Reigning 2-year-old filly champion and Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (Grade I) winner Beholder is joined by unbeaten two-time stakes winner Unlimited Budget and Hollywood Starlet (GI) winner Pure Fun atop a list of 120 nominations to the 139th running of the $1 million-guaranteed Kentucky Oaks (GI), America’s premier race for 3-year-old fillies, at Churchill Downs on Friday, May 3.
The roster of accomplished nominees and rising stars also includes Grade I stakes winners Dreaming of Julia, Executiveprivilege, So Many Ways and Spring in the Air. The total of 120 early nominations to the Kentucky Oaks is an increase of 27.7 percent over 2012, when 94 fillies were made eligible during the early nomination phase. Three fillies were added to the list during last year’s late nomination period for a final total of 97.
The early nomination process for Kentucky Oaks 139 required owners and trainers to submit the names of their fillies and a $200 fee for each horse to Churchill Downs on or before Feb. 23. A late nomination period is underway and continues through Wednesday, April 10. Nomination of a filly to the Kentucky Oaks during the ongoing late phase requires payment of a $1,500 fee. After that deadline, a supplemental nomination process offers a final opportunity for a filly to become Oaks eligible. Supplemental nominations require payment of a $30,000 fee at the time of entry to the 2013 Kentucky Oaks on Tuesday, April 30. Original nominees are preferred if more than 14 fillies are entered in Kentucky Oaks 139.
The 2013 Oaks nominees are bidding to succeed Brereton C. Jones’ homebred Believe You Can, the winner of the historic 2012 renewal of the 1 1/8-mile race. A crowd of 112,552 – the second-largest in Oaks history – witnessed the victory by Believe You Can under jockey Rosie Napravnik, who became the first woman to ride an Oaks winner. Believe You Can was trained by Larry Jones, a Hopkinsville, Ky. native who also saddled the Brereton Jones homebred Proud Spell to win the 2008 Oaks.
The Kentucky Oaks is run each year on the eve of the Kentucky Derby and, like its companion event, has been contested each year without interruption since its first running in 1875. The race is limited to 14 3-year-old fillies, with up to four fillies designated as “also eligible” to start. Eligibility to enter the starting gate for the 2013 Oaks will be determined for the first time by the “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” point system.
The 139th Kentucky Oaks will be televised live from 5-6 p.m.EDT on the NBC Sports Network.
If Spendthrift Farm LLC’s Beholder runs in the 2013 Kentucky Oaks, she will attempt to become just the third filly to earn a 2-year-old filly championship and win both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and Kentucky Oaks. The only fillies to successfully sweep those achievements were Mike Pegram’s Silverbulletday, winner of the 1999 Kentucky Oaks, and Eugene Klein’s Open Mind, who won the Kentucky Oaks a decade earlier. Both Silverbulletday and Open Mind scored their Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies wins in the previous fall at Churchill Downs, while Beholder’s Breeders’ Cup triumph came at Santa Anita
The Richard Mandella-trained champion was runner-up to fellow Kentucky Oaks nominee Renee’s Titan in her 2013 debut in the Santa Ynez (GII) at Santa Anita. But she appeared to return to championship form last weekend in a front-running 3 ¾-length victory in the Las Virgenes (GI) at a mile over the same track. The victory improved the career record for the daughter of Henny Hughes to 4-2-0 in seven races with earnings of $1,395,000.
Repole Stable’s Unlimited Budget, one of nine nominees trained by two-time Oaks winner Todd Pletcher, scored a 1 ¼-length win over fellow Oaks nominee Emollient in the Demoiselle (GII) at Aqueduct last fall and the daughter of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense made a successful 2013 debut in a 3 ¾-length victory under Napravnik in the Rachel Alexandra (GIII) at Fair Grounds. Pure Fun ended 2012 on a high note for Magdalena Racing and trainer Ken McPeek with a pair of victories that included the Hollywood Starlet over the synthetic Cushion Track surface at Hollywood Park.
Grade I stakes victories among 2013 Kentucky Oaks nominees were earned by Karl Watson, Pegram and Paul Weitman’s Executiveprivilege, who won the Del Mar Debutante and Santa Anita’s Chandelier for two-time Kentucky Oaks-winning trainer Bob Baffert; So Many Ways, who took Saratoga’s Spinaway for owner Maggi Moss and trainer Anthony Dutrow; Stonestreet Stables LLC’s Dreaming of Julia, winner of the Frizette for Pletcher; and John C. Oxley’s Spring in the Air, winner of the Darley Alcibiades over the Polytrack course at Keeneland for trainer Mark Casse.
Other major winners among the nominees include Davona Dale (GII) winner Live Lively; Seaneen Girl, upset winner of the Golden Rod (GII) at Churchill Downs; Delta Princess (GIII) winner Rose to Gold; Silverbulletday winner Touch Magic; Puerto Rican Grade I winner Fusaichiswonderful; Martha Washington winner Sister Ginger; and Pletcher’s Princess of Sylmar, winner of Aqueduct’s Busher and Busanda.
Her Kentucky Oaks victory was the highlight of 2012 for Believe You Can, who was one of three finalists for the Eclipse Award presented to America’s outstanding 3-year-old filly won by Godolphin Racing LLC’s Questing, who did not compete in the Oaks. Peachtree Stable’s Plum Pretty, the 2011 Kentucky Oaks winner, also was a finalist for the 3-year-old filly Eclipse Award presented that season to Royal Delta, who also missed the Oaks.
Prior to those years, four consecutive Kentucky Oaks winners subsequently earned the Eclipse Award for champion 3-year-old filly. Those winners were Blind Luck (2010), Rachel Alexandra (2009), Proud Spell (2008) and Rags to Riches (2007). Rachel Alexandra and Rags to Riches defeated males in Triple Crown races immediately following their Oaks triumphs. The former defeated Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird in the Preakness (GI) on her way to Horse of the Year honors, while Rags to Riches edged Preakness winner and eventual two-time Horse of the Year Curlin in the Belmont Stakes (GI).
Other Kentucky Oaks winners later named as champion 3-year-old filly include Ashado (2004), Bird Town (2003), Farda Amiga (2002), Silverbulletday (1999), Open Mind (1989), Tiffany Lass (1986), Davona Dale (1979) and Susan’s Girl (1972). Fillies that failed to win the Oaks but earned championship honors at the conclusion of their 3-year-old seasons include Wait a While (3rd in 2006 Oaks), Banshee Breeze (2nd in 1998), Go for Wand (2nd in 1990) and Wayward Lass (3rd in 1981).
Pletcher led all trainers with nine Oaks-nominated fillies, one more than Hall of Famer Bill Mott. Mott, the all-time training leader at Churchill Downs who is looking for his first success in the Oaks, is represented by a group headed by Emollient and Flashy Gray, who was the favored individual in Churchill Downs’ Kentucky Oaks Future Wager. Kiaran McLaughin nominated seven fillies, while Baffert and John Sadler had six nominees. Darley Stable led owners with five nominees, one more than Calumet Farm. The latter, now owned by Brad Kelley, has won the Kentucky Oaks a record six times.
Churchill Downs, the world’s most legendary racetrack, has conducted Thoroughbred racing and presented America’s greatest race, the Kentucky Derby, continuously since 1875. Located in Louisville, the flagship racetrack of Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ: CHDN). Churchill Downs will conduct the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 4, 2013 and its 2013 Spring Meet is scheduled for April 27-June 30. The track has hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships a record eight times. Information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at www.ChurchillDowns.com.