Always run on the first Friday in May, or a day before the Kentucky Derby, the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks is one of the signature races at the famed Churchill Downs track in Louisville, KY and arguably the most notable race in the country for three-year-old fillies. Each year, the event attracts a crowd nearly equal that of the Kentucky Derby and is broadcast on national television.
Like the Derby, the Oaks was inaugurated in 1875 and has been run each year thereafter without interruption. The Oaks is run at the mile and one-eighth distance and was offered for a purse of $1 million in 2016.
Kentucky Oaks Entries
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As the featured event of the day, the Kentucky Oaks usually signifies the final leg of multirace exotic bets such as the Pick 4 and Pick 6. In addition, the Oaks features the full array of conventional and exotic bets with large pools generated from the heavy volume of wagering interest from around North America. A prelude to one of the biggest racing days of the year, the Kentucky Oaks is a gargantuan event in its own right. From massive on-track crowds to massive wagering pools, the Oaks gives players a chance to play at the highest level for the highest prizes. Past Kentucky Oaks winners include some of the very best fillies to ever grace the track from Rachel Alexandra (2009) to Rags to Riches (2007) to Wistful (1949). The Kentucky Oaks has evolved into an event that nearly rivals the Kentucky Derby in terms of anticipation and excitement.
As the track does with the Derby, Churchill Downs offers “future” bets on possible Oaks in the winter months leading up to the race.
Kentucky Oaks Picks
The mile and an eighth distance of the Kentucky Oaks is often limiting for many three-year-old fillies. Thus, a handicapper beginning a careful analysis of the contenders is well-served to focus on the issue stamina. Unlike the Kentucky Derby, horses based on the west coast have not fared as well in the Oaks in recent years. Since 2003, only one winner – Plum Pretty in 2011 – hailed from a west coast barn. East coast-based trainers Larry Jones and Todd Pletcher have each captured the Oaks three times in that span with Steve Asmussen winning twice.
Kentucky Oaks Results
Recent Oaks winners have gone on to prove themselves as historically brilliant fillies. Rachel Alexandra’s tour de force in 2009 was the filly’s coming out party as an elite talent. The Hal Wiggins trainee romped by a jaw-dropping 20 1/4-lengths while being guided to the wire by Calvin Borel in a canter. The superstar filly was sold privately following the race with Steve Asmussen taking over the training duties. Rachel Alexandra would defeat Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird in the Preakness in her next start, making her the first filly to win that race in 85 years.
Later in her three-year-old season, Rachel Alexandra would become the first filly or mare to win the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes – a race for older males.