Churchill Downs Racing Preview, Kentucky Oaks Day – 4/30/21 – By Eric Solomon

It’s Kentucky Oaks Day in Louisville, Kentucky, and as usual, Churchill Downs has worked hard to put together a tremendous week of racing. This card is loaded and this year’s Oaks is ultra-competitive, with several possible outcomes. The exotics are full of opportunities today with four separate Pick 4’s and Pick 5’s, plus three different two day wagers. There’s a $2, two day, Pick 6 starting in Race 8 using the following six races; the La Troienne and Kentucky Oaks today, and The Derby City Distaff, Churchill Downs, Old Forester Turf Classic, and Kentucky Derby tomorrow. Then there’s also the Oaks/Derby Double and the Oaks/Old Forester/Derby Pick 3 that can be bet, starting in Race 11. First post for today’s card is 10:30 and post time for the Kentucky Oaks is scheduled for 5:51 Eastern Time.

Race A B C Exotics Menu
1 6 4,5   DBL, PK3, PK5
2 1   6 DBL, PK3, PK4
3 4,7 3,5   DBL, PK3, PK5
4 3,10     DBL, PK3, PK4
5 1 4,5,7,10   DBL, PK3
6 6   5 DBL, PK3, PK6
7 6 2   DBL, PK3, PK5
8 1,2 6   DBL, PK3, PK4,

$2-2 Day PK6

9 3,6,12 10 9 DBL, PK3, PK5
10 3,8,9 2   DBL, PK3, PK4
11 3,10 1,6 5 DBL, PK3

Oaks/KyD DBL

2 Day PK3

12 8 14   DBL
13 2,3,10 9,12    

 

Race 1: Top Pick: 6

The Kentucky Oaks card opens with an N1X allowance for fillies and mares at one mile on the main track. I’m siding with Mucho Macho Momma (6) in here, shipping north from the Fair Grounds and facing winners for the first time. She was steadily progressing during her time in New Orleans this winter, running quality efforts in some pretty salty fields. She was beaten two starts back by Pauline’s Pearl, who went on to win the Fantasy at Oaklawn. That day, Mucho Macho Momma had a rough trip, being forced wide on both turns, while running in the slop. She was wide again last out, but confidently handled by Colby Hernandez, and was much the best that day. I think the one turn mile will be a good cutback for her, and I believe she fits very well with this group. Powder River (4) was third last out as the beaten 6-5 favorite in an optional claiming/N1X allowance race at the Fair Grounds. The pace flow did not fit her style that day as she sat off a dawdling pace, and struggled to gain on the leaders while being wide. Like my top pick, she has also been steadily improving and I think she’ll give a better effort here. Bayshore Foxes (5) won on debut when going six furlongs in the slop at Oaklawn three weeks ago. She attended a quick early pace, where they went 21:3 for the opening quarter mile and held the others at the bay once she took control. She’s sired by Mineshaft out of a Kafwain mare, so there’s reason to believe that she can carry that speed longer distances.

 

Race 2: Top Pick: 1

This is another race for fillies and mares at one mile on the main track, this one for maiden special weight horses. Love in the Air (1) finished third in her one start on dirt, which came in an off the turf maiden special weight race that has proven to be quite tough. She was beaten by Kentucky Oaks entrant, Will’s Secret, that day, who went on to win two consecutive stakes races at Oaklawn, including the Grade 3 Honeybee Stakes. The second place finisher that day was Adventuring, who went on to break her maiden and then win the Bourbonette Oaks on synthetic at Turfway. Since that race, she was run two credible turf races, but now comes back to dirt, She’s sired by Constitution, so I would think this one turn mile will be an ideal distance for her. I think she finds a field with speed horses that can’t get the distance, and I believe she is likely going to mowing them down late. She is one of my stronger opinions on today’s card. On deeper tickets, I’ll throw Seasisde Retreat (6) in the mix, as Shug’s horses tend to get better with more experience. She faced some tough fields in New York last year and lost to a pair of next out winners at Gulfstream in her last start on January 7th. She has been given a few months off and appears ready to go here.

 

Race 3: Top Pick: 4

Three year old fillies go in this 6 and ½ Furlong optional claiming/N1X allowance. I have been looking forward to seeing what the Louisiana bred filly, Australasia (4) could do when she faced open company, and she gets that chance today. She has been absolutely dominating the Louisiana breds of her generation, winning all four starts by open lengths, with three of those races coming against state bred stakes company. This is definitely deeper water for her, but I think the cutback in distance is a positive, despite having such success at two turns in her last three tries. Brad Cox had a huge weekend during the September Oaks/Derby days, and he’s set up to do the same again this year. Almalfi Princess (7) seems to be the main danger, as she ran a very credible third in the Beaumont on opening day at Keeneland. She opted to go to this spot, instead of the ultra-competitive Eight Belles later on this card. She has never run a bad race and she continues to improve. The morning line favorite is million dollar baby, Zainalarab (5) making her second career start for Chad Brown. She won on debut at Belmont in September, and hasn’t been seen since. She’s been working well in Florida for her return, but she finds a pretty salty field to make her comeback. I’ll cover with her, but I think she’s vulnerable in this spot. Coppelia (3) may offer the best value as she improved significantly in her second start at Oaklawn to graduate from the maiden ranks. She’ll likely need another step forward to be competitive at this level, but I really liked her last race, and I think she has some ability.

 

Race 4: Top Pick: 3

I’m going to try to beat the morning line, favorite, who is another well bred and expensive ($925K) filly making here three year old debut from the Chad Brown barn in American West (2). She won her debut going the one turn mile at Belmont, beating Millefeuille (running in the Kentucky Oaks later on). She graduated to stakes company, and ran into another high priced daughter of Curlin in Malathaat (favored in the Kentucky Oaks). She was no match for the winner that day, and hasn’t run since. She makes her first start in 6 months while also going two turns for the first time. I think she’ll be more dangerous next time around, but I think she’s worth trying to beat today as there are two very nice fillies she’s going up today. Illiogami (3) runs for Rusty Arnold, and most recently found the Winner’s Circle when facing a nice maiden special weight group at Keeneland on their opening day card. She doesn’t have a ton of early speed, so she’ll be coming from off the pace, but I think her inward draw should allow her to be a little closer than she was last time out. She continues to improve and looks like a dangerous player in this race. Another Woman (10) makes her first start at two turns after running solid races in a pair of maiden special weight contests at Gulfstream. She’s certainly bred for two turn racing, as she’s sired by Broken Vow out of a Malibu Moon mare. She was second to Pass The Champagne (running in the Kentucky Oaks) in her debut, and that one flattered her when she ran her eyeballs out to be a close second in the Grade 1 Ashland last out. Another Woman was a front running winner last out, breaking her maiden. She tries winners for the first time, and she may be able to clear these from her outside draw. If she can avoid going too wide in the first turn, I think she is very logical here.

 

Race 5: Top Pick: 1

This feels like a spot to spread or take a stand, as this optional $80K claiming/N3X allowance has drawn a stakes quality field. There are several that I like here, but I think this could be a great spot for Temple (1) to rebound with Joel Rosario riding for the first time. He’s exiting three consecutive long distance races at Gulfstream, most recently finishing a dull 6th in the Pan American. The pace scenario did him no favors, and he clearly wasn’t on his game that day. Maker drops him in class and shortens him up to 9 Furlongs, where he should have some pace to set up his late close. He is a horse that often gets close but doesn’t win a ton, so I am looking for some coverage, using four B horses, but I like his chances today. Ever Dangerous (4) is one that I am looking forward to watching this year. He appeared on the radar when he won the Bryan Station Stakes at Keeneland last year on the Breeders’ Cup undercard, breaking from post 14 and going off at 70-1. He has hit the board in two starts at Gulfstream to start his four year old campaign. I thought Zayas had some trouble getting him to settle last out in the Appleton run on the Florida Derby undercard. Castellano, who orchestrated that tremendous ride to score at Keeneland, reunites with him here. Big Dreaming (7) and Ramsey Solution (5) are both making their first starts of 2021 in this spot, and both could be dangerous. Big Dreaming was the last foal of Breeders’ Cup champion, Dreaming of Anna, and he showed a lot of potential in his three year old campaign. He almost pulled off the 24-1 upset in the Dueling Grounds Derby at Kentucky Downs in September, and then followed up that effort with a strong win in his dirt debut at Keeneland with allowance foes. He gets back on the grass and looks to want to be forwardly placed today. Ramsey Solution is also likely trying to work out a similar trip. He won the restricted Tapit stakes at Kentucky Downs last year, and followed that up with decent performances in allowance races at Keeneland and Churchill. Wesley Ward is very sharp off the layoff and he cleared the N2X here last year after a three month break. Both are tough and both could be better next time, however, I think both could be used today. Spooky Channel (10) may be another one that could benefit from a quick pace on the front end. I’m not sure this is his best distance, but he certainly brings a lot of class to this field. He is a two time Grade 3 winner at 12 Furlongs on the grass. It’s interesting that he’s in this spot for a tag with a race like the Grade 3 Louisville coming up in two weeks on this course. I’ll use him with a bit of caution here.

 

Race 6: The Grade 2 Alysheba, Presented By Sentient Jet: Top Pick: 6

Many of these horses have been familiar with each other, and Maxfield (6), who returns from a third place finish in his first Southern California road trip, has handily defeated three of his five rivals in the past. He comes back in here after his first career defeat, and finds a fairly soft group that he seems to tower over. Sonneman (2) and Chess Chief (4) both took runs at him in New Orleans this winter in the Tenacious and the Grade 3 Mineshaft, but neither were able to get close. Chess Chief flattered Maxfield by winning the New Orleans Class on the Louisiana Derby undercard, when Maxfield was chasing the 10 Furlong Grade 1 score. I think this is a good rebound spot, as Maxfield is perfect at the track, breaking his maiden here at two and winning the Matt Winn at three. This is logical prep for the Stephen Foster at the end of the meet if that is what Godolphin wants to do. This could be the start of a very good weekend for them, as they’ll send out Essential Quality in the Derby tomorrow. The only one that may give Maxfield a little challenge may be Roadster (5) making his second start off a year long layoff for Bob Baffert. He hasn’t won a race since winning the 2019 Santa Anita Derby. He was game last out just getting a little tired in the final 1/16 of a mile, and yielding to Chess Chief, when finishing 4th by less than a length. I presume he’ll run better here, but I’m not sure he’s capable of stepping up enough to tackle Maxfield.

 

Race 7: The Grade 2 Edgewood, Presented by Newport Racing and Gaming; Top Pick: 6

This part of the card appears very chalky, as another star runs here. Aunt Pearl (6) makes her first start as a three year old filly after dominating the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf race in November. She’s never lost and has never been challenged in three starts. Her game is front end speed and she finds a race where she’s not going to have a lot of early pressure. There’s always a chance that a horse may not be at their absolute best off the layoff, but this is not a very strong group outside of her. The only other one that seems logical would be Gift List (2) who ran a solid race to be second in her North American debut in the Appalachian at Keeneland. She’s never been worse than second in five career tries, but I’m not really sure who she was facing in Great Britain. Her last race definitely felt like a step forward and her Timeform ratings overseas were steadily improving during her two year old campaign. She appears to be the one best suited to spring the upset.

 

Race 8: The Grade 1 La Troienne Stakes Presented By Twinspires.com; Top Pick: 1

This is a very good Grade 1 race on the heels of another very good Grade 1 race at Oaklawn in the same division two weeks ago. Five of the seven fillies and mares in this race have an unblemished record when racing at Churchill. Six of the seven runners have won multiple graded stakes races. I’m all in on the Azeri last month being a key race, as Letruska, who finished a narrow second to Shedaresthedevil (2) came back to defeat both Monomoy Girl  and Swiss Skydiver in the Apple Blossom. I think Envoutante (1) can turn the tables on Shedaresthedevil this afternoon while returning to Churchill Downs. She had a favorable pace scenario two starts ago when she absolutely dominated the Falls City Stakes in November. Prior to that effort, she was second fiddle to Swiss Skydiver in the McPeek barn. I think she’s grown up a bit in her last few tries and I think if she goes off near the 6-1 morning line, she’ll offer solid value. Shedaresthedevil put this division on notice when she beat a good field in the Azeri, proving her Kentucky Oaks upset in September wasn’t a fluke. She’s likely going to be on the lead or right off it in this spot, but there’s some other speed interests in here that may softer her up a little bit. Like Envoutante, she’s undefeated here and should be very stubborn in the stretch. I think these are the two principal threats in here, though haven’t completely given up on Sanenus (6), who was my top pick in the Madison last out when she was defeated by Kimari. She ran a big effort two back at this distance in the La Canada at Santa Anita. She looked very comfortable tracking the early leaders before pouncing in pulling away that day. She is now second off the layoff and returning to two turns. She is likely to go off at double digit odds, but I think she has a better chance than some of the shorter priced horses.

 

Race 9: The Grade 2 Eight Belles, Presented By Smithfield; Top Pick: 12

This is about as deep of a field that I can remember ever being assembled for this race. Twelve talented three year old fillies have entered, some possibly eyeing the Grade 1 Acorn at a mile at Belmont next month. Caramel Swirl (12), fresh off a dominating maiden victory at Keeneland is my top pick. Her three one turn races have been very good, so it seems clear that this is what she wants to do. In her three sprints, she has one win and two seconds. The two horses that beat her are Malathaat, favored in the Oaks later on, and Miss Brazil, who went on to be a stakes winner. I think she’ll get a favorable pace set up as there are a handful of speedy horses trying to stretch out from 6 Furlongs. Slumber Party (6) was second in the Beaumont on the opening day card at Keeneland, beaten by the talented filly, Twenty Carats, who is did not enter in this spot. She was making her first start off a two and a half month layoff and her first try against winners. She was a dominating winner on debut at Gulfstream in January. She showed she was comfortable rating off early speed and making a run at the leader late. I think she can move forward here. Souper Sensational (3) is undefeated at the 7 Furlong distance, winning her first two starts on Tapeta at this distance at Woodbine as a two year old. She was a clear winner of the Glorious Song stakes by 4 widening lengths in October. She tried the three major races for three year old fillies on the Kentucky Oaks trail, and she hit the board in two of them, finishing second in the Silverbulletday and third in the Fair Grounds Oaks. She had a miserable trip and ride in the Rachel Alexandra, so I believe it’s fair to toss that race. She’s been facing high quality horses, as both Clariere and Travel Column run in the Oaks later on. She makes sense while cutting back if she can prove to be as effective on dirt, as she is on synthetic. The big story in here is the return of Grade 1 winner and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies runner up, Dayoutoftheoffice (10). She was undefeated in three starts going into the Breeders’ Cup last year when Vequist wore her down late. She’s perfect in three starts at one turn, and has raced well with some gaps in her running lines. She has other speed to contend with here, and this may be a spot to try to beat her as she’ll likely go off as the post time favorite. I’ll use her, but I think there’s value in playing against her as I think this is a very deep field. On deeper tickets, I’ll give a look to Fair Grounds invader, Li’l Tootsie (9) cutting back from two consecutive two turn races. She was dazzling when breaking her maiden at 6 Furlongs three starts ago, winning by 4 lengths in a fast time. She regressed a bit in the slop at two turns, but still cleared the N1X condition, earning her a birth in the Fair Grounds Oaks. She faded to 5th that day, so cutting back to 7 Furlongs seems logical in here.  

