The 1 1/8-mile Oaks, which will offer its record $1 million purse for the second consecutive year, is scheduled for Friday, May 4. The race is renewed each year on the eve of the $2 million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI), America's greatest race. Both have been run annually without interruption since their debut during the first Churchill Downs race meet in May 1875.
Nominations of 3-year-old fillies to compete in the Kentucky Oaks must be accompanied by a fee of $200 before Saturday's deadline. Churchill Downs also will offer a late nomination period for the Oaks. Late nominations must be accompanied by a $1,500 fee and must be made by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, April 11. Supplemental entries to the Kentucky Oaks also will be accepted at the time of entry, but require a fee of $50,000.
The field for the Kentucky Oaks is limited to 14 starters, with preference given to entrants that have accumulated the highest earnings in graded stakes races.
The early nomination period for the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic requires a nomination fee of $100. A late nomination period, which requires a $1,000 nomination fee, will close on Wednesday, April 11. Supplemental nominations may be made at the time of entry for a fee of $25,000. The Woodford Reserve Turf Classic is limited to 14 starters.
The early nomination roster for last year's 137th running of the Kentucky Oaks won by Peachtree Stable's Plum Pretty included 117 fillies. The daughter of Medaglia d'Oro was the second Oaks winner saddled by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert and provided jockey Martin Garcia with his first victory in the race.
Plum Pretty was a finalist for the Eclipse Award for top 3-year-old filly of 2011 earned by runaway winner Royal Delta, winner of the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic. But the winner of the Kentucky Oaks in recent years has been a strong contender for that honor.
Three fillies were made eligible in the late nomination phase, including eventual Kentucky Oaks runner-up St. John's River. The late nominees lifted the overall nomination total to 120.
Blind Luck, the winner of the race in 2011, was the fourth consecutive Kentucky Oaks winner to earn an Eclipse Award for champion 3-year-old filly. That streak of Oaks-winning champions included 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), and Go for Wand (2nd in '90) and Wayward Lass (3rd in '81).
Seventy-nine horses populated 2011 early nomination list for the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic. Six more nominees were added during the late nomination phase.
The Woodford Reserve Turf Classic has attracted many of America's most accomplished grass stars since reigning Eclipse Award turf champion Manila won its first running beneath Churchill Downs' historic Twin Spires in 1987. Manila had won the Breeders' Cup Turf (GI) in 1986, defeating such luminaries as Theatrical, Estrapade and European star Dancing Brave in that effort. Other American turf champions that have competed in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic include Paradise Creek, winner of the Turf Classic during his 1994 championship campaign, and 1992 Eclipse Award turf champion Sky Classic, runner-up to Cudas in that year's Turf Classic renewal. Einstein won the 2008-09 runnings of the race and is the only two-time Woodford Reserve Turf Classic winner in its 24-year history. 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.
Last year's running of the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic was won by Sullimar Stable's Get Stormy, who was trained by Tom Bush and ridden by Eclipse Award winner Ramon Dominguez.