once, but didn’t return to the winner’s circle until getting away from Songbird.
Trainer Doug O’Neill shipped Land Over Sea to New Orleans for the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), and the Bellamy Road lass responded with a 4 1/2-length victory. Winners of that race have enjoyed tremendous success in the Kentucky Oaks, so I couldn’t leave Land Over Sea out of the top three. Mario Gutierrez has the call.
Rachel’s Valentina has quite the legacy to live up to as a daughter of 2009 Kentucky Oaks romper and Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra. The Todd Pletcher pupil began her career in stellar fashion, breaking her maiden at first asking before taking the Spinaway (G1), both at Saratoga last year. She ended up second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), and will enter the Oaks off just one start as a sophomore.
That came in the Ashland on April 9, where Rachel’s Valentina was a game runner-up after filling the second spot throughout. The Bernardini filly just missed by a quarter-length and will get John Velazquez in the saddle as she attempts to emulate her dam in Friday’s Oaks.
Royal Obsession and Mo d’Amour might each earn a spot in the exotics as the only other runners in the field besides Lewis Bay with experience at the distance. The former was a close fourth in the Rachel Alexandra (G2) at Fair Grounds before traveling to Aqueduct to finish second in the Gazelle, earning a 97 BRIS Speed rating. Mo d’Amour actually won the Busher S. at Aqueduct by two lengths before running a tired third in the Gazelle, which was still good for a career-best 89 BRIS Speed figure.
Terra Promessa enters the Oaks on a four-race win streak, and also has a chance at the top three. The Steve Asmussen trainee captured both the Honeybee (G3) and Fantasy (G3) at Oaklawn Park, and brings regular jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. along for the ride Friday. Taxable just missed by a quarter-length in the Fantasy and could gain a measure of revenge against Terra Promessa in just her second try against stakes rivals.
Weep No More is also riding a win streak, having scored in her last three including the Ashland. On that day the Rusty Arnold charge appeared out of nowhere to pass the entire field for the quarter-length victory. She earned a 104 BRIS Late Pace rating, and could utilize her late running style to grab a big piece of the pie under Corey Lanerie.
Go Maggie Go is the only unbeaten runner in the Oaks field, boasting a two-for-two record. The Dale Romans-trained daughter of Ghostzapper broke her maiden by four lengths at Gulfstream on March 13 and returned April 2 to take her stakes bow in the Gulfstream Park Oaks by 2 1/4 lengths under Luis Saez, who retains the mount on Friday. The duo could find themselves in the winner’s circle yet again.
Mokat placed behind Songbird in her past two starts, but was well-beaten on both occasions. The Uncle Mo miss is looking for just the second win of her career in this spot and might need an easier spot to pick up a first stakes victory. Paola Queen pressed the pace throughout the Gulfstream Park Oaks before ending up second and is another who might need class relief.
Dream Dance and Venus Valentine face a tough task in the Oaks. The former has never been able to factor against stakes rivals while Venus Valentine was beaten more than 10 lengths in fifth in the Fair Grounds Oaks while trying to reproduce her 74-1 upset of the Rachel Alexandra. I don’t have much confidence in either runner.
Dothraki Queen is the filly on the outside looking in, needing a defection from the main field to be able to compete, but could factor in the top three if she does. The Pure Prize filly placed second in both the Pocahontas (G2) and Rags to Riches S. at Churchill Downs, as well as third in the Golden Rod (G2) under the Twin Spires. Gary Stevens has the call if Dothraki Queen makes the Kentucky Oaks field.
Lewis Bay photo courtesy of NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography