The big showdown is set.
There are nine 3-year-old fillies entered in the Grade I $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks on Friday at Churchill Downs, but the attention will be mostly focused on the much-anticipated duel between the stars Gamine and Swiss Skydiver, who haven’t raced against each other.
Gamine drew the No. 5 post and was given odds of even money, while Swiss Skydiver is 8-5 and was stuck with the rail.
Gamine has finished first in four starts, all this year, including a seven-length domination of the seven-furlong Grade I Test at Saratoga Race Course last time out on Aug. 8. She is not officially undefeated, though, since she was disqualified from her allowance win on May 2 at Oaklawn Park because of a drug overage that was confirmed by a second sample.
Swiss Skydiver’s busy 2020 season includes four victories and one at Saratoga, the mile-and-a-quarter Grade I Alabama on Aug. 15. Although she is much more experienced at longer distances — the Oaks will be run at a mile and an eighth — Gamine has been brilliant, finishing a combined 32-plus lengths ahead of her competition in four races.
Also, Swiss Skydiver drew a difficult post with the 1, and the connections of Kentucky Derby favorite Tiz the Law will be holding their collective breath at 11 a.m. on Tuesday when the post positions are drawn for Saturday’s Run for the Roses.
Gamine and Swiss Skydiver will be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione and John Velazquez, respectively, who won’t be allowed back on the grounds at Saratoga because of COVID-19 restrictions on the jockey colony.
The only other horse with odds less than 15-1 is 5-1 Speech, winner of the Grade I Ashland at Keeneland last time out.
In post-position order, the Oaks field, with jockey and odds, will be:
Swiss Skydiver (John Velazquez, 8-5); Tempers Rising (Julien Leparoux, 50-1); Donna Veloce (Ricardo Santana Jr., 5-1; Speech (Javier Castellano, 5-1); Gamine (John Velazquez, 1-1); Bayerness (Rafael Bejarano, 50-1); Shedaresthedevil (Florent Geroux, 20-1); Hopeful Growth (Manny Franco, 30-1); Dream Marie (Joe Talamo, 50-1).
The star-studded Oaks card also includes the Grade II Eight Belles for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs; the Grade II Edgewood for 3-year-old fillies at a mile on the turf; the Grade II Alysheba at a mile and a sixteenth; the Grade I La Troienne for fillies and mares 4 and up at a mile and a sixteenth; and the Grade II Turf Sprint.
The Edgewood field includes 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Sharing.
McKinzie, the 2019 Whitney winner, will take on the likes of By My Standards in the Alysheba. By My Standards was second to Improbable in this year’s Whitney.
Monomoy Girl, who won the Breeders’ Cup Distaff as a 3-year-old in 2018 and won the Eclipse Award in her division, is entered in La Troienne. She’s won 11 of 13 career starts, and one of the losses was a disqualification for interference in the 2018 Cotillion.