Five grade I winners plus the best 3-year-old fillies from South Florida and New Orleans make up part of a deep field of 14 fillies and one also-eligible entered for Friday’s 141st running of the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks.
The Oaks will go as the 11th race on Friday’s 12-race program that begins at 10:30 a.m. ET. Post time for the Oaks is 5:49 p.m. The winner of the race will collect $564,200.
Coming off grade I victories into the Oaks are Stellar Wind, the morning-line favorite at 7-2, and Lovely Maria.
Trained by John Sadler, Stellar Wind won the Santa Anita Oaks by 5 1/4 lengths in her most recent start and brings a 4-3-0-1 record into the Oaks. Victor Espinoza, who has been aboard for the filly’s past two starts, has the mount Friday and will break from post position 12.
Lovely Maria, the fourth choice on the line at 5-1, won the Ashland at Keeneland in her most recent start and will partnered in the Oaks by regular pilot Kerwin Clark and break from position 7.
Lovely Maria is trained by Larry Jones, who also will saddle I’m a Chatterbox. Jones has won the Oaks twice, both times for owner Brereton Jones with victories in 2008 with Proud Spell and 2012 with Believe You Can.
I’m a Chatterbox, co-second choice on the morning line at 4-1, swept the Fair Grounds series for 3-year-old fillies by taking the Silverbulletday, Rachel Alexandra and Fair Grounds Oaks by a combined 13 lengths. Florent Geroux was aboard for all three victories and will ride Friday, breaking from post position 8.
Fantasy winner Include Betty is trained by Tom Proctor and will be ridden by Rosemary Homeister Jr. and break from post position 3.
Other grade I fillies in the field are Condo Commando and Angela Renee.
Condo Commando has won five of six career starts including a score in last summer’s Spinaway at Saratoga. Joel Rosario, who rode Condo Commando to victory in the Gazelle in her most recent start, has the mount Friday and will break from post position 5. She is the co-second choice on the morning line at 4-1.
Angela Renee won the Chandelier last fall at Santa Anita and most recently was second to Lovely Maria in the Ashland. She is one of two fillies in the race for trainer Todd Pletcher, who also will send out Eskenformoney.
Pletcher is seeking his fourth victory in the Oaks having won previously with Ashado (2004), Rags to Riches (2007) and Princess of Sylmar (2013).
John Velazquez, whose lone Oaks victory came on Ashado, has the mount on Angela Renee and break from post position 6. Javier Castellano will ride Eskenformoney and break from post position 4.
The dominant filly from Gulfstream Park this year is Birdatthewire. Trained by Dale Romans, Birdatthewire won the Forward Gal and Gulfstream Park Oaks and was second in the Davona Dale. Irad Ortiz Jr., who was aboard for the two Gulfstream victories, has the mount Friday and will break from post position 13.
In addition to Velazquez, three other riders will be trying to add to their Oaks win totals.
Two-time winner Gary Stevens (Tiffany Lass, 1986 and Silverbulletday, 1999) has the mount on Sarah Sis for trainer Ingrid Mason.
Rafael Bejarano (Blind Luck, 2010) has the mount on Oceanwave for trainer Wayne Catalano, and Mike Smith (Princess of Sylmar, 2013) will ride Forever Unbridled for Dallas Stewart.
Stewart as well as Steve Asmussen will be looking to add to their Oaks victory totals. Stewart won with Lemons Forever, the dam of Forever Unbridled, in 2006. Asmussen won with Summerly in 2005 and last year with Untapable.
When the post positions were drawn, Darren Rogers of Churchill Downs said the race is so competitive, oddsmaker Mike Battaglia had a tough time making the morning line.
The field for the 141st Longines Kentucky Oaks: Forever Unbridled (Mike Smith, 15-1), Shook Up (Robby Albarado, 30-1), Include Betty (Rosemary Homeister Jr., 20-1), Esekenformoney (Javier Castellano, 20-1), Condo Commando (Joel Rosario, 4-1), Angela Renee (John Velazquez, 15-1), Lovely Maria (Kerwin Clark, 5-1), I’m a Chatterbox (Florent Geroux, 4-1), Money’soncharlotte (Paco Lopez, 50-1), Oceanwave (Rafael Bejarano, 30-1), Sarah Sis (Gary Stevens, 30-1), Stellar Wind (Victor Espinoza, 7-2), Birdatthewire (Irad Ortiz Jr., 6-1) and Puca (Junior Alvarado, 15-1). Also-eligible: Peace and War (Julien Leparoux, 50-1). All starters will carry 121 pounds.
Edited Churchill Downs release