LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 06: Summer Soiree leads the field down the front stretch at the start of the 137th Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on May 6, 2011 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
It's "Ladies First" at Churchill Downs with the running of the 2012 Kentucky Oaks on Friday evening (post time: 5:45 p.m. ET; TV: NBCSN). The Oaks is a $1 million Grade 1 race for three-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on the main track. It is the 11th race on Friday's Churchill Downs card. With a large and competitive field, this year's Oaks could produce huge payouts at the betting windows.
The Oaks isn't the only big race on the card today as Churchill Downs will feature the G2-La Troienne, G2-Eight Belles, G2-Alysheba and G1-American Turf. It's a great day of racing to kick of Derby Weekend 2012.
Below is a rundown of the schedule for the Kentucky Oaks card at Churchill Downs, along with a preview of the Oaks and the undercard.
|Race Schedule and Conditions|
|4-May||3||11:30||HRTV||OC $75k/N1X||3yo, f||7.0||Dirt|
|4-May||5||12:43||HRTV||OC $80k/N3X||3up, f&m||8.0||Turf|
|4-May||6||1:26||HRTV||G2-La Troienne||3up, f&m||8.5||Dirt|
|4-May||7||2:08||HRTV||G2-Eight Belles||3yo, f||7.0||Dirt|
|4-May||11||5:45||NBCSN||G1-Kentucky Oaks||3yo, f||9.0||Dirt|
1 1/16th Miles, Dirt
Fillies & Mares, Three-Years-Olds and Up
Post time: 1:26pm Eastern
4-Plum Pretty (4/5) towers over her competition on the strength of her dominating win in the G1-Apple Blossom at Oaklawn on April 13th but the La Troienne won't be a walk in the park due to the presence of a couple of speed horses to her outside. 5-Juanita (8/1) and 6-Absinthe Minded (6/1) will need to exert a bunch of pressure on the favorite if they hope to get her to crack at the top of lane.
It's hard not to like the way Absinthe Minded has been training as of late; following her 2nd place finish in the Apple Blossom, she uncorked a couple of huge drills on the Churchill Downs main track (4/23 : 4f in :472, 1/46; 4/29: 4f in :48, 1/23)
With little value to be gained from betting on Plum Pretty, I'm looking towards 2-St. John's River (5/1), a filly that ran one of her best races at Churchill Downs in last year's Oaks. I also like 1-Afleeting Lady (8/1) as another filly that could make a big run in the stretch to pick up the pieces. Afleeting Lady is 4-2-2-0 all-time at Churchill.
G3-The Eight Belles
7 Furlongs, Dirt
Post time: 2:08pm Eastern
The $0.50 Pick 5 begins with the seven furlong Eight Belles, featuring a field of eight sophomore fillies led by 7-Contested (2/1), a nice looking Bob Baffert trainee shipping in from Santa Anita. Contested broke her maiden two starts back when she crushed a field of Maiden Special Weights by 6 ¼ lengths on October 11th. After some time off this winter/spring, she returned to the track on April 15th and rolled over a field of small field of allowance fillies.
As strong as Contested has looked in her first two races, this is a major class test for her as she faces several fillies with stakes experience. 3-Good Deed (3/1) won the ungraded Prima Donna at Oaklawn in her last start, notching career high Beyer of 91 in the process. Prior to that she won the ungraded Letellier Memorial race the Fair Grounds; the runner-up, Swift Artist, won next time out. She didn't show much in her only start against graded company (6th, beaten 14 lengths in the G2-Forward Gal) but that race was over a sloppy and sealed track.
The longest priced horse in the field, 6-Livi Makenzi (15/1), is eligible to improve off her last effort now that she's back on dirt. She didn't run awful at Keeneland in the G2-Beaumont, but her prior dirt efforts were much belter.
Another filly that could show some major improvement is 2-Small Kitchen (7/2). This Michael Maker filly faded badly in the final furlongs of the G2-Fair Grounds Oaks and she could be a lot fitter with the cutback in distance.
You could go any number of different ways in this race, but I'm leaning towards 3-Good Deed based on her previous foundation and ability to sit right on or off of the lead.
