A Guide to the Biggest Fillies-Only Horse Race: The Grade I Kentucky Oaks
The Kentucky Oaks is a Grade I Stakes race for 3-year-old fillies that is staged annually at Churchill Downs in Kentucky. The race is held on the day before the Kentucky Derby (the Oaks takes place on the Friday and the Derby on the Saturday). A silver Kentucky Oaks Trophy is presented to the winner, while a large garland of lilies is placed around the neck of the horse, known as the ‘lilies for the fillies’.
The Kentucky Oaks is modelled on the Epsom Oaks in the UK. That race is also for fillies and run the same weekend as the Derby at Epsom. The Kentucky version of this race was first run in 1875 at the Louisville Jockey Club. This venue would later change its name to Churchill Downs. The first running was won by Vinaigrette, the purse was $1,175.
Run every year since, the Kentucky Oaks has become one of the most popular races each season. Alongside Kentucky Derby is the joint oldest continually contested sporting contest in the country. The race is the first leg of the ‘Triple Tiara of Thoroughbred Racing’, the female counterpart to the Triple Crown series. The other races involved are the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes and the Acorn Stakes.
Head to any of the legal and registered online horse racing betting sites, and you can bet on the Oaks via the same pari-mutuel pools as those at the racetrack. These sites offer a full range of bets on the Kentucky Oaks, as well as racing from both the US and internationally all year round.
Absolutely, yes. Betting at the track is completely regulated and licensed by the laws covering gambling in Kentucky. Online betting with regulated sites is fully legal too, with the most popular betting sites available across the majority of states.
You can place a bet on the Kentucky oaks online – or in person at the track or an OTB office.
Online Betting: Online betting sites offer one of the most popular ways of betting on the Kentucky Derby. If you are betting online for the first time, you can take advantage of the generous welcome offers offered by the online race books. Online betting can take place through your desktop or on your mobile devices via apps.
Some of the sites offer live streaming of races and past performance data for the contenders.
Betting at the Teller: Betting with a teller at the Kentucky Oaks at the track is simple. Head to one of the betting windows and tell them you want to bet on the Kentucky Oaks (or just as easily, give the teller the race number). Next tell them the size of your stake, followed by the type of bet and finishing with your selection (the easiest way to do this is using the horse’s number).
Off Track Betting: If you can’t make it to Kentucky, then you can place a bet at OTB offices around the country. Some are stand-alone venues – others are located in racetracks / racinos.
Here are the most popular bets, these are based on a single horse:
Alongside these wagers, you can also enjoy the ‘exotic’ bets on the race:
When you select the ‘correct order’ bets, you will have the option to ‘box’ them. This means that the selections can finish in any order within the 2, 3 or 4. These boxed bets come at the cost of additional stakes.
Here are the results and pay outs from the 2019 race – you can see how the pay outs differ from bet to bet and how the exotic bets can add up quickly. Last year’s race did see a shock result, with a winner at odds of 13/1 and the runner up at odds of 38/1, ensuring some incredible prizes for those multi-selection bets.
|1st. Serengeti Empress||$28.00||$14.80||$9.60|
|3rd. Lady Apple||$7.00|
You might see odds and pay outs and wonder how they are generated for the Kentucky Oaks (and all other races).
When you bet on the race, all of the stakes will go into one huge pool of cash. Then, after the racetrack have taken out their commission, all of the funds are paid out to the winners.
If there is a strongly favored horse that wins (and therefore there are many winning tickets), the odds and the prizes paid will be on the low side. If the winning tickets are sparse, due to an outsider winning, the prizes can be huge. In the case of the Superfecta above, there will only have been a minor number of winning tickets, hence the incredible pay out.
You can also get involved in Kentucky Oaks futures betting. On many of the horse racing betting sites, you’ll find Futures betting pools. These let you bet in advance of the race, even before the race field is set. The pool will list the 23 most likely contenders (as considered by the Churchill Downs official handicapper), as well as a 24th selection that encompassed all other winners. These pools open for just 2 or 3 days before closing, at which point you’ll know the odds on your chosen selection.
