by Tim Holland
Although one has to go back to Open Mind’s victory in 1989 to find a Gulfstream Park Oaks winner that went on to win the Kentucky Oaks (G1), this year’s running could have a major impact in Friday’s renewal.
Rallying from off the pace after a slow start and a wide trip, SALTY impressively drew off to win the 1 1/16-mile Gulfstream Oaks (G2) by over four lengths in her latest in early April. Daughter of Quality Road is out of a stakes-placed mare by Dixie Union and was making her third career outing and first since breaking her maiden over seven furlongs at Gulfstream in March. Filly has been working well at Churchill since her last for trainer Casse, who is looking for his first Kentucky Oaks winner. With plenty of early pace entered, Salty should get a good trip and be closing late with Joel Rosario retaining the mount.
Runner-up to Salty in this year’s Gulfstream Oaks was TEQUILITA, who was making her second start of the year and first since winning the Forward Gal Stakes from just off the pace over seven furlongs in early February. Tequilita has won three of seven career outings and daughter of Belmont Stakes winner is out of a stakes-winning mare who has produced five other winners and is from the family of Grade 1 winner Offlee Wild. Filly has some tactical speed and can be stalking what should be a lively pace with Luis Saez again in the saddle, but she seems unlikely to turn the tables on Salty.
JORDAN’S HENNY completed the trifecta when fading after making an early move to the lead in the Gulfstream Oaks in her second outing of the year. Gray has won just one of nine career outings but hit the board in two of four previous starts at Churchill. Daughter of Henny Hughes is a half-sister to three other winners and her tactical speed could see her in good early position, although previous rider Corey Lanerie goes with another in here.
Two starts previously, Jordan’s Henny finished second in the Davona Dale Stakes (G2) to Miss Sky Warrior, who appears a major threat in here.
A daughter of First Samurai, MISS SKY WARRIOR was making her first outing since November when winning the one-mile Davona Dale at Gulfstream from just off the pace. Dark bay subsequently made it five wins in a row when leading from the start to easily win the Gazelle Stakes (G2) over the same Kentucky Oaks distance at Aqueduct last month. Dark bay figures to be near the lead from the start with Paco Lopez remaining aboard.
SAILOR’S VALENTINE pulled off an upset when capturing the Ashland (G1) after pressing the pace from the start at Keeneland last month. It was her first outing since finishing a close second on grass at Tampa in March and daughter of Mizzen Mast opened the year with a disappointing fifth in the six-furlong Old Hat Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream three back. She does appear better over longer distances but filly may have been helped by the speed favoring track at Keeneland. Sailor’s Valentine may prove to be a pace factor at best here.
While there are many talented fillies in a wide open Kentucky Oaks this year, Salty appears the most logical contender from Florida on Friday.