The question surrounding Obligatory, the 5/2 morning-line favorite for Saturday’s Grade 3 Chilukki at Churchill Downs, is an obligatory one, given the filly’s 2021 season.

Obligatory-Chilukki
At 16/1, Obligatory and Jose Ortiz captured the Grade 2 Eight Belles Stakes on the Kentucky Oaks undercard in April. The unpredictable 3-year-old is the 5/2 morning-line favorite to win the Grade 3 Chilukki Stakes at Churchill Downs. (Image: Jamie Newell/TwinSpires)

Will we see the Obligatory who won her last race at Churchill Downs, the Grade 2 Eight Belles on April 30 at 16/1? Or will we see the 2.60/1 favorite Obligatory who was “no factor” according to the race notes in her sixth-place finish in the Grade 2 Raven Run at Keeneland on Oct. 23?

Or, will we see neither of those Obligatorys? Could we, instead, see the Obligatory who ran a strong second to Search Results by a half-length in the Grade 1 Acorn.

Don’t confuse that Obligatory with the one who finished 2 1/2 lengths back of Clairiere in the Grade 2 Cotillion at Parx Racing in September.

Obligatory flunked her Test Stakes

And don’t confuse that Obligatory with the one who — in the start before the Aug. 7 Cotillion — lost her footing coming out of the gate. She finished a well-beaten — by eight lengths — fifth in the Grade 1 Test Stakes at Saratoga on the Whitney undercard.

It’s obligatory to ask which Obligatory you’re going to see in Saturday’s Chilukki, which sends its 3-year-old and up fillies and mares a mile. Obligatory is trying to be the fourth sophomore in the last five years to win the Chilukki. She’d follow FInite (2020), Sally’s Curlin (2019), and Farrell (2017) to the Churchill Downs winner’s circle.

But to make that trek, the daughter of Curlin first has to figure out which Obligatory she’s going to be. Conditioned by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Obligatory has run seven times on seven different tracks in 2021.

Well-traveled, battle-tested, unpredictable

And the results define the word “mixed:” Gulfstream (first), Fair Grounds (fourth), Churchill Downs (first), Belmont Park (second), Saratoga (fifth), Parx (second), and Keeneland (sixth).

Digging into her 2-2-0 record in seven 2021 starts reveals Obligatory is a horse who needs a fast pace — like she got in the Eight Belles and the Acorn. That allowed her to sweep wide coming into the stretch and blow past tired rivals.

Except when she doesn’t. As the 3.50/1 second favorite in the Cotillion, she stalked leader Always Carina into the stretch. Then, Clairiere caught and passed both of them for a 2 1/2-length win.

Whichever Obligatory shows up, her prime competition figures to be Miss Bigly (3/1) and Brad Cox’s Matera (3/1). Cox said this is likely Matera’s final start and thus, her final shot at a graded-stakes placing. The 4-year-old previously won two ungraded stakes, the Groupie Doll and Mari Hulman George Memorial.

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