September 21, 2020

Marquee Kentucky Oaks match-up with Preakness implications

Gamine
Gamine wins the Test Stakes (NYRA/Coglianese Photos)

Something has to give when Gamine and Swiss Skydiver square off in the Sept. 4 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs. The prestigious race has featured many notable performances over the years, but seldom do we see such an anticipated match-up.

Both runners are exiting monstrous performances, with Gamine netting a 109 Brisnet Speed rating for a spectacular seven-length romp in the Test (G1) and Swiss Skydiver receiving the same number for her dominant 3 1/2-length score in the Alabama (G1). Barring an upset, the Oaks winner is expected to contest the final leg of the 2020 Triple Crown, the Oct. 3 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico.

Rachel Alexandra
(Reed Palmer/Churchill Downs)

The Run for the Lillies promises to be a compelling battle for supremacy in the 3-year-old filly division, and Oaks winners have had a major impact on the Triple Crown this century, with Rachel Alexandra jumping straight to Preakness glory in 2009 and Rags to Riches edging Preakness hero and eventual Horse of the Year Curlin in a thrilling 2007 Belmont Stakes. Fans of Gamine and Swiss Skydiver believe their favorite to be cut from the same cloth.

Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Gamine has dazzled in a trio of one-turn starts, breaking her maiden by 6 1/4 lengths at Santa Anita and winning the one-mile Acorn (G1) at Belmont Park by 18 3/4 lengths. Her only close race came in her lone two-turn attempt, an entry-level allowance at Oaklawn Park, but that was early in her career. The daughter of Into Mischief gained valuable seasoning in her last two stakes attempts and has all the makings of a superstar. The sky seems to be the limit if Gamine can transfer her form to two turns.

swissskydiver3-28ryanthompson1280
Swiss Skydiver winning the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) (Ryan Thompson/Coglianese Photography)

Swiss Skydiver has captured her last four stakes against fillies by open lengths, easily pocketing the Santa Anita Oaks (G2), Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2), and Fantasy (G3) earlier this season. When trying males in the July 11 Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland, the chestnut daughter of Daredevil came up a little short to Art Collector, who will be either the second or third betting choice in the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby, but Swiss Skydiver finished about five lengths clear of third recording a commendable second. She rebounded splendidly in the 1 1/4-mile Alabama and has kept moving forward in every start this season for conditioner Kenny McPeek.

With both runners possessing quality speed, the Kentucky Oaks figures to be settled on the front end. Other accomplished rivals will be in the line-up, including convincing Ashland (G1) winner Speech, but the 2020 Kentucky Oaks is all about the tantalizing showdown between Gamine and Swiss Skydiver.

It should be one heck of a race.