Oaks and Derby day provide some of the greatest wagering opportunities the thoroughbred game has to offer. Hopefully the weather will not be a factor. Best of luck to everyone heading to Churchill or watching from home.
Race 6 – Grade 1 La Troienne
Abel Tasman won the Kentucky Oaks last year en route to being named champion 3yo filly. She is a 4 time grade 1 winner competing against 7 others without a single grade 1 win to their names. The daughter of Quality Road has 5 straight bullets on her work tab, and her versatility will allow her to negotiate a satisfactory trip regardless of the pace scenario. All that said, she may well be the shortest price on the card. She is 1 for 4 at the mile and a sixteenth distance, and this is her first race since the Breeders’ Cup in November. Martini Glass is 4 for 8 at the 8.5 furlong distance and has won two straight graded races this term. Her stalking style should be well suited to what projects to be a contested pace between Farrell and Apologynotaccepted. Salty stretches back out after an incredible late rally to just miss in the Grade 1 Madison at Keeneland. She appears to have improved from 3 to 4 and should be sitting on her best effort in her 3rd start back from an extended layoff. Ivy Bell is very intriguing stretching out in her 2nd start for the Pletcher barn.
Race 7 – Grade 3 Twin Spires Turf Sprint
As is often the case in grass sprints, this race is loaded with early lick. Bucchero has the perfect stalking style and enters off a solid effort in the Grade 2 Shakertown at Keeneland. Will Call had a rough trip in that same race and did not take well to the soft ground. Expect him to rebound with a strong performance over firm ground here. Frisky Magician improved in his 2nd start for Jorge Abreu and could be competitive despite a big jump in class. Vision Perfect defeated Bucchero by more than 5 lengths in the Silks Run at Gulfstream Park. If he can run back to that effort, this field will be at his mercy. Delectation cuts back to sprinting in her first start for Wesley Ward. She is a grade 3 winner sprinting in Great Britain, but 5 furlongs may be a touch short in her first start since last October.
Race 8 – Grade 2 Alysheba
Good Samaritan takes to the post following an impressive off-the-pace victory in the New Orleans Handicap. His late running style will be to his detriment in a race severely lacking early speed. Always Dreaming returns to the site of his last victory, the 2017 Kentucky Derby. He has not won in 4 subsequent trips to the starting gate. He could certainly win as this is not an overwhelmingly talented field, but there is no doubt he will offer no value whatsoever at the windows. Backyard Heaven is making a big jump up in class, but he has progressed nicely in each of his 3 starts and should sit a perfect trip either at the head of affairs controlling a slow pace or sitting just off Always Dreaming. He will offer significantly more value than last year’s Derby victor and has significantly more upside.
Race 9 – a one other than allowance for 3yo fillies
Very odd placement of a first level allowance event in the midst of six graded stakes races, but nevertheless it’s part of the Oaks Day pick 6, pick 4, and pick 3 sequences all ending with the feature event, so we’ll have a look at it. Electric Forest was noted as a likely winner in her debut at Keeneland and took care of an 11 horse field despite breaking last, and widest of all. She is a regally bred filly out of a brilliantly fast mare and while facing winners for the first time is a big step up, the Chad Brown trainee looks like she is one that can handle a swift rise through the ranks. Joe Sharp sends out two capable runners in this spot in Maho Bay and Devine Mischief. Maho Bay gets the top nod for that duo as her rider, who has won at a 28% clip for Sharp the last 2 years, chose her over the stablemate. Sworn Silence is one of only two in here to find the winners’ enclosure twice and could be a major threat with another improved effort. Upset Brewing leads the field in experience and has several runner-up finishes in stakes to her credit. She enters this off a non-threatening sixth place finish in the grade 3 Beaumont at Keeneland and will appreciate the class relief.
Race 10 – Grade 3 Edgewood
Nearly every pick 6 player’s budget requires a single somewhere in the sequence, and Rushing Fall feels like the best candidate to fill that role on this card. Undefeated in 4 trips to the post, her speed figures and margins of victory will not blow anyone away, but that is typical of many elite turf runners. The relative ease with which she dismantles her opposition is impressive to behold. It’s anyone’s race if the favorite fires less than her best, but Altea, Figarella’s Queen, Daddy Is A Legend, Toinette, and Kabella figure as the more likely upset possibilities.
Race 11 – Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks
The 2018 edition of the Kentucky Oaks feels very similar to 2002 when Take Charge Lady (now a champion broodmare) squared off against You in a race billed as the Beast of the East versus the Best in the West. Take Charge Lady had captured the most prestigious preps east of the Mississippi and entered the starting gate as a slight favorite over You, who had swept the prep series in California for the late, great Bobby Frankel. Take Charge Lady finished a valiant second, ahead of You who ran fourth, as Farda Amiga announced herself as the new leader of the division and eventual champion, scoring a surprising victory at 20/1. This year Monomoy Girl boasts dominant victories in the grade 2 Rachel Alexandra at Fairgrounds and the grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland. She is the morning line favorite. Second choice is Midnight Bisou, who swept the southern California preps with similar ease as You in 2002. The winner should come from those two. Monomoy Girl drew widest of all in post 14, but she has the tactical speed necessary to secure good position on the run to the first turn to save ground. After 2 nose losses to the now sidelined Dream Tree to begin her career, Midnight Bisou broke her maiden in the 7 furlong grade 2 Santa Ynez and has not lost since. Her preferred closing style appears well suited in a contest with an expected tepid pace. Classy Act and Rayya will likely challenge for the early lead with Take Charge Paula and Monomoy Girl in close pursuit. Monomoy Girl should assume command by the top of the stretch, if not sooner, and will need to fight hard to the wire to hold off the late charge of Midnight Bisou. That’s the way it’s supposed to play out on paper, but there are several others hoping to play the role of Farda Amiga from 2002. Sassy Sienna, Coach Rocks, Chocolate Martini, and My Miss Lilly all won meaningful preps for this and any of them can manufacture an upset on their very best day. However, at 20/1 on the morning line, Wonder Gadot rates as the top chance to emerge victorious should the top two falter. She has closed ground late in her last 2 starts and has a grade 2 win at the 9 furlong distance on her resume. If Monomoy Girl and Midnight Bisou both fail to fire, the Canadian-bred daughter of Medaglia D’Oro can light up the tote.
You can follow me on Twitter @chadlashbrook for more thoughts on the big weekend of racing. Derby day stakes analysis will be out early tomorrow morning.