Although it has been 22 years since the Fair Grounds produced a Kentucky Derby winner, it is the track to watch for Kentucky Oaks hopefuls. Five of the last 10 winners had some kind of prep at the Louisiana course, with Santa Anita and Keeneland also having three winners each come from their preps. Oaklawn Park has produced two and the programs at Sunland Park, Gulfstream Park, and Aqueduct have one each.
In 2009, Rachel Alexandra started the season at Oaklawn, winning the Martha Washington, before shipping to the Fair Grounds to take the Fair Grounds Oaks on March 14. She then went back to Oaklawn to win the Fantasy Stakes before winning in Kentucky by 20 ¼ lengths. She went on to have one of the best sophomore campaigns in history.
Blind Luck, another standout and a dual grade 1 winner at two, won the Last Virgenes at Santa Anita in February, missed the Santa Anita Oaks by two necks to be third, then took the Fantasy Stakes, making consecutive winners from that race.
Plum Pretty took an unusual route; the 2011 Oaks winner had finished third twice at Santa Anita when she went to Sunland Park and took their Oaks prep by 25 lengths. She parlayed that into a victory at Churchill Downs.
In 2012, Believe You Can won the Silverbulletday Stakes at the Fair Grounds in January, finished fourth in the newly named Rachel Alexandra Stakes, and then won the Fair Grounds Oaks. She skipped having a last prep at either Oaklawn or Keeneland and went straight to the winner’s circle for the Oaks.
Princess of Sylmar hailed from New York; the 2013 winner had won two in a row as a juvenile before adding the Busanda Stakes on January 5. This year’s Busanda was just run February 3. After the Busanda, Princess of Sylmar was second in the Gazelle April 6, beaten more than three lengths, but she turned it around with a surprising Kentucky win.
Untapable went unbeaten at the Fair Grounds her sophomore season; she won the Rachel Alexandra and the Fair Grounds Oaks, then had April off before her win. Untapable went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Distaff that year (2014).
Lovely Maria (2015) was sent off at 6-1 in Kentucky despite winning an allowance at the Fair Grounds and the Ashland Stakes on April 4. She did lost the Rachel Alexandra in February, but did run second. That was the Oaks that favored Stellar Wind hailed from California but could do no better than fourth.
Cathryn Sophia won both the Forward Gal and the Davona Dale at Gulfstream Park before running third in the Ashland. She was beaten that day by a 30-1 shot, Weep No More, who could do no better than seventh in the Oaks.
Abel Tasman had one of the more illustrious careers of any filly in the last decade. A grade 1 winner at two, she lost both her Oaks preps when second twice at Santa Anita, March 4 and April 8. But before her losses she had won three in a row at two, and went on to win three grade 1’s in a row at three.
Most recently came Monomoy Girl in 2018. Unbeaten at three, she won the Rachel Alexandra at the Fair Grounds and the Ashland at Keeneland. Those races by far produce the most Kentucky Oaks winners of the last decade, so keep an eye on them this season.
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