1 1/16th Miles, Turf
Post time: 3:02pm Eastern
I could go into some long, drawn-out analysis of The Edgewood but that would really be a waste of time because I already know the filly that I'm playing in this race: 13-Welcome Dance (12/1). Below is a quick list of what I like about this filly:
- She's 4-2-0-0 in her career on the lawn and you can make an excuse for both of the races in which she finished off the board. In the first race, she stumbled badly at the start and lost several lengths on the field. In the second, she steadied on the backstretch and went four wide on the turn.
- Leparoux gets back on board and he's piloted her in both of her wins.
- There isn't a ton of speed in this race providing the perfect opportunity for Welcome Dance and Julien to steal it on the frontend.
At 12/1 on the morning line, I can't wait to play Welcome Dance.
1 1/16 Miles, Dirt
Four-Years-Old and Up
Post time: 3:52pm Eastern
This year's Alysheba is loaded with some serious older horse talent.
1-Nates Mineshaft (5/1) popped a 113 Beyer during his romp in the G2-New Orleans Handicap, his fourth straight win at the Fair Grounds this winter/spring. In his career, Nates Mineshaft has won six races, with five of those coming at the Fair Grounds (the other at Delta Downs). The Alysheba provides a huge opportunity for this five-year-old horse to establish himself as one of the top older males in the country.
2-Successful Dan (3/1) is also coming into the Alysheba off of four straight victories, the most recent in an 100k Optional Claimer at Keeneland. Prior to that race he won the G1-Clark Handicap in November... of 2010. It's hard not to be impressed with a win right off the bench considering the length of time this horse was away. But at the same time, this is a pretty quick step-up in class with only one race in the last year and a half.
3-Fort Larned (10/1) has won two in a row and three of his last four, including the G3-Skip Away at 1 3/16th miles in his last start.
4-Mucho Macho Man (2/1) will likely take plenty of action at the windows following his win the G2-Gulfstream Park Handicap in his last race, his third win in a row. His win in the Sunshine Millions Classic looks pretty good when you consider that both Ron the Greek and Turbo Compressor came back to win at next asking.
7-Apart (9/2) finished well up the track in the G1-Whiteny and hasn't been seen from since. He can run with this group if he's at his best. But is he at his best after a 6+ month lay-off?
If it were to rain hard prior to this race, and you're looking for a bomb to play, 8-Plutonium (50/1) is 2-for-2 lifetime in the slop, including a nice win at Churchill Downs last November.
If he stays at 5/1 (an unlikely scenario), I'll take a shot with Nates Mineshaft. Most likely, I'm watching this one for fun.
1 1/16th Miles, Turf
Post time: 4:44pm Eastern
Like The Edgewood, I'm not going to spend a lot of time analyzing this race. 3-Star Channel (8/1), a nice looking son of Breeders' Cup Turf winner English Channel, is about as versatile of a runner as you'll see in any race. Star Channel has won three races in a row, all on the turf and all with different tactics. Three races back, he stalked the pace to break his maiden against $75k claimers. Two races back, he led wire-to-wire to win against OC 75k/N1X company. And in his last race, he closed from over eight lengths after getting shuffled back at the start of the race.
I'll be betting Star Channel with both hands in the American Turf.
1 1/8th Miles, Dirt
Post time: 5:45pm Eastern
TV: NBC Sports Network
1 -- On Fire Baby (4/1): Very impressive winning the G3-Honeybee last time out at Oaklawn Park. She's been one of the top three-year-old fillies in the country this spring and suffered her only loss of 2012 when she took on the colts in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn in mid-January. She finished third, 1 1/2 lengths back, in the Smarty Jones.
2 -- Grace Hall (5/2): The morning line favorite blew away the field in the G2-Gulfstream Park Oaks in her last start. She was second to My Miss Aurelia in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs last November in a race where she encountered a lot of traffic issues.
3 -- Summer Applause (15/1): Finished second as the odds-on favorite in the G2-Fair Grounds Oaks in her last start. Like most of the fillies in this race, Summer Applause does her best running if she's able to race near the lead in the early stages.
4 -- Eden's Moon (12/1): This Bob Baffert-trained filly should be eligible for a big improvement after fading a bit down the stretch of the G1-Santa Anita Oaks in her last start. In her first two races of 2012, she won by a combined 14 3/4 lengths, including a 3 1/2 lengths victory in the G1-Las Virgenes. This filly has a lot of stamina in her pedigree and could have a big chance at good odds.
