The 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Oaks is America’s premier race for 3-year-old fillies and is run each year on the eve of America’s greatest race, the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI). Like the Kentucky Derby, the Kentucky Oaks has been renewed each year without interruption since 1875 when the first racing meet was held at Churchill Downs, then known as the Louisville Jockey Club.
The 170 fillies nominated to the 2009 Kentucky Oaks is up from last year’s nomination total of 165, but down from the record of 192 nominations received in 2007.
Nominations to the Kentucky Oaks closed on Feb. 14, and required a nomination fee of $100. Supplemental nominations to the race will be accepted at the time of entry on Tuesday, April 28, for a fee of $25,000. The field for the Kentucky Oaks is restricted to 14 fillies. If a greater number of fillies should be entered, preference will be given to the fillies that have accumulated the highest earnings in graded stakes races.
Other recent stars who won the Kentucky Oaks on their way to 3-year-old championship honors include Ashado (2004), Bird Town (’03), Farda Amiga (’02), Silverbulletday (’99), Open Mind (’89), and Tiffany Lass (’86). Fillies that failed to win the Oaks but went on to earn Eclipse Award championship honors at the conclusion of their 3-year-old seasons include Wait A While (3rd in 2006), Banshee Breeze (2nd in ’98), and Go for Wand (2nd in 1990).
Stardom Bound, a gray Kentucky-bred daughter of Tapit, could provide Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel with his third win in the Kentucky Oaks. He notched earlier victories with John A. Chandler’s Keeper Hill in 1998 and Juddmonte Farm’s Flute in 2001. She finished second in the first two starts of her career last summer at Del Mar, but notched her first victory in an impressive 4 ¼-length romp in the Del Mar Debutante (GI), the first of an ongoing string of four consecutive Grade I victories. She has earned $1,420,600 and is also nominated to the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown.
A victory in the Kentucky Oaks by Stardom Bound would make her only the third filly since the Eclipse Awards were established in 1971 to follow her championship season at two with a win in the Kentucky Oaks. Open Mind and Silverbulletday, both finalists for the 2009 class that will enter racing’s Hall of Fame, are the only fillies to have achieved the rare double.
Other major stakes winners nominated to the 135th Kentucky Oaks include L & M Parnters, LLC’s Rachel Alexandra, winner of the Golden Rod (GII) at Churchill Downs; Winchell Thoroughbreds, LLC’s War Echo, winner of the Silverbulletday (GIII) at Fair Grounds; Livin the Dream Racing, LLC’s Dream Empress, winner of Keeneland’s Darley Alcibiades (GI) and runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies; Halo Farms and Three Sisters Thoroughbreds’ Evita Argentina, who defeated males in the recent San Vicente (GII) at Santa Anita; IEAH Stables, Gary Tolchin and Pegasus Holding Group Stables’ Laragh, winner of the Hollywood Starlet (GI); Frizette (GI) winner Sky Diva; Forward Gal (GII) winner Frolic’s Dream; and Delta Princess (GIII) winner Four Gifts.
Four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher nominated 12 fillies as he bids for his third victory in the race. Pletcher won the Kentucky Oaks in 2004 with Ashado and 2007 with Rags to Riches.
A crowd of 100,046 – the ninth-largest in Kentucky Oaks history – braved rainy weather to watch the J. Larry Jones-trained Proud Spell rally to win the 2008 Kentucky Oaks. The victory was the first in the Kentucky Oaks for owner-breeder Jones, the former governor of Kentucky; trainer and Hopkinsville, Ky. native J. Larry Jones; and jockey Gabriel Saez.
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 Global Select Market: CHDN) also operates Trackside at Churchill Downs, which offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. Churchill Downs will conduct the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 2, 2009. The track’s 2009 Spring Meet is scheduled for April 25-July 5. Churchill Downs has hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships a record six times, and will host the international racing championship again on Nov. 5-6, 2010. Information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at http://www.churchilldowns.com.