Excepting Faiza (who, as a member of Bob Baffert’s barn, is not eligible to the Kentucky Oaks due to the trainer’s ongoing suspension at Churchill Downs), no filly has been as consistent as Wet Paint this spring, and the Louisiana and Florida eligibles have both taken turns stepping into the spotlight and back out. The latest filly to take a bow at center stage is Affirmative Lady, who on Saturday took the measure of Davona Dale Stakes (USA-G2) winner Dorth Vader in the Gulfstream Park Oaks Presented by FanDuelTV (USA-G2). Two-for-two since trainer Graham Motion made the decision to put her in blinkers, the steel-gray filly earned her first graded stakes win with a strong stretch run, leading previously unheralded Sacred Wish home by two lengths with a still longer shot, Flakes, another head back in third. Dorth Vader, who struck the lead briefly at the top of the stretch, hung and ended up a neck behind Flakes in fourth, appearing to regress from her Davona Dale form.
Speed figures suggest that Affirmative Lady’s performance was not as impressive as it looked, and a final three-sixteenths of a mile in :33.32 on a fast surface is less than inspiring. Nonetheless, Affirmative Lady is moving forward at the right time of year, and as a daughter of Arrogate, who came into his own during the second half of his 3-year-old season, there is reason to believe she will continue to improve as she matures. The sire of last year’s Kentucky Oaks heroine, Secret Oath, the late Arrogate now has five graded stakes winners to his credit from his first two crops of racing age.
The distaff side of Affirmative Lady’s pedigree also suggests that the filly’s best days are yet to come. Affirmative Lady is the first winner for 2015 Monmouth Beach Stakes (USA-L) winner Stiffed, who scored her major victory as a 4-year-old and also earned two Grade 3 placings at that age. Since producing Affirmative Lady, Stiffed has foaled a 2021 filly by Nyquist and a 2023 filly by Connect.
A half sister to restricted stakes winner Speaking (by Mr Speaker), Stiffed is a daughter of 2000 Donn Handicap (USA-G1) winner Stephen Got Even (by A.P. Indy) out of the unraced Silver Deputy mare High Noon Nellie. High Noon Nellie, in turn, is out of 1998 Next Move Handicap (USA-G3) winner Full and Fancy (by 1983 Santa Anita Derby, USA-G1, winner Marfa, by Foolish Pleasure), who scored her signature win as a 5-year-old.
As the daughter of a stallion who made his mark going 10 furlongs in devastating fashion, Affirmative Lady should have no problems with the 9-furlong Kentucky Oaks trip. The competition will likely be a stiffer hurdle. On speed figures, Affirmative Lady will have to improve substantially to match Wet Paint in five weeks, but stranger things have happened than rapid improvement by a 3-year-old filly in the spring, and the daughter of Arrogate will not be the only one looking to upend the likely favorite. With one more week of important Oaks preps to come, look for more shuffling of places on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks leader board as the New York and California contingents take their final shots at earning a chance at the “Lilies for the Fillies.”