Happy Kentucky Oaks day! We’ve asked our contributors to share their thoughts on the graded races on the Kentucky Oaks cards. We’ll add replays as they become available after the races and be back tomorrow with the Derby card.
We’ll post the rest of the replays as they become available
G2 La Troienne Stakes (8.5F)
Race 6 | 1:26 PM ET
By Dana Byerly
At first glance, the La Troienne looks strictly like a Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic rematch between Unrivaled Belle & Blind Luck, and perhaps it is. But both have knocks against them that are worth considering.
Ladies Classic winner Unrivaled Belle made a horrid seasonal debut last out in the Grade 3 Rampart (replay). Obviously that race wasn’t her goal, but she looked much better losing off a break in the past, in the 2010 La Canada (replay). If you think she’s fit and ready to go, then play accordingly, but if you have concerns, I’d recommend including her underneath only. However, if she looks good warming-up it’s definitely best to include her. Blind Luck has never been off the board in her 10 starts at the distance, but is on a five-race second-place streak. She’s training well and should get a much better pace than her last two starts, but given her come-from-behind style, she can always use a little more distance to get her nose on the wire, literally. I think she’ll do well and has a great shot to win, but I would be more inclined to put her top at 9F and up.
There are several speedy types in here, and it looks like Quiet Giant might get the jump on Absinthe Minded by virtue of their post positions. All Due Respect, Stage Magic and Unrivaled Belle will likely be right behind those two, and the off-the-pace types include Seeking the Title, Ravi’s Song and Blind Luck.
Stage Magic has been training up a storm in the slop at Churchill and she gets the services of Borel, so if she remains near her morning line odds of 30-1, she’s probably worth including somewhere on your tickets. But it’s Ravi’s Storm, who beat her last out in the New Orleans Ladies Stakes, (replay) who’s of most interest to me. Not only should she be perfectly positioned to pick up the pieces of the hot pace, but she’s been off the board only once at Churchill and has been in the money at the distance in each of her six tries (four of the them wins). She comes in two-for-two on the year and looks poised to step up and take advantage of the situation.
The last time Seeking the Title won, she did it was under a speedy pace scenario, similar to what we’re likely to see with this group (replay). All of her races since have had an incredibly slow pace, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see her do better than her recent form would suggest. She’s also been training quite well at Churchill.
Picks: Ravi’s Song, Blind Luck, Seeking the Title
G3 Eight Belles Stakes (7F)
Race 8 | 3:02 PM ET
By Jen Jade
This year’s edition of the Eight Belles features some familiar names – including the daughter of one of racing’s most beloved mares.
By Giant’s Causeway and one of three foals from 2002 Horse of the Year Azeri, Arienza boasts not only a tremendous pedigree, but talent as well. The filly won her first two starts with ease. She suffered her first defeat in the Fantasy to Kentucky Oaks hopeful Joyful Victory.
The cutback from the 1 1/6 miles should suit her. Her only obstacle will be starting from the rail, but Ramon Dominguez may be able to guide her to a good spot, as she’s drawn next to Home Sweet Aspen, who likes to come from off the pace. Arienza looks to be a good value play if she’s anywhere near her morning line of 4-1.
This filly breaks from the three post and is the morning line favorite at 3-1, boasting a solid victory at this distance in the Forward Gal. She was a good third in the Davona Dale going a mile, and it looks like this distance better suits her. Interesting that Rajiv Maragh takes over the mount for Ramon Dominguez.
Todd Pletcher’s Holiday Flare (9-2) is a pacesetter who boasts a two-race win streak. She can set fast fractions and hold her speed, but the question with her is class, as she’s moving up against much tougher competition.
She is a “mysterious” 20-1 on the morning line, considering she has an excuse for her fifth place finish in the Comely. She stumbled badly at the start and tired. Her other races, albeit against lesser competition, are promising and she could prove to be a good exotic play.
This Sunland invader was dusted by Oaks contender Plum Pretty in her last start. Her chances are vaulted if the track is sloppy.
