How much of a connection does the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies have to the Kentucky Oaks?

October 30th, 2023

Dating back to the inaugural running of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) in 1984, just two horses have returned off victories in the race to win the Kentucky Oaks (G1) the following season.

The two horses to accomplish the Juvenile Fillies/Kentucky Oaks double are the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Open Mind (winner of the 1989 Oaks) and Bob Baffert pupil Silverbulletday, the 1999 Oaks heroine.

There was nearly a third runner to join the exclusive list, but the first-place finisher in the inaugural Juvenile Fillies in 1984, Fran's Valentine, was disqualified and placed 10th.

The following season, the California-bred opened her three-year-old campaign with a win in the Las Virgenes (G3) at Santa Anita, followed by a victory in the Santa Susana (G1), now known as the Santa Anita Oaks. She next came home fifth in the Ashland (G2) at Keeneland before her triumph in the Kentucky Oaks.

Kentucky Oaks WinnersJuvenile Fillies Finish
Fran's Valentine (1985)
1st, DQ'd to 10th
Open Mind (1989)
Lite Light (1991)
Sardula (1994)
Silverbulletday (1999)
Ashado (2004)
Blind Luck (2010)
Untapable (2014)
Serengeti Empress (2019)

Few Juvenile Fillies winners have raced in the Kentucky Oaks

Since Silverbulletday scored the Juvenile Fillies/Oaks double, just seven Juvenile Fillies winners have gone on to even race in the Kentucky Oaks.

The 1999 hero of the Juvenile Fillies, Cash Run, finished 13th of 14 in the 2000 Oaks, while 2006 Juvenile Fillies victress Dreaming of Anna was sixth in the Oaks the next season.

In 2012, three-time Breeders' Cup champ Beholder was just barely denied the Juvenile Fillies/Oaks double when she was beaten a half-length by 39-1 longshot Princess of Sylmar. Beholder went on to win 12 of her next 13 starts; the exception being a fourth in the 2014 Ogden Phipps (G1).

Dating back to 2013, just four Juvenile Fillies winners have competed in the Kentucky Oaks, with 2021 Juvenile Fillies champion Echo Zulu performing best of those four in the Oaks with a fourth-place finish. The other three Juvenile Fillies winners to race in the Oaks over the last decade are Ria Antonia (sixth in the 2014 Oaks), Jaywalk (sixth but disqualified to 13th in the 2019 Oaks), and Wonder Wheel (ninth in the 2023 Oaks).

Serengeti Empress the last Juvenile Fillies also-ran to win the Oaks

As for Kentucky Oaks winners who had previously raced in the Juvenile Fillies but did not win the Breeders' Cup event, 1991 Oaks winner Lite Light was 12th in the two-year-old race, 1994 Oaks heroine Sardula was second by a head in the Juvenile Fillies, and 2004 Oaks winner Ashado was second by 2 1/2 lengths to post-time favorite Halfbridled at two as well.

In 2009, Blind Luck came home third as the favorite in the Juvenile Fillies, 2014 Oaks winner Untapable was eighth in the Juvenile Fillies, and Serengeti Empress finished seventh in the 2018 running of the Breeders' Cup event.

While there has not been much cross-over between the winner of the Juvenile Fillies and the eventual Kentucky Oaks champ, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies has a significant connection to the Eclipse Award for two-year-old female. All but four of the horses who visited the winner's circle in the Juvenile Fillies have gone on to collect American Champion Two-Year-Old Filly honors.

Maybe this year we'll see a filly buck the trend, but chances are the winner of Churchill Downs' prestigious race for three-year-old fillies will come from another prep along the Road to the Kentucky Oaks.