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Kentucky Oaks Offers Showcase for Fillies

Added on: March 5, 2013

Everybody knows that for pure excitement on the first Saturday in May, it is hard to beat what the Kentucky Derby has to offer. But there are also big things happening on that first Friday in May as well. That is because the women step up to the starting gate for their own signature event, the Kentucky Oaks.

Only three fillies have ever won the Derby, and the field is usually very crowded, so this serves as a legitimate showcase for some of the best three-year-old female talent in the thoroughbred racing industry. It is top-of-the-line for certain, carrying Grade I status. And befitting that level of prestige, the winner of the race gets a purse of $600,000. Like the Kentucky Derby, the Kentucky Oaks had its first running back in 1875, and those two are the longest running sporting events in the country that have gone without interruption.

How popular is the Kentucky Oaks? Well, more people have attended this race than have attended Breeders Cup days at Churchill Downs. So it is nothing to sneeze at. Currently running at a mile and an eighth, the Oaks is the first leg in the Triple Tiara, which can be considered the female version of the Triple Crown, as it is followed by the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes and the Acorn Stakes. The biggest surprise to win the Oaks was Lemons Forever, who came across the finish line first as a 47-to-1 shot in 2006. But there are other fillies who have done just as expected, and much more.

One of the recent Oaks winners, Rachel Alexandra, did not capture the Triple Tiara, but that is because she had better and more lucrative things to do. This terrific Kentucky-bred made a mockery of the 2009 Oaks field, winning by a record 20 and one-quarter lengths, and it was clear she needed bigger challenges. Those challenges were met in the Preakness Stakes, which she won from the #13 pole position, becoming not only the first female Preakness winner in 85 years, but the only filly to capture both the Oaks and Preakness in the same year. Rachel Alexandra went on to win the Haskell and Woodward after that and was named Horse of the year for 2009.

History was made in 2012, as a filly rode a filly to an Oaks win. Rosie Napravnik won aboard Believe You Can, becoming the first female jockey to ride a winner in the biggest race for three-year-old females.