She has excelled on poly, but her one race on dirt leaves a lot to question – an uninspiring seventh place finish.
This filly is not one to be overlooked. The daughter of Bellamy Road has improved with experience, boasts a two-race win streak, and, although taking a class hike, her off-the-pace style fits here.
Angelica Zapata and Dr. Diamonds Prize
These are two longshots who round out the field.
Picks: Arienza, Holiday Flare and Pomeroy’s Pistol
G3 Alysheba S (8.5F)
Race 9 | 3:52 PM ET
By Chris Rossi
Very solid field of 11 for the Alysheba, which came up stronger than the average Grade 3 these days with seven of the entrants graded stakes winners.
Billed as rematch of the New Orleans Handicap in which Mission Impazible got the best of a closing Giant Oak by a length, it appears that Mission Impazible would again hold an edge in the Alysheba with the trimming of half a furlong from their New Orleans meeting. Giant Oak, winner of the Clark at this same track, needs some pace help to make up that difference and could find that in here with the pair of Regal Ransom and Wise Dan stretching out from seasonal debuts in sprints.
Caracortado ships in from California as a big question mark who’s kept top company on turf but who has valid excuses in his limited dirt starts. Deep closer would have to outkick home a bunch of grizzled vets at their game in this spot, and that’s very hard to figure at too short a number at his 7-1 morning line.
First Dude, also in from California, may have gotten more than just a confidence booster in last when drawing off in a first level allowance. He showed an ability to rate off a fast pace that will be needed here to be a factor after having been a pacesetter himself in some of the past year’s biggest races. Still, he seems like the type who could be keyed in the place and show spots.
The aforementioned Regal Ransom and Wise Dan figure to be pace. Wise Dan has never been two turns but has shown an affinity for the Churchill surface, winning two of his three starts with the lone loss a credible sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint last November. Not sure how far he can go against this group. Regal Ransom has shown occasional brilliance at two turns on the front end and is a danger should he get loose on the lead.
Demarcation is a sneaky sort who usually gets lost in the wagering but has been remarkably consistent for year now. Never off the board at this distance, he edged Mission Impazible in the Mineshaft Handicap off a three-month layoff in February. Appears an overlay at his 10-1 morning line and is worth using in all spots.
Solid New York bred Icabad Crane moves outside his domain rarely and faces open company for the first time in over a year. Hard to gauge, as he’s a consistent performer who’s also never been off the board at this distance. Can’t argue with those who see some value in this corner on the bottom end of exotics.
Awesome Gem was last seen winning on dirt in the 2009 Hawthorne Gold Cup. Eight-year-old has done his best running at longer routes of ground. The hood comes off today but don’t know if it helps his chances much.
Jardim is a must-use if the track comes up sloppy. Equestrio exits an allowance win against probable Kentucky Derby favorite Dialed In; this is his first stakes try.
Picks: Mission Impazible, Demarcation, First Dude
G2 American Turf Stakes (8.5F Turf)
Race 10 | 4:44 PM ET
By Kevin Martin
The Grade 2 AmericanTurf will be the warm-up act on turf for the 3-year-old colts who will take center stage in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. While the future turf stars of the 3-year-old division may end up coming out of the Kentucky Derby, as Paddy O’ Prado did last year, the American Turf did draw a few runners that have the potential to be major players in the summer turf stakes for colts.
The Shug McGaughey-trained Air Support is the only two-time graded stakes winner in the field with a win in the Grade 3 Pilgrim at Belmont last October and a win in the Grade 2 Transylvanian at Keeneland in his 3-year-old debut last month. Among his rivals is Surrey Star, who has two Group 3 placings in Europe as a 2-year-old and a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Generous at Hollywood Park in his North American debut in 2010. Air Support and Surrey Star drew the two outside post positions, which could compromise their chances. Air Support broke slow in the Transylvania and raced far off the pace; a slow start would be to his benefit in the American Turf, as it will give him an opportunity to move towards the rail before the first turn.
