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The Road: Tarifa Tops in Road to Kentucky Oaks Points

Presented by Gainesway and Darby Dan Farm.

Fair Grounds Oaks winner Tarifa leads all fillies in Road to the Kentucky Oaks qualifying points

Fair Grounds Oaks winner Tarifa leads all fillies in Road to the Kentucky Oaks qualifying points

Hodges Photography / Amanda Hodges Weir

While the Road to the Kentucky Derby concludes April 13 with the "last chance" Lexington Stakes (G3) possibly providing a path to the classic for a horse such as Holy Bull Stakes (G3) winner Hades, the Road to the Kentucky Oaks has concluded.

Taking advantage of that finality, I thought it would be a good time to examine how this year's Kentucky Oaks (G1) series played out.

Finishing atop the Oaks standings (used to determine the field should more than 14 horses be entered) is Godolphin homebred Tarifa, from the penultimate crop of the late Darley Stallions-based sire Bernardini. With 150 points, Tarifa finished 25 points ahead of second-place Where's My Ring, winner of the Gazelle Stakes (G3) for owner Val Brinkerhoff and trainer Michael McMillan.

That 25-point margin is the biggest gap between any two horses finishing in this year's top 14 Oaks hopefuls. 

After securing its first Kentucky Oaks win last year with Pretty Mischievous, Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin will be looking for a repeat in 2024 with Tarifa. Like Pretty Mischievous, Tarifa prepped for this year's Kentucky Oaks at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, with wins in an allowance-level race in January, the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2) in February, and the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) in March. She will enter the May 3 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs one day short of six weeks of rest.

Last year Pretty Mischievous, who would be named champion 3-year-old filly, won the Kentucky Oaks off that same amount of rest after winning the Rachel Alexandra and finishing second in the Fair Grounds Oaks.

Pretty Mischievous is trained by Brendan Walsh while Brad Cox handles the conditioning of Tarifa. Cox has won two previous editions of the Oaks, in 2020 with Shedaresthedevil and 2018 with Monomoy Girl.

Last year Pretty Mischievous was ranked fourth in Oaks qualifying points. The most recent filly to lead in points and win the Oaks was Untapable in 2014.

At the other end of the Oaks points race, four horses are tied for the final two spots with 50 qualifying points. Honeybee Stakes (G3) winner Lemon Muffin and twice grade 2-placed Into Champagne have the tiebreaker advantage (earnings in non-restricted stakes races) and are listed as 13th and 14th while Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) runner-up Ways and Means and Fair Grounds Oaks runner-up Our Pretty Woman are 15th and 16th on tiebreakers. The Kentucky Oaks does allow up to four also-eligible entries.

The lowest-ranked runners by qualifying points to win the Oaks are Serengeti Empress (in 2019) and Secret Oath (in 2022), who were each ranked eighth.

End of Derby Road

In the wild card Lexington that awards to the top five finishers qualifying points on a scale of 20-10-6-4-2, D. J. Stable and Robert Cotran's Hades will attempt to secure a spot in the Kentucky Derby (G1) field with a victory.

Hades wins the 2024 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park
Photo: Coglianese Photos/Angelo Lieto
Hades after winning the 2024 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park

A win would boost Hades to 50 total points. Currently Morplay Racing's Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) winner No More Time holds the final spot with 45 points.

Like the Oaks, the Derby also allows up to four also-eligible entries.