 

Race 10: The Grade 2 Twin Spires Turf Sprint Presented by Sysco: Top Pick: 9

This is a very good sprint race on the grass, It’s a little surprising that none of the top three finishers from the Shakertwon last month at Keeneland are back in here, as there aren’t a ton of graded opportunities for turf sprinters. Regardless, this is a strong field, and I think Diamond Oops (9) is going to be the one to beat in his seasonal debut. He is the reigning champion of this race, coming from well off the pace on a good course to get the job done off the three month layoff in September. There is plenty of speed signed on I think some of them will be struggling to get the last 1/16 of a mile, setting things up for his late close once again. He’s proven to run well on a softer course, which is another advantage for him here. Fast Boat (8) is also coming in off a shorter layoff, not having run since the Turf Sprint at Sam Houston on January 31st. He was very sharp in his lone start on the course here last season, beating allowance foes by 4+ lengths, earning a monster Beyer figure. He’s been competitive on softer courses and Irad Ortiz gets the call today for Joe Sharp. Fiya (3) could be a star in the making in this division. He makes his four year old debut today after not really being tested in five career turf sprints, all with lesser. He easily won a pair of restricted stakes, the Maryland Million Turf Sprint at this distance, and the Claiming Crown Canterbury at 5 Furlongs at Gulfstream. This will be the acid test for this very quick son of Friesan Fire and I wonder if he can get the 5 and ½ Furlongs on a softer course, off the 5 month layoff. All that said, he’s been too good to ignore thus far on the grass. On deeper tickets, four year old Guildsman (2) could be a sneaky horse in this race for trainer Brendan Walsh . He came up short in a salty allowance race at this distance at Keeneland, when defeated by Wesley Ward’s Maven. He’s second off the layoff now and could have a forward move in his at this level.

 

Race 11: The Grade 1 Longines Kentucky Oaks: Top Pick: 10

This is an excellent renewal of the Kentucky Oaks, featuring 14 very solid three year old fillies. We haven’t seen a breakout performance yet in this division, but there is a lot of talent and potential in this field. There are some very well bred horses in this field, and on pedigree, two Curlin fillies stand out above the rest. Malathaat (10) was foaled by Dreaming of Julia, who was a Grade 1 winner and ran a monster effort the Gulfstream Park Oaks, before finishing 4th in the 2012 Kentucky Oaks. Clairiere (3) was foaled by multiple Grade 1 winner Cavorting, who was a graded stakes winner in races from 6 to 9 Furlongs. Both of these fillies have been impressive on the track and both have a running style that should suit them well for success in this race. I like both, but I’ll give the slight edge to the undefeated Malathaat. She reminds me of Essential Quality in the fact that she hasn’t been super flashy, but she has been very consistent and she has proven that she’s capable of winning races in multiple different ways. She looked beaten in the Demoiselle in December on a sloppy track under miserable conditions, but she surged late and just caught Millefeuille (14) at the wire that day. She returned and made her seasonable debut in the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland and was finishing well to just get by a stubborn Pass The Champagne (5). I think the extra half furlong will only help her cause and she continues to improve with each start. Clairiere and Travel Column (6) will be meeting for the fourth consecutive time, with Travel Column taking two out of those three races. Travel Column had a distinct pace advantage last out when they met in the Fair Grounds Oaks. There was very little speed signed on, and Travel Column was able to take advantage of that, navigating the easiest of trips, being able to save some energy for the stretch drive. Clairiere on the other hand, was shuffled to the back and went wide on both turns, trying desperately to close into a slow pace. She was able to rally to be a clear cut second place that day, but she comes in here and I think there will be more competition for the early lead for Travel Column. Clairiere has drawn inside and should be able to get a good spot into the first turn. Travel Column breaks in the middle of the pack and has one speed threat inside of her, Pass The Champagne, and three speed threats outside of her; Ava’s Grace (7), Moraz (8), and Search Results (12). Travel Column did win the Golden Rod last year coming from off the pace, but I think she is better when she sits closer. I give the advantage to Clairiere today, especially when going 1 Mile and 1/8 instead of 1 Mile and 1/16. I still think Travel Column is one to use, and she’ll be one of the B horses on my tickets, along with longshot Pauline’s Pearl (1). She is also trained by Steve Asmussen, and she is one that keeps improving with every trip to the racetrack. She broke her maiden three starts back at the Fair Grounds, racing in a strong maiden special weight race on the Rebel undercard. She avoided stablemate, Clairiere (both owned by Stonestreet) by traveling to Arkansas. She was a narrow second to Will’s Secret (11) in her stakes debut in the Grade 3 Honeybee. She followed up that performance with a one length win in the Grade 3 Fantasy. She’s sired by Tapit, so there’s reason to believe that she will continue to improve as distance is added. She’s another one that could benefit from a quicker pace on the front end. Pass The Champagne is a longshot that I was very impressed with when she ran in the Ashland. She made the early, perhaps a shade too early, before being caught by Malathaat that day in what was her first start against winners and her first start at two turns. I don’t know if the race flow sets up well for her here, but I think she showed a lot and has a nice future in front of her. She’s one that could be worth an investment if her odds float above her 15-1 morning line.

