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Who Will Reign Supreme in Friday’s Kentucky Oaks?

I am not worthy! I am not worthy!

I had every intention of tracking the three-year-old fillies just as closely as the colts this year, but failed miserably. What can I say, there were so many good ones to watch! A lot of my early Oaks favorites are missing here (Killer Graces, Willa B Awesome, Miss Netta, Reneesgotzip, Disposablepleasure, Weemissfrankie), but a couple make up for the vacancies in what should be a nice feminine warmup to the big weekend at Churchill Downs. Who shall reign Queen of the Lilies?

Scattered showers are in the forecast for Friday’s card, though I doubt this will influence the race much.

$1 million Kentucky Oaks (I) - 3-Year-Old Fillies. 1 1/8 miles on dirt at Churchill Downs. Post Time: Friday, May 4 at 5:45pm EST.

[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]

1) On Fire Baby - Joe Johnson, Gary Hartlage - It’s hard to knock a gal like this Smoke Glacken fireball, who has been a sensational runner since her two-year-old days and she hasn’t stopped as a three-year-old. She ran third with the boys in the Smarty Jones after a wide trip, but followed it up with an authoritative win in the Honeybee Stakes (III). She looks ready to grab that first G1 win, and is a nice pace stalker. The rail spot is definitely worrisome and hurts her chances.

2) Grace Hall - Javier Castellano, Tony Dutrow - Sporting a similar record to On Fire Baby, but with more credentials due to her winning style. The Empire Maker daughter finished a distant second to My Miss Aurelia in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (I), but looked every bit a winner as a three-year-old falling short a neck to Yara in her return in the Davona Dale (II), following up that excellent effort with a romp in the Gulfstream Oaks (II). She has proved she can run from anywhere and is a class act with excellent connections to see her through. She very well might be in for a bump in her post position, but with the speed to her outside she could wade through in time for a win.

3) Summer Applause - Garrett Gomez, Bret Calhoun - A tough gal down at Fair Grounds, the blaze-faced daughter of Harlan’s Holiday has won once and placed 2nd in 3 starts this year, capturing the Rachel Alexandra (III) in a well-timed rally. She hasn’t beaten much, and hasn’t really dealt with a large field such as this since her maiden days at Woodbine. She’ll need a hot pace and a nice spot to settle down, and has fired a bullet :59 3/5 at Churchill. Live longshot?

4) Eden’s Moon - Martin Garcia, Bob Baffert - An expensive auction buy-turned-graded stakes winner, the daughter of Malibu Moon hopped from a huge maiden win to humiliating all the locals in the Las Virgenes Stakes (I), but looked burned out last time running third in the Santa Anita Oaks (I) to fall victim to Willa B Awesome. Baffert has been stretching her breezes out to get the speedball focused on those extra furlongs, and that strategy has worked wonders in the past for his trainees that tired. A strong field, but one Eden’s Moon could upset should she pick her cards right.

5) Hard Not to Like - Robby Albarado, Gail Cox - Ironically, I’ve found it hard to like Hard Spun progeny! With 1 start this year yielding a 2nd in the Ashland Stakes (I) to Karlovy Vary, this gray grass-turned-dirt warrior has never raced on dirt! She drifted in the Ashland, which she lost by a half-length, but with works only logged at Woodbine and Payson, who is to say she has a decent shot at this surface? Yup, this one IS hard to like!

6) Broadway’s Alibi - John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher - A secret weapon in the ol’ handicapping arsenal prevailed for me early on in the Forward Gal Stakes (II), the Vindication filly wound up galloping home easy to win by almost 17 lengths. She came back in the Comely (I) with a little trouble at the start, but nonetheless was much the best winning by 3 lengths. Works have been consistently good at Palm Meadows. Can I trust Pletcher long enough to use her here?

