The early nomination deadline is fast approaching for owners and trainers who are pointing young racing stars in their care to the 139th running of the $1 million-guaranteed Kentucky Oaks (Grade I), America’s premier race for 3-year-old fillies on Friday, May 3 at Churchill Downs.
Early nominations to the Kentucky Oaks – the 1 1/8-mile companion race to the famed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) are due by 11:59 p.m. (all times Eastern) on Saturday, Feb. 23. Each early nomination must be accompanied by payment of a fee of $200.
Nominations also close on Saturday, Feb. 23 for the 28th running of the $500,000-added Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI), one of America’s most important races for older horses on grass scheduled for Kentucky Derby Day, Saturday, May 4. The 1 1/8-mile race for 4-year-olds and up on Churchill Downs’ Matt Winn Turf Course is traditionally run immediately prior to the main event on the Derby Day racing and wagering menu.
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 for the race 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. on the NBC Sports Network.
Horsemen can nominate horses by contacting Kelly Danner with Churchill Downs Racing via telephone at (502) 638-3825 or online at Kelly.Danner@KyDerby.com. Nominations can also be made via fax at (502) 636-4598. Nomination forms for the Kentucky Oaks and Woodford Reserve Turf Classic are available online at www.churchilldowns.com.
Ben Huffman, director of racing at Churchill Downs, will be in south Florida through Saturday to solicit nominations. Other agents dispatched to accept nominations are Sandy Montgomery (Oaklawn Park) and Gene Williams (Southern California). Meanwhile, Scott Jones and Tia Murphy will accept nominations at Fair Grounds and Turfway Park, respectively.
The 2012 renewal of the Kentucky Oaks won by Brereton C. Jones’ homebred Believe You Can was historic on several levels. A crowd of 112,552 – the second-largest in the history of the race – cheered as jockey Rosie Napravnik became the first woman to ride a Kentucky Oaks winner. Believe You Can was trained by Larry Jones, a native of Hopkinsville, Ky., who saddled the Jones homebred Proud Spell to win the 2008 Oaks.
A late nomination period for Kentucky Oaks 139 will open on Sunday, Feb. 24 and continue through Wednesday, April 10. Nomination of any 3-year-old filly to the race during that period will require payment of a fee of $1,500. There will be one final opportunity to make a filly eligible for the Kentucky Oaks through a supplemental nomination process that requires payment of a $30,000 fee at the time of entry to the 2013 Kentucky Oaks on Tuesday, April 30.
The 2012 running of the Oaks attracted 94 original nominations and a trio for late nominees for a final total of 97.
Her Kentucky Oaks victory was the 2012 highlight for Believe You Can, who was one of three finalists for the Eclipse Award earned by Questing that honored America’s outstanding 3-year-old filly. Plum Pretty, the 2011 Oaks winner, also was a finalist for the Eclipse Award earned by Royal Delta.
Blind Luck won the Kentucky Oaks in 2010 to conclude a streak of four consecutive Kentucky Oaks winners to earn the Eclipse Award for champion 3-year-old filly. That streak of champions included Rachel Alexandra (2009), Proud Spell (2008) and Rags to Riches (2007). Rachel Alexandra and Rags to Riches defeated males in Triple Crown races in their subsequent starts, with the former defeating Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird in the Preakness (GI) on her way to Horse of the Year honors, and Rags to Riches edged eventual two-time Horse of the Year Curlin in a dramatic renewal of the Belmont Stakes (GI).
Other stars who won the Kentucky Oaks on their way Eclipse Award 3-year-old filly championship honors include Ashado (2004), Bird Town (’03), Farda Amiga (’02), Silverbulletday (’99), Open Mind (’89), Tiffany Lass (’86), Davona Dale (’79) and Susan’s Girl (’72). 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 ’06), Banshee Breeze (2nd in ’98), Go for Wand (2nd in ’90) and Wayward Lass (3rd in ’81).
Late nominations also are accepted for the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic. Those nominations require payment of a $1,000 fee by the late nomination deadline of 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, April 10. Supplemental nominations to the race may be made at the time of entry on Wednesday, May 1 and require payment of a $15,000 fee. The Woodford Reserve Turf Classic is limited to 14 starters.
The 2012 renewal of the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic was won by Priscilla Vaccarezza’s 6-year-old gelding Little Mike, who would go on to win the Arlington Million (GI) and the Breeders’ Cup Turf (GI) in a remarkable campaign that earned the Dale Romans-trained star status as finalist for the Eclipse Awards for best turf male and best older horse.
Last year’s race attracted 61 early nominations and four late nominees.
The Woodford Reserve Turf Classic has attracted many of America’s most accomplished grass stars since reigning Eclipse Award turf champion Manila won its first running in 1987. Manila had won the Breeders’ Cup Turf (GI) in 1986, defeating such luminaries as Theatrical, Estrapade and European star Dancing Brave in that effort. Other American turf champions that have competed in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic include Paradise Creek, winner of the Turf Classic during his 1994 championship campaign, and 1992 Eclipse Award turf champion Sky Classic, runner-up to Cudas in that year’s Turf Classic renewal. Einstein won the 2008 and 2009 runnings and is the only two-time Woodford Reserve winner in its 26-year history. The versatile Brazilian-bred son of 1985 Kentucky Derby winner Spend A Buck was a finalist for the Eclipse Award for top older male in each of those years and a finalist for turf champion in 2008.
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) also operates Trackside at Churchill Downs, which offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. 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.