 

Race 12: Top Pick: 8

There’s a full field in this optional $62,500 claiming/N2X allowance race, and I’m all in on More Than Unusual (8). She drew in off the AE list three weeks ago at Keeneland, winding up in the outside post when facing a very tough import from the Chad Brown barn in Pocket Square. She made the front, traveling nicely on the good course, before getting passed in the latter stages of that race. She cuts back to the flat mile and I think she’ll get to sit a trip closer to the one she got when she crushed N1X rivals that Fair Grounds two back. I think she has another forward move in her and will get the job done here. Enjoyitwhilewecan (14) will need help to draw in off the AE list, but I think she could sit a good trip as she is a deep closer. Southern California shipper, Woke Up With Aces (9), is all about early speed, and I’m thinking big longshot, Sara Sea (3) might press the pace, setting up a fast early tempo. The potential for a pace meltdown is there and she ran well over a good course at Keeneland last out, clearing the N1X condition in a dead heat. She has six career starts on the turf, and all of them are respectable.  

Race 13: Top Pick: 2

The first of two straight marathon days ends with a maiden special weight contest for fillies and mares, sprinting at 6 Furlongs. If you like second time starters, this race is for year, as seven fillies start for the second time today (eight if you count Bahia Girl (13) on the AE list). There’s also some well bred first time starters that will debut here today. There’s plenty of options in here, so coverage will be essential, but I’m going to make Liberty Isle (2) the top choice. Of the second time starters in the body of the field, she’s the only one that passed horses last time out, making a nice run to get within less than a length of the more experienced winner of that race. She wheels back in two weeks, which might not be ideal, but there are only so many maiden special weight races out there with purses of $115K. She’ll definitely have pace to run at if she’s good enough. Played Hard (10) may be the speed of the speed coming from her outward draw. She ran a quality race, finishing second to the more experienced Rookery in her debut at the Fair Grounds, racing on the Louisiana Derby undercard. A strong performance from Rookery in the 3rd race this afternoon could certainly flatter her. Magic Quest (3) just missed when breaking from post 12 in her debut at Keeneland earlier this month. She gets a more inward draw and is another candidate that could assert herself early with an aggressive ride from Luis Saez. I made two of the first time starters B horses on my tickets, using both Lonely June (9) and Smith’s Point (12). Eddie Kenneally and Tyler Gaffalione are off to fast starts at the current meet, and they do very well when teaming up at Churchill Downs, winning 33% of their races together. Lovely June is a daughter of Violence out of a Grand Slam mare, who has been working well at Keeneland. Her drill two back was very sharp and looks ready to debut. Smith’s Point is another well bred horse (Bernardini out of a Summer Squall mare) that runs for Chad Brown. She’s had two works over this course since shipping North from Payson Park, and she should benefit from the outside draw.

Leave a Reply

Further reading

Woodbine 6/20/2021 – by Drew Coatney

Doing something a bit different for this writeup as I’ll be out on a river all week without access to internet. Instead of morning lines, I’ll use my...