As I've done the past couple of years, here's my preview of the Kentucky Oaks. The Derby note will be up sometime tomorrow.
# Horse, Jockey, Trainer, Morning Line (expected) Odds
#1 Please Explain, Jose Lezcano, Tom Proctor, 50-1
Good: Figures to be running late if the pace is fast. With the inclusion of Sugar Shock, Fashion Plate, and My Miss Sophia, they shouldn't be running slowly in the early going. I don't think she's good enough to win without a crazy meltdown, but she can certainly get a placing.
Bad: If the pace isn't fast, I don't expect her to outkick the likes of Untapable in the stretch. She also hasn't won outside of the state of Florida. This would require massive improvement from her past effort at Oaklawn where she flopped.
Overall: Probably a use in exactas underneath favorites. Maybe a win bet if she's 30-1 or above? We'll see.
#2 Ria Antonia, Mike Smith, Bob Baffert, 10-1
Good: She does have experience in crunch time, being the winner (albeit by disqualification) of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last year. Also figures to not be too close to a fast pace.
Bad: Only has technically won once, as her second win was via DQ. Has been a bit inconsistent in form concerning back-to-back top efforts.
Overall: Worth using with other closers. Not sure she can win, as she's only beat all the horses in a race once on her own. Might get a higher value than expected because of Untapable's heavy favoritism, though.
#3 Sugar Shock, Calvin Borel, Doug Anderson, 12-1
Good: But for disqualification in the Honeybee, she'd be 4/4 this year. Having Calvin Borel at Churchill Downs is also a big help. Next to Untapable, she's the most consistent filly in 2014.
Bad: Might be the inside speed. Also has a history of running in non-straight lines in the stretch, which suggests fatigue could be a problem? Then again, Candy Ride (her dad) won the 2003 Pacific Classic at 1 1/4 miles. Still don't like that she's inside speed, though.
Overall: The Calvin [Borel] factor might halve her price. If she were outside of the #7 and #11 in the post draw, I'd like her chances better. If she wins, more power to her. But I'm not sure she'll last against classy closers like Ria Antonia and Untapable in the stretch if there's a fast pace. We'll see...
#4 Rosalind, Joel Rosario, Ken McPeek, 8-1
Good: Was a convincing winner of the Ashland in the last start. She's never ran worse than 4th, so consistency isn't a problem with her, either. Should take advantage of the speed from #3, #7 and #11 that should materialize in front of her.
Bad: May not have enough time to make up the ground she'll need late in the running. Deep closers often can find trouble in races like this. Also, she's winless on the dirt, even if her efforts in losing tries might be good enough to hang around in the end.
Overall: A solid top 2-4 play. Not convinced she can win on dirt just yet. And certainly not convinced enough to take her at single-digit odds to beat Untapable, something she has only done once when Untapable eased out of the BC Juvenile Fillies.
#5 Thank You Marylou, Julien Leparoux, Michael Maker, 30-1
Good: She does have a dirt win to her credit, something some of the choices behind Untapable can't say. Her dad won the 2004 Belmont over Smarty Jones and her grandsire, Menifee, was second to Charismatic in the 1999 Derby. So the distance shouldn't bother her.
Bad: Her win was in a sprint. She still needs to make up 7 lengths on Rosalind and maybe more on some of the others to win this one.
Overall: She's worth a look, although the presence of Leparoux and the Ramseys (her owner) might drive her price down a bit.
#6 Kiss Moon, Victor Espinoza, David Vance, 30-1
Good: If you like Sugar Shack, you have to like her by extension. Although her maiden win was on Polytrack, it proved she could pass if she had to do so. That's something she'll likely have to do in the Oaks to win.
Bad: She's on a three-race losing streak against some of the horses she sees here today. Also, if she tries to go to the lead, I doubt that she'll last to the end of this race. Uncertainty about the trip she'll receive makes me skeptical of her chances, as well as her lack of wins since January.
Overall: She could run well. Although, she'll need to rediscover her 2013-early 2014 form to have a shot. I'll pass.
#7 Fashion Plate, Gary Stevens, Simon Callaghan, 6-1
Good: She seems like a less accomplished version of Beholder, in that her best running is on the lead and she can fire under duress against the odds. I also appreciate that she is 3/3 on dirt, even if it is just Santa Anita's dirt.
