A Springboard to Many Glittering CareersA Look at the Kentucky Oaks
By Lisa Grimm, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor
The Kentucky Oaks has a habit of producing Hall of Famers — although they did not necessarily always win the race. And the Oaks did not always sit in the same place on the racing calendar as it does today — in 1924, Nellie Morse was awarded a placing in the Oaks (she actually finished third, but seeming winner Glide was disqualified) some weeks after her Preakness win. While we are unlikely to see anything like Rachel Alexandra’s dominating performance in the Oaks duplicated this year (or, really, anytime), Oaks winners going on to beat males is certainly not unprecedented. While the aforementioned Nellie Morse won the Preakness before she picked up a check in the Oaks, we can look to very recent memory for another filly winning a Triple Crown race after running in the Oaks — Rags to Riches handily won the 2007 Oaks before defeating Curlin in the Belmont.
Going back in time, Wistful beat the boys in the 1949 Whirlaway before her Oaks victory; she returned to the distaff ranks to win the Black-Eyed Susan and Coaching Club American Oaks. She came back at four to win the Arlington Matron, and at five she defeated males again in the Ben Ali Stakes and the Clark Handicap. A second-place finish in the Oaks today might not inspire a filly’s connections to try mixed company, but in 1962 it sent Flaming Page to the Queen’s Plate — in the process, she became the first filly to win the Canadian Oaks and the Queen’s Plate. She had a short but very influential career as a broodmare — she was the dam of Fleur, Minsky and Nijinsky. 1962’s Oaks winner, Cicada, also had a storied career; after beating males in her first start at three, she finished second by a nose in the Florida Derby before the Oaks, and her post-Oaks wins included the Acorn, Mother Goose and Beldame; she was the first filly to be titled champion at two, three and four.
A recent example of a filly with a great resume who did not win the Oaks is Wait a While, who finished third in 2006 — she went on to win the Yellow Ribbon, American Oaks and the Davona Dale on her way to being voted champion 3-year-old filly — and her career at four and five was also distinguished. That year’s winner, Lemons Forever, could only manage an allowance win after her surprise Oaks victory. And while there are some years that seem less illustrious than others, the list of Oaks winners includes many more all-time greats: Silverbulletday, Princess Rooney, Davona Dale and Susan’s Girl are only a few who used a win in the Oaks as a springboard to a glittering career.