7) Sacristy - Mike Smith, Wayne Catalano - Consistent and with a record of 1-1-1 in 3 starts this year, the Pulpit filly that was all too lucky to get into the field has one upset G3 win to her credit in the 6-furlong Old Hat at Gulfstream. She couldn’t keep up with Broadway’s Alibi in the Forward Gal (II), while Gypsy Robin bested her by 3 on synthetic in the Beaumont (II) at Keeneland. It’s hard finding a spot in the clear for Sacristy, who clearly does not sport the figures needed to beat this field.

8) Jemima’s Pearl - Joe Talamo, Bob Baffert - An imported daughter of Distorted Humor, Baffert brought this bay filly in to Santa Anita where she won an allowance right off the bat in March in a desperate nose surge. She wobbled in her next start in the Fantasy Stakes (II), finishing a solid third behind stablemate Mamma Kimbo and Amie’s Dini. Clearly not on Baffert’s A-team just yet, this pearl needs some time before she shines.

9) Believe You Can - Rosie Napravnik, Larry Jones - The most surprising thing about this lovely Proud Citizen filly is that she has 8 total starts, with 5 wins with no other board finishes. Hmm. She won both the Silverbulletday and the Fair Grounds Oaks (II) in a tamed, rated fashion, but was inexcusably beaten 4th in the Rachel Alexandra (III). A fiery bullet work in :58 2/5 will change most people’s minds about her fitness if there ever was a question. I like her position and her chances here well enough to put money on it… and that was before I saw that work!

10) And Why Not - Julien Leparoux, Michael Matz - Talk about classic potential! A Street Cry [IRE] daughter out of an A.P. Indy mare has the same jockey and trainer as Union Rags, but has one winless start as a three-year-old where she was a dusty 7th in the Gulfstream Oaks (II). Third in the Spinaway (I) to Grace Hall and second to On Fire Baby in the Pocahontas (II), her only redeeming quality is a bullet 4-furlong work at Churchill in :46 4/5, which is much faster than she usually goes in training. Much like I questioned Teeth of the Dog in the Wood (I), I must again ask why a flailing Matz trainee is in a G1…

11) Karlovy Vary - James Graham, George Arnold - Stacked with classic potential, the Dynaformer filly upset the Breeders’ Cup Turf Filly (I) champ Stephanie’s Kitten to win the Ashland Stakes (I) to be 2-for-2 as a three-year-old. She’s rooted in grass, however, and does best when she’s not on dirt.

12) Colonial Empress - Corey Nakatani, D. Wayne Lukas - Unraced as a two-year-old, the Empire Maker filly summoned just enough courage to finish third to On Fire Baby and Amie’s Dini in the Honeybee (II), beaten a mere… 11 1/2 lengths. 3 starts… no wins… but, a zippy 4 furlongs at Churchill in :47. Lukas, again you mystify me with your logic!

13) Amie’s Dini - Jon Court, Ron Moquett - Consistent and never off the board, the Bandini daughter has had 4 starts this year resulting in 3 good second place finishes and a roaring upset win in the Martha Washington won in a stalking trip. Not working as sharply as the others, she might be worth using in an exotic but still I’m wary that she won an ungraded stakes just by beating an injured superstar in Now I Know.

14) Yara - Jesus Castanon, Jose Garoffalo - Due to be another uncanny longshot, the Put It Back filly outlasted a returning Grace Hall to win the Davona Dale (II) just barely, but was beaten badly to be 5th in the Gulfstream Oaks (II). The outside post isn’t too good for her since she likes to be up there next to the pace, which is sure to cook her with the likes of Eden’s Moon and other top heavyweights. Sorry, Yara.

Also Eligible: Oaks Lily - Rafael Bejarano, Timothy Hills - The Badge of Silver filly broke her maiden in April over at Keeneland. Works are all right. Taking a pass should she make it.

Top Picks in Order:

  1. Believe You Can
  2. Grace Hall
  3. And Why Not
  4. Broadway’s Alibi

Value Picks: Believe You Can, And Why Not

With Grace Hall and On Fire Baby— the two best suited for 1 1/8 miles on this track— down in a sticky spot on the inside and doddering contenders everywhere, this race is ripe for a big upset. Whether or not it’s going to be Believe You Can or And Why Not, I can’t say for certain.

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