The most obvious beneficiaries are Weep No More and Rachel's Valentina, the one-two finishers in the Central Bank Ashland Stakes (USA-I) on April 9. The former showed a dazzling turn of foot in her charge to victory, while the latter, making her first start of 2016, turned in a good performance in staving off Cathryn Sophia for the place and will probably move forward off her effort.
Rachel's Valentina will have strong sentimental backing for the Oaks, a race her dam Rachel Alexandra won by a record 20-1/4 lengths as part of her 2009 Horse of the Year campaign. She and Weep No More will hardly have the starting gate to themselves, however. With Songbird now out of the picture, expect a full field of 14 for America's richest race for 3-year-old fillies.
One big question may be whether Cathryn Sophia will change course and contest the Oaks rather than the Eight Belles Stakes (USA-II) on the Oaks undercard. Although trainer John Servis has indicated that he thinks the filly may be better suited to shorter races, the absence of Songbird may be enough to tip the balance back toward an Oaks start. Polar River, who could probably have won the United Arab Emirates Derby (UAE-II) with a better trip, is another previously declared out of the Oaks whose connections may reconsider, though in her case, a change in plans seems less likely as she may not have enough time to make the trip and still be cranked back up to peak form prior to May 6.
A filly likelier to benefit from Songbird's absence is Go Maggie Go, undefeated in her brief career after an impressive score in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (USA-II) in just her second lifetime start. As a daughter of Ghostzapper, she can be expected to keep improving as she matures and gives trainer Dale Romans a legitimate shot at an Oaks-Derby sweep as he also trains Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (USA-I) winner Brody's Cause. Then there's Terra Promessa, a Curlin filly who is coming up to the Oaks off a sweep of Oaklawn Park's graded stakes for sophomore fillies, and Lewis Bay, a Bernardini daughter who won her second Grade II race at the Oaks distance when she took a sloppy edition of the Gazelle Stakes (USA-II) at Aqueduct on April 9.
All of these fillies have a shot, and with the garden gate now open, who knows who will be sporting lilies on May 6? Whether the victor is a filly of proven ability and pedigree like Rachel's Valentina or a new face emerging from the crowd, the Oaks will not be a coronation as expected, but it should be a lot more interesting as a horse race than it looked to be yesterday morning.