An undefeated runner, a filly who has never been worse than second, and a Grade 1 winner seeking to improve her 3-year-old form will come together March 30 for the $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots -- all with hopes of launching a bid for the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs.
Five of the last eight winners of the 1 1/16-mile Fair Grounds Oaks -- the filly equivalent of the Louisiana Derby -- have gone on to victory in Churchill's Kentucky Oaks on the first Friday in May. The most recent was Brereton Jones's Believe You Can, who accomplished the double Oaks parlay last spring. This year's edition of the Fair Grounds Oaks, to be run as race seven with an approximate post time of 4:20 p.m. CDT, is worth 100 points to the winner under Churchill Downs' new qualifying system for the May 3 Kentucky Oaks field.
FAIR GROUNDS OAKS DRAW
Rachel Alexandra Stakes winner Unlimited Budget is the contender who has never been beaten in her three starts for Repole Stable and trainer Todd Pletcher including that 3 3/4-length tally last month and a 1 1/4-length victory in the Demoiselle Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack in November. The sophomore daughter of Street Sense will be ridden by Javier Castellano from the outside post in a field of seven.
At 9-5 on the morning line, Unlimited Budget is second choice behind 6-5 favorite Flashy Gray, runner-up in the the March 9 Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Prior to her 2 3/4-length finish behind Rose to Gold in Arkansas after chasing the pace throughout, the well-traveled Flashy Bull filly made her sophomore debut Feb. 10 at Gulfstream Park with a 4 3/4-length allowance win earned by a three-wide move after chasing the leader. It was her second straight victory; she broke her maiden with an impressive 10 1/4-length tally in her second start as a juvenile Nov. 8 at Churchill Downs.
Flashy Gray, set to break from post 5, is conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott for West Point Thoroughbreds and Tom Keithley, and will have Junior Alvarado in the saddle.
Not to be discounted is Maggi Moss's So Many Ways, who won the Spinaway Stakes and the Schuylerville last summer at Saratoga Race Course to complete an undefeated juvenile campaign which she launched with an eight-length score at Parx Racing. Established as the 6-1 third choice in the early Oaks line, the daughter of Sightseeing suffered from a poor start in her only appearance as a sophomore in a minor stakes at Gulfstream March 1 and finished third.
So Many Ways, assigned post 4, is trained by Anthony Dutrow and will be ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr.
Completing the field are Holt Racing and partners' Promise Me More, Naveed Chowhan's Seaneen Girl, Susan Knoll's Blue Violet, and Valene Farm's Ante Up Annie.