The Kentucky Oaks

About the Race

The Kentucky Oaks race is an annual horse race run on the Friday before the Kentucky Derby. It is held in Louisville, Kentucky at Churchill Downs. It features three-year-old fillies. 

Kentucky Oaks History

The Kentucky Oaks race was founded on May 19, 1875, by William Clark’s Grandson of the famed Lewis and Clark. He also the founder of Kentucky Derby, Fall City Handicap and Clark Handicap.

The Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks race originally covered a distance of 1 ½ mile at first between 1875 – 1890. It was later reduced to 1 ¼ mile between 1890 – 1895. Over the years, the distance run in Kentucky oaks has changed subsequently to 1 ¼ mile, 1 1/8  miles, 1 1/16 miles between 1896 – 1981. In 1982, the Kentucky Oaks race distance was set at 1 1/8 miles (1,800 mm) which is the present distance for the race.

Past Winners

The Kentucky Oaks race was first won by Vinaigrette who ran the distance of 1 ½ mile in 2:39.75. Since then, the race has been won by many with outstanding performances. Notable winners include Real Delight (1952), Dark Mirage (1968), Felicia (1877), Belle of Nelson (1878), Selika (1894), Davona Dale (1979), Katie Cruel (1882), Ari’s Mona (1950) Sweet Alliance (1977), Princess Rooney (1983), Open Mid (1989), Bird Town (2003), Ashado (2004), Rachel Alexandra (2009) among many others.

In 2009, Rachel Alexandra was named Horse of the year partly due to the winning record margin of 20 ¼ lengths at the Oaks. 

Prize Money

Presently, the Kentucky Oaks race has a $1 million purse, though it started with just a $1,175 winning purse in 1875. The Kentucky Oaks is the main attraction for the 1st day of the Kentucky Derby racing schedule. For some, the Kentucky Oaks is even a bigger betting event, and opportunity to win big.