Discover what has led to an enticing and unprecedented Kentucky Oaks…
The postponement of the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Kentucky Oaks (G1) this year from May to September has resulted in two scenarios that likely wouldn’t have come about if both races had been run when originally scheduled.
The extra time has allowed Tiz the Law to rack up further impressive wins in the Belmont S. (G1) and Travers (G1) to go along with earlier scores in the Holy Bull (G3) and Florida Derby (G1). For the first time in nearly three decades, we might have a horse flirting with odds-on favoritism in the Derby.
On the Oaks side we have a tantalizing showdown looming between Gamine and Swiss Skydiver, a brilliant one-turn filly versus one that has conquered all before her from coast-to-coast over four starts, plus run second against the boys in a highly-rated edition of the Blue Grass (G2).
We don’t yet know how the rest of the season will play out for either of them, but this Oaks could very well determine the 3-year-old filly championship.
Could the Oaks be more than just a two-horse race, though?
The likely third choice in the Oaks, Speech, perhaps has a better shot than you might initially think. Although she’s lost to both protagonists already this season, the circumstances surrounding both are entirely forgivable.
Before Gamine throttled her foes in the Acorn (G1) and Test (G1), she tried two turns for the one and only time to date in a 1 1/16-mile allowance at Oaklawn Park on the May 2 Arkansas Derby undercard. Speech gave Gamine the most serious scare of her racetrack life, just missing by a neck in a race that on raw time was faster than the previous day’s Fantasy (G3) won by Swiss Skydiver. And as we all know, Speech was later elevated to first after Gamine was disqualified due to an excessive amounts of lidocaine that showed up in her post-race test.
As fast as Gamine is, there remain some questions regarding how far she wants to go, especially if she’s the one setting a fast pace. The 1 1/8-mile distance of the Kentucky Oaks could potentially favor Speech in the rematch.
Speech subsequently met Swiss Skydiver in the June 6 Santa Anita Oaks (G2) over 1 1/16 miles. Speech had little tactical chance, finishing second by four lengths in a paceless affair which Swiss Skydiver took control of from the start. It wasn’t the first time Swiss Skydiver took advantage of such circumstances, having done so two starts earlier in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2).
To her credit, Speech put those two losses aside in the July 11 Ashland (G1) at Keeneland, cruising to a three-length victory in track-record time of 1:41.26 for 1 1/16 miles. While the main track was well-baked during Keeneland’s abbreviated five-day summer meet as two other marks also fell, Speech still earned a comparatively favorable 104 Brisnet Speed rating.
There’s no question that Speech, who seems less physically imposing than either Gamine or Swiss Skydiver, has some improving to do to turn the tables and pull off a minor Oaks upset. However, there are signs of hope for her.
The Ashland showed she’s definitely improved and quicker than she was earlier in the year. She could get a fairer pace scenario in the Oaks with Gamine potentially winging and Swiss Skydiver not far behind, and she’ll enter the Oaks a relatively fresh horse with nearly a two-month break in between starts.
With raceday odds presumably in the 5-1 to 8-1 range, Speech might have something to say in the Kentucky Oaks.