Before the Run for the Roses, some little filly will probably break your heart in the Kentucky Oaks. One of the three-year-old female horses will be able to claim the $600,000 first prize and the garland of lilies that goes along with the Friday night race at Churchill Downs. With a full day of racing on tap for Saturday, culminating with the Kentucky Derby, this race doesn’t necessarily get the notoriety that it deserves, but it is a great opening act for horse racing fans and handicappers.
Since 1982, this has been a 1 1/8-mile race. Rachel Alexandra, a name that should resonate with horse racing fans, holds the biggest margin of victory in this event at over 20 lengths. Rachel Alexandra went on to win the 2009 Preakness Stakes. Many familiar trainers have taken down the win in this Grade I filly event. Last year’s winner, Lovely Maria, had the highest-winning time since 2010, but it was still a victory for jockey Kerwin Clark and trainer J. Larry Jones.
The top filly in this class, Songbird, has been sidelined with a fever, so this field is considered to be very wide open, even though some horses obviously have better odds of winning than others.
Let’s take a look at the odds for this year’s Kentucky Oaks and handicap some of the top challengers:
|1||Terra Promessa||Santana Jr.||Asmussen||10/1|
|2||Weep No More||Lanerie||Arnold||9/2|
|3||Lewis Bay||Ortiz Jr.||Brown||8/1|
|4||Go Maggie Go||Saez||Romans||12/1|
|5||Dream Dance||Hernandez Jr.||Howard||30/1|
|13||Land Over Sea||Gutierrez||O’Neill||5/1|
Steve Asmussen has three horses in this race and it’s surprising that none of them are among the favorites. Asmussen was the trainer of Rachel Alexandra during her Preakness Stakes win and his horse, Untapabale, won in 2014. He also picked up a winner with Summerly in 2005. Terra Promessa got a really unfavorable draw in the #1 post, but Asmussen’s top contender was the points leader during the Road to the Kentucky Oaks circuit. She is part of the Curlin bloodline.
Asmussen seems keen on the chances of Royal Obsession, a long shot at 20/1 that got a really favorable draw. She does have two wins in four starts and comes from the bloodline of Tapit. He was happy to get eighth and she tends to be in the mix. With that draw, a couple things go Royal Obsession’s way and she could cash a big ticket for handicappers.
Asmussen’s other horse, Taxable, had a big win last year at Churchill Downs, but that outside draw may be a little bit difficult. She is one of the least-experienced horses in the race, so coming from outside could prove to be a bit of a challenge. On the other hand, the horse with the Valentine’s Day birthday may be able to piggyback off of Land Over Sea’s push to the inside.
Familiar name Todd Pletcher has a couple of horses in this race, including the favorite, Rachel’s Valentina. Pletcher is a three-time winner of the Kentucky Oaks. Princess of Sylmar won in 2013, with Rags to Riches in 2007, and Ashado in 2004. Rags to Riches, if you’ll recall, was the first filly in over 100 years to win the 2007 Belmont Stakes. Rachel’s Valentina is part of the Rachel Alexandra bloodline and we know how much success she had.
Lewis Bay had quite a bit of success, racking up 129 points during the Road to the Kentucky Oaks. She was also given very high speed ratings from Brisnet and would seem to be a very strong challenger here in this one. Chad Brown has drawn some rave reviews for her recent performances and she’ll be a horse to watch on Friday as money continues to pour in on this year’s event.
Another strong performer on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks was Land Over Sea. The Doug O’Neill trained filly has a couple of wins and four places to her name over eight starts. She was the best of the rest because Songbird, who is not in the Kentucky Oaks, won five of the eight starts for Land Over Sea.
Weep No More could have done a little bit better with the post draw, but she is viewed as a serious contender. She has three wins out of four races and came on the scene after a big 30/1 win in the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland. It has been a little bit of a tumultuous road to this race, as she was quarantined for three weeks in March. Weep No More is viewed as a slow starter that finishes strong, so don’t tear up your tickets if you give her a try.
NBC Sports Network will have coverage of this race coming up on Friday night at 5:49 p.m. ET.