Another colt who will be among the likely favorites is Banned, who last raced over the Churchill turf in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, in which he finished fifth, just three lengths from the winner and ahead of Air Support who finished ninth. He lost by a neck in his 3-year-old debut at one mile but has every reason to improve in his second race off the layoff.
The race has a number of colts signed on who have shown early speed in previous races, but the speed of the speed might be Great Mills. He set a very fast pace in the Transylvania and finished only a nose behind Air Support in his first race beyond one mile. If he can get out in front of the other early speed from his inside post position, he could still be in the mix at the end.
Man of Strife is the only four-time winner, but all of his racing has come in restricted state-bred races in Louisiana. He won his only race over the turf at 1 1/16 miles, but will be taking a significant jump in class in his first try against open company. Tag V Eye, who was entered as an also-eligible in a race at Churchill on Thursday but scratched, has only a maiden win on his resume. In his first two turf starts as a 3-year-old, he clocked impressive finishing fractions in back-to-back third-place finishes. He will be among the longest shots on the board and will have veteran jockey John Velazquez aboard — he could be a solid exotic play.
Picks: Air Support, Great Mills. Tag V Eye
G1 Kentucky Oaks (9F)
Race 11 | 5:45 AM ET
By Valerie Grash
Even with the absence of R Heat Lightning, the 137th running of the Kentucky Oaks promises to be a dynamite event, one in which we could very well see the crowning of a new superstar, Joyful Victory. Transferred to Larry Jones after he emerged from retirement, this gray Tapit filly has simply dominated her competition this year. St. John’s River looks extremely promising off her last effort; a full sister to multiple Grade 1 winner Panty Raid, this Include filly should have no problem negotiating the 9-furlong distance, giving young jockey Rosie Napravnik her first Oaks winner. Larry Jones no longer trains Grade 3 Bourbonette Oaks winner Summer Soiree, but this daughter of hot sire War Front is dirt-proven and has the damside pedigree to stretch out.
The “other” Tapit filly, Zazu is the proven West Coast campaigner—and only Grade 1 winner in the field. Her dramatic late close to just-miss in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks, and the winner Turbulent Descent’s smashing victory in the Grade 2 Beaumont, suggest Zazu has the class advantage over most in this field. The two-month layoff is a concern, though. Bob Baffert’s Plum Pretty has twice run third behind Zazu before crushing an inferior field in the Sunland Park Oaks by 25 lengths. That doesn’t make her a giant-crusher and she may very well “bounce” off that dominating performance. Still, this Medaglia d’Oro daughter is certainly bred well to stay nine furlongs.
Of the two Flower Alley fillies, Lilacs and Lace has the most upside, off her wire-to-wire victory in the Grade 1 Ashland. The real query is whether she can transfer her speed to dirt after running almost exclusively on synthetics and turf. She’s also apt to “bounce” off that big effort. Bouquet Booth won the Grade 3 Delta Princess last November and January’s Silverbulletday, but finished out of the money in her last two races. It’s hard to imagine she’s ready to run—and win—at nine furlongs.
Kathmanblu ran probably the best race of her career in last year’s Grade 2 Golden Rod over this Churchill track. That said, she looks much better suited to turf, and didn’t perform all that well in the Grade 1 Ashland. Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks winner Daisy Devine has posted two smashing wet-track workouts in advance of this race, but there’s niggling doubt that this Kafwain daughter can beat others here going nine furlongs. However, a wet track would move her forward. Off her well-beaten runner-up effort in the Grade 3 Comely (and last-minute purchase and entry here), Her Smile just doesn’t fit. Only jockey Garrett Gomez moves her into contention for a placing.
Those in the “no hope in Hell” category include Holy Heavens, dismissed by Joyful Victory by well over eight lengths in each of her last two races; Street Storm, who is both class and distance-challenged; and Suave Voir Faire, crushed by Kathmanblu in last year’s Golden Rod and by Summer Soiree last out.
Picks: Joyful Victory, St. John’s River, Summer Soiree/Zazu