Friday’s Kentucky Oaks (G1) undercard features two other graded stakes for three-year-old fillies. As a seven-furlong event on the main track, the $200,000 Eight Belles (G2) can have crossover interests from fillies once on the Oaks trail, and Amy’s Challenge is a case in point. The $200,000 Edgewood (G3) also has a couple of erstwhile Oaks candidates now on turf, but they’re up against it facing specialists led by unbeaten Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) star Rushing Fall.
The connections of Amy’s Challenge left her Oaks versus Eight Belles decision until entry day Monday, but reverting to one turn plays to her strengths. Trained by McLean Robertson for Novogratz Racing Stables, the brilliant daughter of Artie Schiller is unbeaten in sprints. She made it three-for-three in her comeback in the January 20 Dixie Belle at Oaklawn, outdueling Mia Mischief, but could not carry her speed quite far enough when stretching out for Oaks scoring races over 1 1/16 miles.
Amy’s Challenge opened up big early leads in both the Honeybee (G3) and Fantasy (G3), only to get caught in deep stretch. After a second in the Honeybee and a third to Oaks entrants Sassy Sienna and Wonder Gadot in the Fantasy, her preference for shorter trips was evident. Drawn on the rail in the Eight Belles with Hall of Famer Gary Stevens, Amy’s Challenge figures to play catch-me-if-you-can once again.
Undefeated Gas Station Sushi captured an Oaks points race, but it was the about seven-furlong Beaumont (G3) at Keeneland. Sidelined since her smashing Del Mar debut last August, the Richard Baltas trainee picked up right where she left off despite the class hike, and a troubled trip, to stay perfect. The Into Mischief filly projects a chasing trip with regular rider Corey Nakatani.
The Steve Asmussen-trained Mia Mischief, also by Into Mischief, has never finished out of the exacta while going off favored in all six starts. Second in the Spendthrift Juvenile Filly Stallion S. here over this track and trip last October, in her only previous try going seven, she comes off an 8 1/4-length rout in the Purple Martin at Oaklawn. The respective second and third from the Purple Martin, Salt Bae and Criminal Mischief, have their work cut out to turn the tables.
Talk Veuve to Me steps up off an 11-length maiden conquest at Fair Grounds for trainer and co-owner Rodolphe Brisset. Team Valor International swooped to buy a share in the daughter of Violence. Brereton Jones’ homebred Hold Her Tight is bred on a cross like his Oaks-winning champion Proud Spell, being by Proud Citizen and out of a Langfuhr mare. The Larry Jones pupil makes her stakes debut off a Keeneland allowance score.
Five races later, Rushing Fall puts her perfect record on the line in the 1 1/16-mile Edgewood. Although she’s by More than Ready and out of a Forestry mare from a dirt-proficient family, owner e Five Racing Thoroughbreds and trainer Chad Brown didn’t attempt a surface switch to try the Oaks trail. Rather, they’re sticking to the turf program that’s worked so well for her so far.
Rushing Fall dominated last October’s Jessamine (G3) at Keeneland en route to beating the internationals in the Breeders’ Cup. Resurfacing at the Lexington, Kentucky, track for the April 8 Appalachian (G2), she maintained her leadership of the sophomore filly turf division with a professional verdict. But post 11 could be a concern for the 123-pound co-highweight, and regular pilot Javier Castellano is tasked with working out a trip.
As ever with the Brown turfistes, the biggest danger arguably looms in her own barn in the form of Altea, who is better drawn in post 3 and receives five pounds. The French import rolled late for third, beaten all of a neck, in her American premiere in the Florida Oaks (G3), and Jose Ortiz may have learned something about her that day. The daughter of Siyouni brought smart form from home. After splitting future Group 1-placed Mission Impassible and Fatale Bere in a listed stakes at Craon, Altea was runner-up to George Strawbridge’s classic contender With You in the Prix des Reservoirs (G3).
Jimmy Durante (G3) winner Daddy Is a Legend is also not to be overlooked. When fourth to Rushing Fall in the Appalachian, the George Weaver trainee lost all chance with a terrible start, yet recovered enough to challenge before tiring. If new rider Irad Ortiz Jr. can help her get away in order, the Scat Daddy filly can bridge the gap. The Appalachian fifth and sixth, Beach Waltz and Heavenly Love, are likewise trying again. Beach Waltz captured a non-black type starter stakes two back at Gulfstream Park, while Heavenly Love has been disappointing since her Alcibiades (G1) victory.
Last-out Sanibel Island winner Figarella’s Queen has a whole new set of connections, with Qatar Racing, Hunter Valley Farm, and Marc Detampel acquiring her from Group 7 C Racing Stable. The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro and Grade 1 vixen Nereid accordingly switched from Gustavo Delgado to Brad Cox. The Cox barn is double-handed with Beyond Blame, whose only losses have come to Kabella. Riding a three-race winning streak at Fair Grounds, Kabella produced a last-to-first move to deny Beyond Blame in the Allen “Black Cat” Lacombe Memorial.
Other contenders include Got Stormy, third to Figarella’s Queen in the Sanibel Island; Neil Drysdale’s Toinette, another Scat Daddy filly who takes a class test off a Keeneland allowance win; and Bo Peep, who experiments with turf after a pair of fifths in the Honeybee and Fantasy.