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Road to The Kentucky Oaks
Kentucky Oaks Qualifying Series
Based on much the same formula for qualifying as the Kentucky Derby, the Oaks differs in that the field of three-year-old fillies is restricted to 14 starters - as opposed to 20 for the Derby - and thus there are fewer qualifying races.
In addition, while the Road to the Kentucky Derby provides a chance for one horse to qualify in the UK and another in Japan, all the Oaks qualifying races take place in the United States, with the exception of the UAE Oaks, which is held at Meyden Race Course in Dubai.
In total, there are 30 Kentucky Oaks qualifying races, which began with the Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs, run on September 17 of 2017, and ending with the Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas on April 13, three weeks before the big race.
Kentucky Oaks Points System
Just as with the Derby qualifying series, the Road to the Kentucky Oaks awards points to the top four finishers in all the qualifying races. The first 15 races, from the Pocahontas through to the Martha Washington Stakes at Oaklawn on February 10, award points on a 10-4-2-1 scale. The lone exception is the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, which awarded points of 20-8-4-2.
Seven of the next nine races - from the Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds in New Orleans on February 24 through to the Sunland Park Oaks at Sunland Park in New Mexico on March 25, give points on a 50-20-10-5 scale. The two exceptions are the Bourbonette Oaks at Turfway Park on March 17 that has a 20-8-4-2 scale, and the Fair Grounds Oaks that awards 100-40-20-10.
Five of the last six races in the qualifying series award points on a 100-40-20-10 basis. These include the Gulfstream Park Oaks from Florida on March 31, and the Ashland Stakes, the Santa Anita Oaks and the Gazelle Stakes, all of which take place on April 7.
Obviously, the later races in the series are more valuable than the early races on terms of points, and much like the Derby series, it's possible for a filly to qualify for the Oaks off the strength of a single win or even a runner-up finish in one of the later races. Two years ago the final qualifier in the field needed 40 points, while last year the final qualifier got in with a mere 16.
The 2017 Kentucky Oaks winner, Able Tasman, qualified for the race on the strength of two runner-up finishes in both the Santa Ysabel Stakes and Santa Anita Oaks for a total of 80 points, while the 2016 winner, Cathryn Sophia qualified with 70 points by winning the Forward Gal and Davona Dale Stakes, and finishing third in the Ashland Stakes.
It's notable that the top qualifier in 2016, Songbird, missed the race after coming down with a fever just a couple weeks beforehand and was then unable to train. The top qualifier in 2017, Farrell, finished dead last of the 14 runners, on a rainy day in Kentucky when the race was run on an almost impossibly sloppy track.
As of January 22, with 20 qualifying races to go, 2017 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Caledonia Road tops the leaderboard with 24 points. She's followed by Wonder Gadot (14 points), Alluring Star and Seperationofpowers (12), and Moonshine Memories, Heavenly Love, Dream Tree, Midnight Bisou, Patrona Margarita and Road To Victory, all with 10.
From now until the run for the Oaks on Friday, May 4 we'll be tracking the horses and offering analysis and picks on the races. You can follow the fillies on the road to Churchill Downs and bet the qualifying races with an account at a top-rated online racebook.
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