Time to talk about the three-year-old fillies.
The depth of potential talent doesn’t appear to be as great as on the colts’ side and unlike Untapable last year, who you were simply counting days and hoping she’d remain sound until she’d win the Kentucky Oaks, there is no clear cut or dominating filly to emerge as of today. The logical place to start is with 2014’s winning Juvenile Fillies Breeders’ Cup and Two-Year-Old Filly Eclipse Award winner Take Charge Brandi. Since her Breeders’ Cup win, she has raced and won repeatedly. And this week, her owner Willis Horton, announced he was considering running her in the Rebel Stakes (Oaklawn Park’s second most important Derby prep race), March 7 instead of the Honeybee Stakes for three-year-old fillies on the Rebel undercard.
Good luck with that. Take Charge Brandi is a fine filly and apparently training well, but she’s never shown me anything in her races that would make me think she’d be at all successful against the colts. In her last victory, the one-mile Martha Washington, also at Oaklawn, she barely won over a small field of fillies she should have handily trounced. And while they are still relatively unproven, this crop of three-year-old colts seems to be sitting on unlimited potential, chief among them American Pharoah, who is scheduled to ship in from Santa Anita and make the Rebel his 2015 season debut. Prior to injury before the Breeders’ Cup, American Pharoah had easily defeated…Texas Red in the FrontRunner Stakes last fall. And Texas Red then went on to air and then some in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winning by 13+ lengths. Take Charge Brandi, who to her credit, led her Breeders’ Cup race almost from the gate and was tenacious at the end, won by a nose. I will give Mr. Horton great credit in that he was forthright enough to indicate that taking a shot in the Rebel was as much a financial move as anything else. I believe he said even a third place finish in the Rebel would bring home a bigger purse than a win in the Honeybee. All things being and remaining equal, if Take Charge Brandi could win the Rebel over American Pharoah or one of the other colts contesting the Rebel, she’s some kind of filly and she’d solidify her role as the horse to beat for the Oaks, and I dare say somewhat throw the Derby futures in to some disarray!
It’s a bit of a tie in my mind as to the filly I’d rank second best en route to the Oaks. I’m A Chatterbox and Condo Commando are almost one in the same for me at this point, although I think I’d give a slight edge to I’m A Chatterbox. Chatterbox has impressively scored back to back wins at the Fair Grounds in the Silverbulletday and Rachel Alexandra Stakes. She’s trained by Larry Jones and that is an advantage in and of itself (Eight Belles and 2011 Horse of the Year Harve de Grace. Sidenote: Last weekend was my first chance to see Larry interviewed since a life-threatening fall he took while exercising a horse last summer and he looked and sounded great for which I, and I’m sure many others are grateful as he’s a fine horseman and sport ambassador). I’m A Chatterbox looks like a filly that’s on the upswing and enjoying her work.
Condo Commander put on a commanding performance February 21 at Aqueduct in the Busher Stakes. In her season debut she took the lead early and never relinquished it to win by almost five lengths. This was her first start in 2015 and she picked up where she left off in her last race in 2014, a victory in the Demoiselle Stakes. My only knock/concern/question is both those victories came on tracks that I believe were in varying degrees of being off; let’s say just less than fast. But I also recall her maiden win at Saratoga coming over a fast track, so this is a minor quibble for now.
A filly that has impressed me and that I’ll continue to watch w/interest is the Dale Romans’ trained Birdatthewire. Her name about says it all as she’s a late-running filly that is flying from well off the pace as the wire approaches. Last weekend she came up just short in the Davona Dale Stakes at Gulfstream Park to another tenacious runner that had led through most of the race, Ekati’s Phaeton. Both fillies might be more natural milers (the distance of the Davona Dale), but being a daughter of a horse near and dear to my heart, 2009 Belmont, Travers, and Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes winner Summer Bird, I believe she can get the Oaks’ 1 1/16. That extra half furlong might be just what she needs to snatch the victory!
Angela Renee and Puca, two fillies that showed promise in 2014 also ran last Saturday, both with fourth place finishes in the Rachel Alexandra and Davona Dale Stakes, respectively.
If the Kentucky Derby appears unclear and uncertain at this point, the Kentucky Oaks side is equally muddled. Perhaps a new candidate or clear leader will emerge from today’s Santa Ysabel Stakes at Santa Anita Park. We shall see.