The 147th running of the Kentucky Oaks takes place today, a rare running of the sophomore filly classic in April. Louisville’s own Brad Cox captured his second running in three years with Shedaresthedevil in the delayed 2020 renewal back in September. He’ll try to make it three for four in the 2021 edition as he saddles the duo of Travel Column and Coach. A contentious field of accomplished fillies will not make it an easy task. Five other graded stakes support the feature on a splendid Friday card at Churchill Downs. Here’s a preview of the day’s stakes action:
Race 6 – the Grade 2 Alysheba
At 4/5 on the morning line, Maxfield is a very logical favorite as he looks to kick-off what Darley hopes will be a big weekend for the boys in blue. The only blemish on the Street Sense colt’s record came last time out in the Big Cap at Santa Anita. He’ll appreciate cutting back to the mile and a sixteenth distance, where he is 4 for 4, and returning to Churchill, where he is 2 for 2. He’s certainly the class of the field and will be very tough to beat in this spot. The most likely challenge may come from Roadster, who ran very nicely on the front-end at the Fair Grounds and has been training with renewed energy at Santa Anita since that comeback effort. Expect Irad Ortiz Jr. to take him straight to the front and dictate what appears to be a tepid pace on paper.
Race 7 – the Grade 2 Edgewood
Aunt Pearl sure looked like a special filly in each of her outings last year. She’ll look to take this field from pillar to post and is very likely to succeed. Gift List is most likely to upset. She brought her strong European form stateside to finish runner-up in the Appalachian at Keeneland in her North American debt. She could very well show further improvement in her second start for Brian Lynch.
Race 8 – the Grade 1 La Troienne
Brad Cox and Florent Geroux will look to keep the good times rolling in much the same fashion as the prior race as Shedaresthedevil returns to the scene of her Oaks victory, where she is 3 for 3. She is the controlling speed of the race and Geroux will look to dictate terms from the outset in a race with no confirmed front runners. The daughter of Daredevil made her 2021 debut a winning one by besting Letruska in the Azeri at Oaklawn. That foe returned two weeks ago to best champions Monomoy Girl and Swiss Skydiver in the Apple Blossom. Envoutante and Dunbar Road are quite formidable on their best day. Dunbar Road likely needs the race and Envoutante may not get the best trip from the rail.
Race 9 – the Grade 2 Eight Belles
Dayoutoftheoffice capped a productive juvenile campaign with a placing in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. A work tab littered with bullets indicates her readiness for a return to racing action in this 7 panel affair for sophomore fillies. There is plenty of pace in this race, and this speedy daughter of Into Mischief has shown a willingness to sit just off the lead in the past, which should set her up for a good trip here. Just to her outside, Abrogate will employ a similar style under Ricardo Santana Jr. With 3 starts under her belt this term, she may hold the fitness edge necessary to find the wire first in this spot. Slumber Party came from off the pace to run second in Keeneland’s Beaumont at this same distance. She appears capable of capitalizing on a quick pace. Caramel Swirl benefitted from the cut back in distance when finally breaking through in her 5th start last time out at Keeneland. A repeat of that performance may be enough to put her in the exotic mix.
Race 10 – the Grade 2 Twin Spires Turf Sprint
Johnny Unleashed, Fiya, and Just Might are all expected to contend a hot pace that should set things up perfectly for Diamond Oops, who won the most recent renewal of this race in September. The Lookin’ At Lucky gelding enters his 2021 debut off two straight bullet works at Palm Meadows and has run quite well off similar respites in the past. Though Fiya is likely to be enthralled in the battle for early supremacy, she has yet to falter in 5 prior efforts on the grass. Her speed figures suggest she fits in this spot, which is certainly a step up the class ladder compared to the competition she bested in her current win streak.
Race 11 – the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks
Malathaat, Search Results, and Travel Column will vie for favoritism in an intriguing renewal of this classic race for 3yo fillies. Malathaat and Search Results have yet to taste defeat. In addition to perfection, they are also the only two fillies in the race with wins at the 9 furlong distance of the Oaks. Both are versatile enough to adapt to any pace scenario and trainers Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown are two of the best in the business. While she lacks a perfect record, Travel Column falls right in line with those two in terms of speed figures, tractability, and training under the tutelage of the reigning Eclipse Award winning Outstanding Trainer. Indeed it will be quite difficult to separate the top three, and all will be sent off at relatively short odds in this most prestigious event.
From a wagering standpoint, Pass the Champagne offers perhaps the most value in the race – at least based on the morning line. She came up just a head short of victory in the Ashland after hitting the gate at the start, and her 15/1 quoted price pales in comparison to the victor in Lexington that day, Malathaat, at 5/2. The George Weaver trainee will be making just her 4th lifetime start and could make a big step forward after dealing with that adversity last time out.
Play of the Day – $0.20 Derby City Six, a pick 6 beginning in race 6.
6 – 5,6
7 – 2,6
8 – 1,2,3,5
9 – 6,8,9,10,11,12
10 – 3,8,9
11 – 5,6,10,12
The above combination will cost $230.40. Best of luck at the windows and Happy Oaks Day!