5 -- Hard Not to Like (20/1): This daughter of Hard Spun has never raced over a surface other than synthetic or turf, making her a bit of a mystery heading into Friday's Oaks. Her sire, Hard Spun, was a very good dirt runner, and her dam, Like a Gem, won on both dirt and turf. Still, it's a tough spot to make her dirt debut.
6 -- Broadway's Alibi (4/1): It's hard to win a race more impressively than Broadway's Alibi won the G3-Comely and the G2-Forward Gal. In total, her nearest rivals were a combined 20 lengths behind her at the end of those two races. This filly ran the best race of her career over a wet track; if the skies open up in Louisville on Friday afternoon, don't forget about this gal.
7 -- Sacristy (50/1): This filly won the G3-Old Hat at the start of 2012 but has since gone a bit off form in her last two races. She's never raced beyond seven furlongs, but her off-the-pace running style should make it easier for her to get the distance.
8 -- Jemima's Pearl (10/1): After racing five times in Ireland as a juvenile, Jemima's Pearl shipped to America in early 2012 to run for trainer Bob Baffert. She won her American debut at Santa Anita against optional claimers and was a decent third in the G2-Fantasy at Oaklawn on April 11. This is an intriguing filly that could be sitting on a big race in the Oaks.
9 -- Believe You Can (10/1): A talented filly that has won a couple of graded stakes races, including the G3-Tempted at Belmont over a muddy track last fall. She hasn't fared too well when she's tried to stalk the pace, which could be an issue given all the early speed to her inside and outside.
10 -- And Why Not (15/1): One of the few closers in the Oaks field, And Why Not has won just a single race in her career, a maiden special weight at Saratoga last summer. She did finish second by a head to On Fire Baby in the G2-Pocahontas at Churchill Downs last fall, and she should get an absolutely perfect pace scenario to run at on Friday. A daughter of Street Cry out of an A.P. Indy mare (Alchemist), And Why Not has plenty of stamina in her pedigree.
11 -- Karvlovy Vary (20/1): This filly is bred to run all day long but, unfortunately, she appears to be better suited to race on the grass or over a synthetic surface. Her only try on dirt came in last fall's G2-Golden Rod at Churchill Downs where she finished seventh, beaten by 12 1/2 lengths.
12 -- Colonial Empress (50/1): She's raced three times and hasn't finished closer than 6 lengths behind any of her rivals. If she wins this race, I may have to give up playing the ponies.
13 -- Amie's Dini (10/1): Second in the G2-Fantasy, second in the G2-Honey Bee; Amie's Dini has run some pretty good races this spring and appears to be a filly that is developing nicely. Like almost all the fillies in this field, Amie's Dini likes to run up near the lead in the early stages. If she's to have any shot at winning, she's going to have to avoid going too fast, too early on Friday afternoon.
14 -- Yara (30/1): This filly shocked Grace Hall as a 65/1 longshot in the G2-Davona Dale at Gulfstream Park in late February. She wasn't able to duplicate that effort in her next start, losing by ten lengths in the G2-Gulfstream Park Oaks. Looking at her past performances, you'll notice that Yara has an "every other race" pattern going. She runs a good race, then a bad one, then a good, etc. If the pattern holds true, she's eligible to run one of her "good" races on Friday.
15 -- Oaks Lily (50/1): She just recently broke her maiden at Keeneland. See Colonial Express above.
I'm typically not a long-shot kind of player but all the speed in this year's Oaks has me believing that things could get really messy in the final furlongs. 8 -- Jemima's Pearl has proved she can run a good race when coming from off the pace and she's eligible to improve off of her last start. 10 -- And Why Not hasn't done much winning in her career, but she's the only true stone-cold closer in the field, and she's run big over the Churchill Downs main track in the past.
I'll place win bets on both 8 -- Jemima's Pearl and 10 -- And Why Not, and then play those two fillies in Exactas above and below One Fire Baby, Eden's Moon, Grace Hall and Summer Applause.
For the Oaks/Derby Double, I'm going to play the 1-2-3-4-8-10 w 4-5-6-8-11-19 (Union Rags, Dullahan, Bodemeister, Creative Cause, Alpha, I'll Have Another) in varying amounts and combinations.