The Oaks and the Derby have been linked since the very start, always taking place on the same race weekend at Churchill Downs. The Kentucky Derby does receive the lion’s share of the press coverage, but there is no less importance placed on the Kentucky Oaks from inside the industry. Successful fillies in the Kentucky Oaks can receive more fame and fortune by going on to contend against their male counterparts in future races.
The Road to the Kentucky Oaks is a series of 30 races where horses gain points for finishing in the top four. The top 14 scorers at the end of the series earn their place in the starting line up at the start of May.
The series is divided into two distinct parts:
This first series of races (taking place between September and February) each award 10 points to the winner, with 4, 2 and 1 points for finishing 2nd,3rd and 4th respectively.
Here are the races:
Pocahontas Stakes, Chandelier Sakes, Alcibiades Stakes, Frizette Stakes, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (points are doubled up for this race due to its higher value) Golden Rod Stakes, Demoiselle Stakes, Starlet Stakes, Santa Ynez Stakes, ‘Silverbulletday’ Stakes, Forward Gal Stakes, Martha Washington Stakes, Busanda Stakes, Las Virgenes Stakes and Suncoast Stakes.
This part of the series encompasses races and is divided into the first leg of the series (6 races where the points awarded are 50,20, 10 and 5), the second leg of the series (6 races where the points awarded are 100, 40, 20 and 10) and two ‘wildcard’ races Which offer lower points tallies than the others in the series.
Here are the races: Rachel Alexandra Stakes, UAE Oaks, Devon Dale Stakes, Busher Stakes, Honeybee Stakes, Sunland Park Oaks, Fair Ground Oaks, Gulfstream Oaks, Ashland Stakes, Santa Anita Oaks, Gazelle Stakes, Fantasy Stakes, Bourbonette Oaks (wild card), Beaumont Stakes (wild card).
The first running of the Kentucky Oaks took place on May 19, 1875, two days after the inaugural Kentucky Derby. The idea for the series of races came when Meriweather Lewis Clark Jr. travelled to England, visiting Epsom in Surrey, the home of the Epsom Derby and Oaks. He went on to Paris, where enthusiasts had formed the French Jockey Club. This all inspired him to set up the Louisville Jockey Club (later known as Churchill Downs) on arrival back home in Kentucky.
That first race was won by Aristides, ridden by Oliver Lewis and trained by Ansel Williamson. This first race was run over a mile and a half, but the distance was changed to a mile and a quarter in 1896. It remained at that distance until 1942, when it was changed to one and one 16th of a mile, while it changed again in 1981 to one mile and one eighth and has remained that way ever since.
The 2020 Kentucky Oaks will be run on Sept. 4, after being pushed back because of the coronavirus pandemic. The race is usually run the day before the Kentucky Derby which has a traditional spot on the first Saturday in May. This usually means that the Oaks is run in May, but it can also take place on the last day of April (if the 1st May is a Saturday).
While the number has changed over the years, in recent times, the size of the field is limited to 14 runners. There will be 18 ‘eligible’ runners named after the Road to the Kentucky Oaks, with those 4 additional horses able to replace any withdrawals.
The total purse for the Kentucky Oaks is $1.25 million dollars, with the winner receiving $750,000.
The race is Grade I Stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbred fillies (this is why you’ll never see repeat winners of the race). Each horse carries 121 pounds.
The gates will open at Churchill Downs at 8am on the Friday of the Kentucky Oaks. There is a 13-race card in 2020, with the first race taking place at 10.30 AM with the final race starting at 7.23pm. The Kentucky Oaks is the 11th race on the card and will start at 6.12pm.
The cost of the tickets to the Kentucky Oaks can vary based on which package you choose. For general admission tickets you can pay as little as $50, while dining packages or seats in the grandstand will have larger changes. You’ll also have the option of purchasing tickets that cover both the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby days.
In recent years, the winning time has been between 1 minute and 48 seconds and 1 minute and 52 seconds.
The record time for the race (over the current distance) is 1 minute and 48.64 seconds, achieved by Bird Town in 2003. Felicia, Battle of Nelson and Katie Creel hold the records over 1 mile and a half (1877, 1878 and 1882 respectively). Selika holds the record over a mile and a quarter (1894), while Ari’s Mona and Sweet Alliance hold the joint record over one and one 16th of a mile (1950 and 1977).