LEXINGTON, Ky. – In what is arguably one of the most anticipated matchups of the season, GAMINE and SWISS SKYDIVER square off in Friday’s $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1), in a race that could springboard the winner to the Preakness. Run at 1 1/8 miles, the Oaks drew a field of nine, though all eyes will be on the two heavy favorites who have won their last six graded stakes against their own generation by a combined 39 lengths.
Michael Lund Petersen’s Gamine is the even-money morning line favorite for trainer Bob Baffert off freakish one-turn Grade 1 wins in Belmont Park’s June 20 Acorn by 18 ¾ lengths and Saratoga’s Aug. 8 Longines Test by 7 lengths. The daughter of Into Mischief has finished first in all four starts, though she was more workmanlike in her lone two-turn start, which was a neck victory in an optional-claimer at Oaklawn Park over fellow Oaks rival SPEECH in May (Gamine was subsequently disqualified due to testing positive to excessive amounts of the legal medication lidocaine). Baffert mentioned the Preakness as a possibility should Gamine show the same brilliance at two turns as she has at one.
Peter Callahan’s Swiss Skydiver owns a homecourt edge and is much more proven at two turns for trainer Kenny McPeek. The daughter of Daredevil has won four straight graded stakes against 3-year-old fillies, including Saratoga’s Aug. 15 Alabama (G1) at 1 ¼ miles, in which she earned a “Win and You’re In” berth for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Swiss Skydiver’s lone loss in her last five starts was a strong and clear second to Art Collector in Keeneland’s Blue Grass (G2) in July. Swiss Skydiver is 5-for-9 and McPeek toyed at running her in the Derby, but instead opted for the Oaks, with the Preakness as a potential next start, should she run well.
Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Madaket Stables, and Heider Family Stables’ Speech gave Gamine all she could handle at Oaklawn then was second to Swiss Skydiver in the Santa Anita Oaks (G2) in June before easily winning the Ashland (G1) in fast time at Keeneland Aug. 8 for trainer Mike McCarthy. Graded stakes winners DONNA VELOCE, HOPEFUL GROWTH, and SHEDARESTHEDEVIL are also entered for the Kentucky Oaks, as are longshots BAYERNESS, DREAM MARIE, and TEMPERS RISING.
The field for the Kentucky Oaks.
Photo: Gamine (left) and Swiss Skydiver. Credit: Rick Samuels