Bad: Might be cooked in a speed duel in this race. Also, Santa Anita was largely speed-favoring this Winter. Churchill may not be as kind to the speed tomorrow.
Overall: She could either run a hole in the ground and run away or run up the track. Might be too cheap for the taking at the 5-1/6-1 range to beat Untapable.
#8 Aurelia's Belle, Channing Hill, Wayne Catalano, 50-1
Good: Her dad won the 1999 Belmont Stakes, so distance appears to be in her wheelhouse. Hill and Catalano are 29% together on horses, which makes 50-1 feel like stealing if you like her.
Bad: Might be too cheap to beat these horses. Her wins were on Polytrack; she's 0/3 on dirt, though Gulfstream Park isn't really a track that suits her. Deserves to be the longest priced horse, and she probably will be for a reason.
Overall: Could be overmatched against this bunch. I'd like her better on synthetic surfaces than on the dirt.
#9 Unbridled Forever, Robby Albarado, Dallas Stewart, 12-1
Good: Has a win at Churchill Downs and a win in a 2-turn race at Fair Grounds, which is similar to Churchill Downs. Has been consistent her last three starts, with 2 wins and 1 third. Figures to be moving in tandem with Untapable in the late running of the race once the speed quits.
Bad: She does what Untapable does, but isn't as good at it. If she reverts to old habits like in her debut, she could be burned in an early speed duel.
Overall: I like her third best in the race, but with reservations, after the #12 and #13. Certainly worth a look and hoping to get at least 12-1 odds on her to win.
#10 Empress of Midway, Corey Nakatani, Doug O'Neill, 50-1
Good: Her dad was the 2003 Belmont Stakes winner. She ran an underrated second in the Sunland Park Oaks on a speed-favoring track trying to pass. I doubt she'll actually be 50-1, but 25-1/30-1 isn't terrible if she's in that price range.
Bad: Her lone win was on wet-fast dirt in a sprint race at Santa Anita. I'd like a little more substance and experience from a filly trying to win the Oaks.
Overall: Probably one of the two longest shots in the field. I'd pick the #8 over the #10 if I had to pick one of them. I'll be truly stunned if she wins the Oaks.
#11 My Miss Sophia, Javier Castellano, Todd Pletcher, 8-1
Good: She won the Gazelle impressively at Aqueduct. She's also 2/2 in route races. Also figures to be the outside speed of the races.
Bad: Might be cooked in a speed duel, even if sitting the best trip of the speed horses. Also worry that 3 starts might not be enough of a foundation to win the Oaks.
Overall: My fourth pick in the race. If speed lasts, I expect it to be her. Though I don't expect it to last. Keep an eye on the tote board.
#12 Got Lucky, John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher, 20-1
Good: Is very consistent, as she's never been worse than second in her 5 career starts. Has had the misfortune of chasing lone speed in most races, and should have more of a pace today.
Bad: 4 seconds against 1 lone win suggests she either finds one better than her, that she doesn't want to pass the last horse, or both. The one better than her lies to her direct outside in Untapable.
Overall: My second pick in the race for her consistency and running style. Would need a fast pace (think 1:10 4/5 or faster 6 furlong fractions) to benefit the most. My cold exacta'd likely be 13-12. She's my win bet, as 4-5 isn't good odds even on a sound favorite.
#13 Untapable, Rosie Napravnik, Steve Asmussen, 4-5 (favorite)
Good: She has dominated a la Rachel Alexandra in her 2 starts this year. She also has wins on the grounds as a 2 year old. Had a dreadful trip in her Breeders' Cup flop last year, but beyond that, she's been nearly flawless.
Bad: Her value at the betting window. The only reason she is 4-5 is the sheer field size of the Oaks. In a normal race with 7-10 runners, she'd border upon 1-2 odds. Also, her worst effort, despite some excuses, was on a big stage in the Breeders' Cup. How will she handle the crowd of the Oaks in the post position nearest the crowd?
Overall: My top pick, though certainly not betting her to win, as there's no value in that. Bet against her at your own risk. Don't over-think it if she's at her best.
My top 5: 13-12-9-11-4
Best of luck to all! Don't forget to check out the other writers' picks, as JP Fanshawe was on the Princess of Sylmar bandwagon last year before she got well known by winning the 2013 Oaks!