Owners and trainers of horses being pointed toward the 140th running of the $1 million-guaranteed Longines Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) on Friday, May 2 at Churchill Downs Racetrack (“CDRT”) face an early nomination deadline of Saturday, Feb. 22 to make their horses eligible to compete in the 2014 renewal America’s premier race for 3-year-old fillies scheduled for Friday, May 2.
Each early phase nomination to the Kentucky Oaks, the 1 1/8-mile sister race to the $2 million guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI), must be accompanied by a payment of $200. The early nomination period will close at 11:59 p.m. (all times Eastern) on Saturday.
The Longines Kentucky Oaks shares a long and rich history with the Kentucky Derby. Both races were introduced in 1875, when their home track was known as the Louisville Jockey Club, and each has been run annually and without interruption since their respective debuts.
The Oaks field is limited to 14 starters and up to four fillies designated as “also-eligible” to start. Eligibility to compete in the Oaks is determined by points amassed during the “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” system, which enters its Championship Series this weekend with Saturday’s Davona Dale (GII) at Gulfstream Park and the Rachel Alexandra (GII) at Fair Grounds. Points will be awarded to the top four finishers in each race on a scale of 50-20-10-5.
If one of more horses should scratch from the Longines Kentucky Oaks by 9 a.m. on the morning of the race, fillies from the “also-eligible” list with the highest respective point totals would be allowed to compete.
The 2014 Longines Kentucky Oaks will be telecast live on the NBC Sports Network.
The same Feb. 22 deadline exists for early nominations to the 28th running of the $500,000-added Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI), which will run immediately prior to the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Saturday, May 3. The 1 1/8-mile race for 4-year-olds and up on the Matt Winn Turf Course has become one of the nation’s top races for older turf horses since its inaugural running in 1987.
Early nominations to the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic must be accompanied by a payment of $100.
Horsemen can nominate horses to either the Longines Kentucky Oaks or Woodford Reserve Turf Classic by contacting Churchill Downs Racing’s Kelly Danner via telephone at (502) 638-3825 or email at Kelly.Danner@KyDerby.com. Nominations can also be made via fax at 502-638-3915. Nomination forms for the Longines Kentucky Oaks and Woodford Reserve Turf Classic are available online at www.churchilldowns.com.
A late nomination period for Longines Kentucky Oaks 140 will open on Sunday, Feb. 23 and conclude on Wednesday, April 9. Nomination of any 3-year-old filly to the Oaks during the late nomination phase will require payment of a $1,500 fee. There will be a final opportunity to make a filly eligible for the Kentucky Oaks through a supplemental nomination process that requires payment of $30,000 fee at the time of entry to the 2014 Longines Kentucky Oaks on Tuesday, April 29.
The 2013 running of the Longines Kentucky Oaks attracted 120 early nominations.
Churchill Downs also accepts late nominations to 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 9. Supplemental nominations to the race may be made at the time of entry on Wednesday, April 30 and each requires the payment of a $15,000 fee. The Woodford Reserve Turf Classic is limited to 14 starters, with two also-eligible entrants.
The field of 10 fillies that competed in the 2013 Longines Kentucky Oaks was considered by many observers to be one of the strongest in the history of the race, but it yielded a surprising winner in King of Prussia Stable’s Princess of Sylmar. The 38-1 longshot rallied in the stretch to defeat Spendthrift Farm LLC’s Beholder by a half-length for trainer Todd Pletcher, who earned his third Oaks win, and Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who won the race for the first time.
Princess of Sylmar validated her Oaks triumph with a string of Grade I victories that included the Coaching Club American Oaks, the Alabama and a triumph over two-time champion Royal Delta in a match against older foes in the Beldame. But runner-up Beholder secured the Eclipse Award that honored her as the nation’s top 3-year-old filly with three consecutive victories after her Kentucky Oaks setback capped by a dominant win over Royal Delta and Princess of Sylmar in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) at Santa Anita.
Beholder was the 17th Kentucky Oaks winner or participant since 1972 to earn the Eclipse Award bestowed annually on the nation’s top 3-year-old filly. Blind Luck won the 2010 Kentucky Oaks to conclude a streak of four consecutive Kentucky Oaks winner to take championship honors. Others in the streak were 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). Believe You Can, winner of the 2012 Oaks, and 2011 winner Plum Pretty were among three Eclipse Award finalists in their respective 3-year-old seasons.
Mort Fink’s Wise Dan, trained by Charlie LoPresti, won the 2013 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on his way to a second consecutive Horse off the Year title, along with Eclipse Awards that honored him as the nation’s best older horse and top turf horse. Priscilla Vaccarezza’s Little Mike won the 2012 renewal in a year that also saw the Dale Romans-trained gelding win the Arlington Million (GI) and Breeders’ Cup Turf (GI).
The Woodford Reserve Turf Classic got off to an auspicious start in 1987 when reigning Eclipse Award turf champion Manila won its inaugural running. Manila had won the Breeders’ Cup Turf (GI) in 1986, defeating luminaries that included Theatrical, Estrapade and European star Dancing Brave in that memorable contest. Other American turf champions that have competed in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic include Paradise Creek, who took the race during his 1994 championship campaign, and 1992 Eclipse Award grass champion Sky Classic, runner-up to Cudas in that year’s Turf Classic renewal. Einstein won the 2008 and 2009 renewals of the Turf Classic and is its only two-time winner. 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.
The 2013 running of the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic attracted 62 early nominations.