The spotlight race on Friday May 3 at Churchill Downs is the Kentucky Oaks. The signature three-year-old filly race is the day before the Kentucky Derby and one of the best showcases for female horses in all of racing. A full field of 14 horses are entered and there are two alternates ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Much like we discussed in our Kentucky Derby preview, wet conditions are expected for the week leading up to this weekend, so we could be looking at a muddy and sloppy track. Track conditions have to be factored in to every horse handicap.
The 1 1/8 miles required for the horses in this race is longer than all of the lead-up races other than the Demoiselle and the Gazelle Stakes, so this is a lot like the Triple Crown races in that regard.
You’ll want to remember that as we break down the field for the Lillies for the Fillies in the 2019 Kentucky Oaks.
|1||Out For A Spin||D. Stewart||I. Ortiz Jr.||15/1|
|2||Chocolate Kisses||M. Casse||T. Gaffalione||20/1|
|3||Lady Apple||S. Asmussen||R. Santana Jr.||20/1|
|4||Bellafina||S. Callaghan||F. Prat||2/1|
|5||Flor de La Mar||B. Baffert||J. Rosario||20/1|
|6||Positive Spirit||R. Brisset||M. Franco||30/1|
|7||Jaywalk||J. Servis||J. Castellano||8/1|
|8||Motion Emotion||T. Van Berg||M. Smith||15/1|
|9||Liora||W. Catalano||C. Hill||20/1|
|10||Champagne Anyone||I. Wilkes||C. Landeros||6/1|
|11||Jeltrin||A. Delgado||L. Saez||15/1|
|12||Street Band||L. Jones||S. Doyle||15/1|
|13||Serengeti Empress||T. Amoss||J. Graham||8/1|
|14||Restless Rider||K. McPeek||B. Hernandez Jr.||6/1|
|Alt1||Dunbar Road||C. Brown||5/1|
|Alt2||Point of Honor||30/1|
When you talk about dominant in filly races, you talk about Bellafina. The 2/1 favorite rolled through the Road to the Kentucky Oaks circuit with wins at the Santa Ynez, Las Virgenes, and the Santa Anita Oaks, as she outlasted Flor de La Mar for the win. That Santa Anita Oaks featured only four horses and the conditions were picture perfect for racing, so it’s fair to be less than impressed with that performance. Bellafina was the 1/5 favorite.
Bellafina was fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenille Fillies last year at Churchill, but she was in heat, so racing wasn’t the only thing on her mind. She finished behind Jaywalk, Restless Rider, and Vibrance, who did not run well in other lead-ups and will skip this race.
The odds suggest that it’s Bellafina’s race to lose, but distance hasn’t been kind to her and it will likely be wet and sloppy. She only ran against four horses in the Santa Anita and five in the Las Virgenes. While a deserving favorite, this is a much larger field and it can make horses uncomfortable.
Champagne Anyone gave a strong effort in traffic in the Forward Gal Stakes back in February with a third-place finish. She moved deftly along the rail on the backstretch to get into contention and then gave a strong final push to finish third behind favorite Feedback and Bye Bye J. That was only a seven-furlong race and Champagne Anyone would have caught the two leaders had it gone any longer. That’s relevant here because this is a 1 1/8 mile race.
Champagne Anyone had a strong win in the Gulfstream Oaks over Dunbar Road, who is an alternate here, but would be among the favorites as you can see on the board above. She’s had some good practice times and put on blinkers that could be a big help in traffic here in this race. It doesn’t hurt that she comes from Street Sense, the winner of the 2007 Kentucky Derby and second-place finisher to Curlin in the Preakness that same year.
Restless Rider was second to Jaywalk in that Juvenile Fillies race at Churchill last November. She was also second to Liora in the Golden Rod Stakes and then second to Out For A Spin in the Ashland Stakes. She’s a Kentucky horse through and through with a lot of runs at Churchill and Keeneland. She’ll be on the board here. Whether or not she’ll win will depend on how she closes the last eighth of a mile. She’s been right there at the end of most of her second-place finishes.
Serengeti Empress is a great horse with a great name, but sometimes timing is everything. She’s slated to run in this race, but she suffered a very scary incident at the Fair Grounds Oaks with some respiratory bleeding. That was about five weeks ago. She’s stepping up in class and doing so at less than 100%. That’s a pass.
Realistically, there are four horses that can win this thing. Bellafina, Champagne Anyone, Restless Rider, and Jaywalk. This filly has the very experienced Javier Castellano in the irons. He won on Cathryn Sophia back in 2016 for John Servis and the two are back together here.
The concern about Jaywalk here is that she’s trending downward. A third in the Ashland and a fourth in the Davona Dale were not good showcases heading into the Kentucky Oaks. On the other hand, she was the best in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on this same track last November. That was the team of Servis and Rosario in that one, but Jaywalk went basically wire to wire and got stronger at the finish by opening up a six-length win.
John, much like his brother Jason, doesn’t push his horses too hard in lead-ups to major races. I can’t help but wonder if he was holding Jaywalk back a bit after that big win, with this spot all but set in stone for the Kentucky Oaks.
I’m actually going to stay away from the favorite in Bellafina here. She’s a deserving favorite, but I think the other contenders are just as strong, if not stronger. Jaywalk and Champagne Anyone are my top two for this race and I’d put them in an exacta box.
Restless Rider should also hit the board. A trifecta box of Jaywalk, Champagne Anyone, Restless Rider, and Bellafina makes a lot of sense here, as those are the top four contenders and I’d be surprised to see any other horses sneak into the top three. Hope for Bellafina to hit the board third for the best payout.
So, my picks as of now:
Exacta: Box 7 & 10
Trifecta: Box 4, 7, 10, & 14
Would use 7 & 10 in Pick 3s and Pick 4s as well