Fillies, Preps, & The Derby

By 1988, D. Wayne Lukas had established himself as one of America’s top trainers. The Kentucky Derby, however, had eluded him; he had not yet Won it despite having 12 starters since 1981.

WINNING COLORS by being Victorious in the 1988 Santa Anita Oaks, established herself as a Derby prospect. She crushed the competition in a dominant gate-to-wire performance in the Oaks Winning by eight lengths.

Off that Victory, she was the 3-1 Morning Line favorite in the Santa Anita Derby four weeks later.

That outcome was never in doubt.  Jockey Gary Stevens put WINNING COLORS on the early lead and she zoomed to a clear advantage through fast fractions. None of her eight rivals had a prayer of catching her, and she crushed the field by 7 ½ lengths in 1:47 ⅘.

A month earlier it wasn’t clear if WINNING COLORS was the best 3-year-old filly in the country. Now, she looked like one of the best 3-year-olds of either sex in the U.S.

In the Kentucky Derby, WINNING COLORS was one of the co-favorites at 7-2 odds. It was the Santa Anita Derby revisited, as she led from start to finish to become just the third filly to Win the Kentucky Derby and the first Derby Winner for D. Wayne Lukas.

Throughout the years, most top contenders in Kentucky Derby prep races have been colts or geldings.

Although fillies are eligible for all Derby preps and can earn points toward securing a spot in the starting gate for the first jewel of the Triple Crown, not many of them take on males along the Derby trail nor in the Run For The Roses.

The connections of elite fillies historically prefer instead to race against their own sex in the winter and spring while targeting the Kentucky Oaks the day before the Kentucky Derby.

In 2013, the Derby unveiled a new qualifying system, in which horses earned points with top-four performances in Stakes races.

This system also meant that a filly who wanted to get into the Derby had to race against males before the race.

Previously, Graded Stakes earnings in races restricted to fillies counted towards eligibility.

Filly SECRET OATH has been entered to take on the males Saturday in the $1.25 million dollar Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park Saturday.

SECRET OATH is trained by the aforementioned D. Wayne Lukas. Hmmm.

On Friday, the Daily Racing Blog will take a look at the field for this year’s edition of the Arkansas Derby. So stop back and see who we like.

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