Unlike last year, when Songbird was the name on everyone's lips, the leadership of the sophomore filly division is up for grabs. While the newly crowned Eclipse Award winner Champagne Room is still waiting to make her entrance on the scene, two promising fillies have already opened their 2017 campaigns with stakes victories, picking up 10 points each toward an Oaks starting berth.
Lockdown was the first filly to set hoof on the Lily Lane this year, taking the Busanda Stakes at Aqueduct on January 15. A Juddmonte homebred, the long-striding daughter of First Defence easily outclassed four other 3-year-old fillies, stopping the clock in 1:44.75 for a mile and 70 yards. The final time was not impressive, but the race was still a step in the right direction for the full sister to 2014 American champion older female Close Hatches, now the winner of two straight after dropping her debut. Lockdown and Close Hatches represent the Monroe branch of Kentucky Broodmare of the Year Best in Show, a lineage which also includes 1997 English and French champion 2-year-old male Xaar.
The other filly to announce her presence to potential rivals is Farrell, who proved that her victory in last fall's Golden Rod Stakes (USA-II) was no fluke by drawing off in professional style in the Silverbulletday Stakes on January 21 at the Fair Grounds. The daughter of proven Classic sire Malibu Moon, who races as a homebred for Coffeepot Stables, defeated five rivals including Untapped, a highly regarded full sister to 2014 American champion 3-year-old filly Untapable and proved that she can handle off going, scoring in 1:44.01 for the mile and 70 yards over a muddy, sealed track.
Farrell is out of the Unbridled's Song mare Rebridled Dreams, already the dam of 2010 Dixiana Breeders' Futurity (USA-IA) winner J. B.'s Thunder (by Thunder Gulch) and 2015 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (USA-I) winner Carpe Diem (by Giant's Causeway) as well as multiple English stakes winner Doncaster Rover (by War Chant). Rebridled Dreams herself was a stakes winner and was third in the 2003 Silverbulletday, then a Grade II race, and her dam Key Cents (by Corridor Key) was a two-time stakes winner in restricted New York-bred events.
While neither Lockdown nor Farrell have yet challenged the very top of their division, both have pedigrees that suggest both the ability to get the 9 furlongs of the Oaks and the probability that they will continue to improve as they mature. If both grow into the promise that their bloodlines and early careers imply, this may be an interesting spring indeed.