With Unique Bella sidelined, Farrell reigns alone atop the Kentucky Oaks Leaderboard

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Jen Caldwell

April 2nd, 2017

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer doesn’t seem to have much luck with the Kentucky Oaks (G1) the past couple of years.

The Hall of Famer missed last year’s running when eventual champion three-year-old filly Songbird developed a fever following her Santa Anita Oaks (G1) win. This season he won’t even get the chance to send top-ranked Unique Bella to that latter contest after the talented gray miss was pulled from training with a shin injury.

Though Unique Bella is out, there are a slew of gifted runners waiting in the wings for their turn in the spotlight. The Road to the Kentucky Oaks continues through the next two weeks, but now it’s time to look back at what’s taken place since March 25.

The Bourbonette Oaks (G3) is unlikely to have much bearing on this year’s Kentucky Oaks, as three of the top four finishers in the one-mile Polytrack contest aren’t even nominated to the race.

PURELY A DREAM upset the race by two lengths under jockey Robby Albarado. The Kenny McPeek trainee kept in close attendance while tracking the early pace before grabbing command and pulling off in the lane. She easily held as Awesome Boss rallied from last to take second by a half-length.

Purely a Dream was making her stakes debut in the Bourbonette Oaks off an eighth-place run against allowance/optional claiming rivals at Churchill last November. In fact, this was only the second win for the chestnut filly; her first victory came on turf at Keeneland. While her connections may choose to supplement her to the Kentucky Oaks, Purely a Dream doesn’t look to duplicate her Turfway effort, which earned her a career-best 91 BRIS Speed rating.

Of the top four finishers in the race, only third-place finisher Darkwingsoverdubai is nominated to the Kentucky Oaks. She earned 10 points toward a starting berth, which sees her in 25th on the Kentucky Oaks Leaderboard as of this writing. The Raven’s Pass filly has never raced on a conventional dirt track, as her prior two races, both wins, came on Golden Gate Fields’ Tapeta.

The winner and third-place finisher from the Sunland Park Oaks are nominated to the Kentucky Oaks; the runner-up and fourth-placer are not.

The 1 1/16-mile contest was the final 50-20-10-5 point race on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series of points contests. GHALIA took home the winner’s share, but did so the hard way. The Medaglia d’Oro miss entered the race unbeaten in two starts, both wire jobs sprinting at Gulfstream Park.

In the Sunland Park Oaks, however, the Todd Pletcher pupil broke slow and was forced to angle out five wide for the stretch run. She hooked up with Kell Paso in the lane and just managed to get her neck in front on the wire under jockey Jose Ortiz.

Ghalia earned a 91 BRIS Speed rating for moving her record to a perfect three-for-three. That tied what she was awarded for breaking her maiden by 6 3/4 lengths on January 22. She currently sits in sixth on the Kentucky Oaks Leaderboard with 50 points.

Kell Paso was much the best of the rest of the Sunland Park Oaks field, 5 3/4 lengths up on What What What. However, the stakes winner is not nominated to the Kentucky Oaks.

FARRELL has yet to break 100 in terms of BRIS Speed figures, but thus far the Wayne Catalano charge hasn’t needed to.

The dark bay filly continued her run to the Kentucky Oaks by completing a sweep of the three-year-old filly stakes at Fair Grounds. She captured the Silverbulletday Stakes on January 21, took the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2) on February 25, and on April 1 romped to a 3 1/4-length victory in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), which kicked off races worth 100-40-20-10 points on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series.

For yet another effortless triumph the daughter of Malibu Moon earned a 92 BRIS Speed rating, tying with the same career-high figure she garnered in both the Rachel Alexandra and Golden Rod Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs last year.

Is Farrell just so much better that she doesn’t even have to expend any effort? Or is it more a reflection of the competition she’s facing?

Time will tell, but for now Farrell is riding a four-race win streak and sits atop the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard with 170 points.

SALTY threw her bridle in the Kentucky Oaks ring with a dominating 4 1/4-length win in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) as the even-money favorite.

The Mark Casse trainee was made the favorite despite having never faced stakes company, or even winners, before. Salty utilized the same come-from-behind move in the 1 1/16-mile contest that she displayed in her prior two starts. After bumping with Jordan’s Henny at the start, the Quality Road filly settled near the rear of the field while five wide, came four wide around the final turn and easily cruised by the leaders in the lane.

Salty is now two-for-two since transferring to Casse, who gave every indication after the Gulfstream Park Oaks that she would be going to the Kentucky Oaks. The bay miss earned 100 points toward a starting berth in that contest and would sit in second on the Kentucky Oaks Leaderboard, but for now merely is listed with the second most points and a not-nominated designation next to her name. Late nominations to the Kentucky Oaks close April 12.

Salty is in the same boat as Farrell after only garnering a 90 BRIS Speed rating for taking her stakes debut. However, unlike Farrell, the Kentucky-bred has already shown she’s capable of posting better numbers, as evidenced by the 96 and 97 numbers earned in her first two starts. 

Farrell photo courtesy of Amanda Hodges Weir/Hodges Photography