By Keith Pettyjohn — This year’s Kentucky Oaks is shaping up to showcase one of the best fields we’ve seen in many years.
If it were any year other than the strange, unusual and unpredictable 2020, one of the following several fillies would have gone to the post as heavy favorite to win this three-year-old filly classic.
Let’s take a closer look through a Class-Based Performance Rating prism to see how the leading ladies of the Oaks stack up:
The top performance in the field belongs to Swiss Skydiver and earned a 100 for her handy effort in the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes at a mile and a quarter, August 15th. So she’ll be cutting back by an eighth of a mile, which obviously should not be an issue.
Prior to the Alabama, she finished second in the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland behind Art Collector, who looks to be the second choice behind Tiz the Law to win Kentucky Derby-146.
In that race she earned a 96, so there’s definitely no discrediting her second-place finish to such a promising young colt. She and the brilliant Gamine will vie for favoritism.
The next best Class Performance Rating goes to Speech. This young filly appears to be the forgotten talent in this lineup.
Speech doesn’t get the press that key rivals Swiss Skydiver and Gamine do, but her Performance Rating of 99 while winning Keeneland’s Grade 1 Ashland Stakes last month proves she belongs in this company and has enough talent to win the Oaks at a very decent price.
Note that she was defeated by a neck to Gamine in a high level allowance race at Oaklawn Park in May, but since has grown, matured, and has proven herself to be a very solid racehorse.
Trainer Mike McCarthy, enjoying much recent success, will have her primed and ready for the toughest test of her career.
Next, the aforementioned Gamine. She comes into this race undefeated in four career starts. Her top Performance Rating of 96 came in Saratoga’s Grade 1 Test Stakes, August 8.
That race was seven furlongs and around one turn, of course, so we’ll have to see how she’ll handle the added quarter of a mile and a second turn.
Surely Bob Baffert will have her prepared to give her best on the day. Many believe that she will be the post-time favorite as many speed-figure makers give her the edge based of her two most recent starts.
Bonny South, who was soundly beaten by Swiss Skydiver in the Alabama Stakes earning a 95 Performance Rating, nevertheless seems to have taken a step forward.
After showing much promise in her win in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks in March, she has been moving in the right direction.
Brad Cox has proven himself to be one of the most productive trainers in the game. There’s no doubt he will have her fit and ready to fire.
This brings us to Venetian Harbor. Her best Performance Rating is a 94 and, even though she appears to be a cut below her main rivals, is still a very solid filly.
Going a mile and one eighth against this kind of competition might not suit her talents best, but she still deserves a hard look and serious consideration in vertical exotics.
This field has enough quality to guarantee the 2020 Oaks will be one helluva horse race.
Whatever you decide, good luck, good gambling and remember that when playing this game…“It Only Takes One.”