Four of the remaining five races in the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series of prep races take place this weekend, and some top contenders for the May 4 Kentucky Oaks (G1) are lining up.
The three races on Saturday are each worth 100-40-20-10 points while the one on Sunday will award a miniscule 10-4-2-1.
The $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks (G1) drew the largest field, with nine sophomore fillies entered to go 1 1/16 miles on Saturday.
Midnight Bisou faces off against the runner-up and third-place finisher from the March 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes (G3) yet again. The Bill Spawr-trained miss ran second by a nose in a Santa Anita Park maiden and Desi Arnaz Stakes at Del Mar last year, before breaking her maiden in the Santa Ynez Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita in her sophomore debut on January 7. She followed that with a 2 1/4-length win in the Santa Ysabel most recently under returning jockey Mike Smith.
Thirteen Squared will do her best to derail Midnight Bisou after running second throughout the Santa Ysabel. That was the Bob Baffert pupil’s second stakes tries after she finished fourth in the Las Virgenes Stakes (G2) in her February 4 three-year-old bow. The dark bay daughter of Liaison wired her maiden in her juvenile finale at Laurel Park by 6 3/4 lengths and keeps Tyler Baze in the irons Saturday.
Spring Lily was well-beaten in third in the Santa Ysabel, eight lengths behind Thirteen Squared, while making her stakes bow and second start for new trainer John Shirreffs. The Union Rags filly finished sixth in her career debut at Del Mar last November from the shedrow of Cliff Sise Jr., but showed up in early February to break her maiden by five front-running lengths under Shirreffs’ tutelage. Victor Espinoza takes the mount on the chestnut lass for the first time here.
Exuberance broke her maiden by 6 1/2 lengths for conditioner Ian Kruljac going a mile at Santa Anita last October. She concluded 2017 with a fourth-placing in the Starlet Stakes (G1) at Los Alamitos, and reappeared most recently to rally for second in the Las Virgenes. Corey Nakatani has the return call in this spot.
Also entered in the Santa Anita Oaks are Spectator, whose only loss from four career starts thus far came as a third-placing in last September’s Del Mar Debutante (G1), and We All Have Dreams, a seven-length maiden winner in her second outing most recently on March 11.
Completing the Santa Anita Oaks field are French-bred Finess Bere, fourth in a trio of stakes since arriving in the United States last fall; allowance/optional claiming winner First Dudette; and maiden scorer Fool’s Paradise.
If a winter storm doesn’t cause problems on Saturday, Keeneland’s $500,000 Ashland Stakes (G1) will feature seven runners hoping to earn enough points to make the Kentucky Oaks field.
Monomoy Girl is the 4-5 morning-line favorite off her 2 1/2-length victory in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds. That was the Brad Cox trainee’s seasonal debut after she wrapped up 2017 with a neck second in the Golden Rod Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs. The Tapizar chestnut captured her three races prior to that by a combined 11 1/2 lengths, including the Rags to Riches Stakes under the Twin Spires, and retains the services of Florent Geroux here.
Patrona Margarita finished fourth in the Rachel Alexandra most recently, one race after taking last September’s Pocahontas Stakes (G2) at Churchill by 3 3/4 lengths. The Bret Calhoun charge also broke her maiden under the Twin Spires last June and will have Brian Hernandez Jr. holding the reins for the fourth straight time in this spot.
C. S. Incharge and Andina Del Sur both exit stakes wins but aren’t getting much respect on the morning line at 10-1 and 6-1, respectively. The former, a Dale Romans-trained daughter of Take Charge Indy, captured the Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on February 10 and reunites with jockey Luis Saez, who piloted her to a 3 1/2-length wire job in her maiden win two back. Conditioner Tom Albertrani sends out Andina Del Sur to make her dirt debut after the Giant’s Causeway miss has run up a 4-2-0-0 career mark on turf thus far. The chestnut lass rallied to take the Florida Oaks (G3) most recently under returning jockey Julien Leparoux.
Eskimo Kisses is the 2-1 second choice in the Ashland off a head second in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) on March 24. That was the Kenny McPeek pupil’s first stakes try and followed an 11-length allowance/optional claiming score at Oaklawn Park a month earlier. Geroux was aboard for the Fair Grounds Oaks, but opted to stick with Monomoy Girl here, which allows Corey Lanerie to take the mount on Eskimo Kisses Saturday.
Martha Washington Stakes fourth-placer Tyfosha and maiden Ipanema Beach round out the Ashland field.
Aqueduct’s $300,000 Gazelle Stakes (G2) is one of only four preps on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks that actually go the 1 1/8-mile distance of the Oaks.
Six fillies are scheduled to head to the gate on Saturday, including Midnight Disguise. The Midnight Lute filly pupil captured both the Busanda Stakes, one of the other nine-furlong races, and Busher Stakes in her past two by easy lengths for trainer Linda Rice. Trevor McCarthy was aboard for both those starts and stays in the saddle.
Sara Street was second in the Busher most recently after leading for a brief time in the stretch. The Kiaran McLaughlin trainee finished 1 1/4 lengths in front of the re-opposing My Miss Lilly, who entered the Busher off another third-placing from the Forward Gal Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park. Dylan Davis has the call on Sara Street while conditioner Mark Hennig has tabbed Joe Bravo to pilot My Miss Lilly.
The Todd Pletcher-trained Mo Shopping will try to turn the tables on unbeaten Smokinpaddylassie in this spot after finishing third by 3 1/4 lengths to that Ed Coletti Jr.-conditioned rival last out in the Beyond the Wire Stakes. John Velazquez rides Mo Shopping and John Bisono pilots Smokinpaddylassie.
Virginia Key makes her stakes bow in the Gazelle off a third-place run in a Gulfstream Park allowance on March 9. The Pletcher pupil completes the Gazelle field with Flavien Prat taking the reins for the first time.
The $150,000 Beaumont Stakes (G3) at Keeneland on Sunday is only contested at seven furlongs and won’t have much impact on the Kentucky Oaks field.
Nine runners were entered in the contest, including undefeated Dream It Is, Happy Like a Fool and Summer Sunday, who are each making their seasonal bows in this spot.
Dream It Is was last seen taking the Schuylerville Stakes (G3) at Saratoga in July for Barbara Minshalll while well-traveled Happy Like a Fool captured the Matron Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park in October by 2 1/4 lengths for Wesley Ward. Summer Sunday, who gets first-time Lasix on Sunday, is also unbeaten after three starts over Woodbine’s synthetic Tapeta last year, including a four-length win in the August 30 Muskoka Stakes.
Luis Saez rides Dream It Is for the first time, Tyler Gaffalione returns to Happy Like a Fool’s saddle and horseman Stuart Simon has tabbed Julien Leparoux to pilot Summer Sunday.
The Peter Eurton-trained Uppercut and Richard Baltas-conditioned Gas Station Sushi each face winners for the first time here. Uppercut wired her maiden debut by 5 3/4 lengths under returning jockey Mike Smith on February 17 at Santa Anita Park while Gas Station Sushi scored in her initial outing last August 6 at Del Mar by 3 1/2 lengths under Corey Nakatani, who retains the mount.
Finishing out the Beaumont field are recent Bourbonette Oaks (G3) runner-up In the Mood; multiple stakes-placed Upset Brewing; Kelly’s Humor, who hasn’t competed since running 10th in the Golden Rod Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs in November; and Sunny Skies, well-beaten in her last pair of starts against graded rivals.