Yet they could have some company after the June 25 Mother Goose Stakes (G2) when Albaugh Family Stables' Juju's Map makes her 2022 stakes debut in the $250,000 1 1/16-mile test for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park.
Last fall, Juju's Map rated as one of the top 2-year-old fillies, highlighted by a second to division champion Echo Zulu in the NetJets Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and a win in the Darley Alcibiades Stakes (G1) that earned her inclusion among the finalists for an Eclipse Award. Trainer Brad Cox gave the daughter of Liam's Map a rest after a juvenile campaign with two wins from four starts, but then minor setbacks prevented her from running in the Central Bank Ashland Stakes (G1), eliminating any chance of being ready for the May 6 Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1).
"I struggled to find a spot for her in the spring. She wasn't ready for the Ashland and I didn't want to run her seven-eighths in the Eight Belles (G2, May 6 at Churchill Downs) because I believe she's a true two-turn filly. I didn't think the Eight Belles made sense," Cox said.
Instead, she was entered in an allowance optional claiming race against older rivals on the Kentucky Oaks undercard and posted a 4 3/4-length win at Churchill Downs.
"We went for the allowance race figuring her talent would make up for her lack of experience," Cox said. "She ran like we thought she would and now she has plenty of time to recover and run in the Mother Goose."
Depending on what happens against four fellow 3-year-olds Saturday, the Mother Goose could be the grade 1 winner's springboard to facing the division's stars in the upcoming summer grade 1 fixtures such as the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1, July 23 at Saratoga Race Course) and the Alabama Stakes (G1, Aug. 20 at Saratoga).
"I think she's right there with the top horses in the division," Cox said. "We're a little behind the other fillies but hopefully she can take a step forward Saturday and she can close the gap with them."
JuJu's Map, bred by Fred W. Hertrich out of the Flatter mare Nagambie, comes into the Mother Goose off seven weeks rest with a string of four breezes since her last start.
"She's training fantastic," Cox said. "Her works have been solid. She seems to be as good at 3 as she was at 2. Our goal is to have her competitive in grade 1 stakes and the plan seems to be working so far."
An earner of $698,180, Juju's Map was purchased for $300,000 from the Woods Edge Farm consignment at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
NY Final Furlong Racing Stable and Parkland Thoroughbreds' Venti Valentine was second to Nest at 2 in the Demoiselle Stakes (G2) but had a miserable trip in the Kentucky Oaks, checking a few times in the early stages and finishing last of 14.
"She came out of the Oaks in good shape," trainer Jorge Abreu said about the New York State-bred daughter of Firing Line . "I'm going to cross a line through that race and just regroup with her. She's been doing everything well here. I think one turn will suit her better, not that she can't go two turns because she proved she can go two turns. But I think the mile and a sixteenth and cutting back in distance will be better for her."
KHK Racing's Shahama was sixth in the Kentucky Oaks while making her United States debut for trainer Todd Pletcher. A Munnings filly, she was undefeated in four Dubai starts, winning the UAE Oaks Presented by Jafza (G3).
A victory would give Pletcher a record-breaking seventh Mother Goose win.
"It was hard to gauge her racing form. The one thing we felt pretty good about was the way she had trained in company with some of our other horses," Pletcher said. "To me, she's proven she belongs in races like (the Mother Goose) and I thought her Oaks was maybe a better race than it looks on paper. She was still closing at the end. She drew an outside post and it took her a little while to get on track. I thought it was a solid effort."
The field of five also includes Klaravich Stables' Gerrymander (Into Mischief ), who was sixth for trainer Chad Brown in the Eight Belles Stakes Presented by TwinSpires, and Gatsas Stables, R. A. Hill Stable, and Steven Schoenfeld's Midnight Stroll, a Florida-bred Not This Time filly who was ninth in the George E. Mitchell Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (G2).
Belmont Park, Saturday, June 25, 2022, Race 8
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1Shahama (KY) Flavien Prat 122 Todd A. Pletcher 9/5 2 2Venti Valentine (NY) Jose L. Ortiz 122 Jorge R. Abreu 5/1 3 3Midnight Stroll (FL) Javier Castellano 122 John P. Terranova, II 10/1 4 4Gerrymander (KY) Joel Rosario 122 Chad C. Brown 5/1 5 5Juju's Map (KY) Florent Geroux 122 Brad H. Cox 1/1
Belmont Park, Saturday, June 25, 2022, Race 8