Analysis & Selections By: Dean Keppler @Keppskorner
**Churchill Downs Race 11: The Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks**
4-Southlawn/12-Dorth Vader/7-Wet Paint/6-Botanical (4-12-7-6)
BEST BET: 2-Slam Diego (Race 1)
Race #1: 2-Slam Diego looks difficult to go past in the Friday afternoon opener for trainer Jeff Mullins and will likely try to wire this field. This 4-year-old filly holds a double Beyer turf advantage based on last two efforts and makes third start of the form cycle this afternoon. The obvious knock is the probable short price but she’s perhaps a solid single for those participating in the early pick five. Her stablemate 3-Violet Storm makes first start off the claim and her first attempt versus winners resulted in a close-up 3rd place effort back on February 12. 7-Busker Allie moves up in class and back to grass for D’Amato off solid second place effort back in mid-March.
Race #2: 7-Rain Diva flashed speed and tired at this level off the mini-freshening and is reunited with winning rider today for trainer Andrew Harris. The 4-time winning mare is nicely drawn outside with good gate speed and finished directly behind next-out winner Bella Renella in last. 3-Hillstone Martini has been freshened since Los Al win off the Steve Knapp claim and barn is a solid 5 for 20 (25%) with a $2.09 ROI the past 3 years with recent claims sprinting on dirt. 1-Righteously finished a disappointing sixth and last in most recent start but barn switches to red-hot rider and a repeat of her sprint try from three-back would make her a contender in this weak field.
Race #3: 3-Youteyourhonor returns to grass on the turnback for trainer Vladimir Cerin off a pair of third place finishes against steeper over the main track. This filly has trained well since that last effort and proven she can handle the footing. 7-Too Much Heaven steps up off sharp wire-to-wire score off a year layoff and owns the field’s best last out turf Beyer (75). A strong chance to repeat for D’Amato. 6-Professors Pride didn’t show much in last off the extended layoff but adds Lasix today; drops in class, and switches back to turf. Improvement is likely.
Race #4: Recent Maiden winner 3-Deservedly returned from a year layoff with an impressive gate-to-wire score for trainer Mark Glatt. The 5-year-old gelding stretches out to 7 panels this afternoon and shows 4 works since that March 17 victory. A repeat of that (80) Beyer speed figure would make him tough right back against winners. 2-Indulge goes synthetic to dirt for Mandella while making his 3rd start off the bench. His main track try was solid two-back at this level and today’s 7 furlongs looks as if it will fit him perfectly. 4-Big Hat Willie had a tough trip on April 9 when banged around and forced to check in the early stages of that sprint. The gelding made a steady, long sustained bid while 6 or 7 wide to gain the place spot.
Race #5: 6-Talklessworkmore looks like the commanding early speed from the outside draw and had a legitimate excuse in most recent start on April 7. He stumbled badly out of the gate and was therefore unable to establish his customary clear lead. Despite the tardy start, he still finished a game third. 1-Oubabe goes two sprints to a route today for Sadler while making the all-important 3rd start off the long layoff. This colt has 9 underneath finishes from 12 starts but did break his Maiden going a mile. His recent sprint figs are competitive, and he gets some class relief today. 4-Worse Read Sanchez can move forward today for Team O’Neill making his second start off the long layoff but needs some pace to run into.
Race #6: Baffert sends out a pair of well-bred 3-year-old colt firsters and they’re difficult to separate in that both are working extremely well for their unveiling. 1-Truehood is a $700K Keeneland purchase by multiple Grade 1 winner Nyquist who gets 16% with his debuting prodigy. 5-Stavros is by multiple Grade 1 winner Constitution who gets a solid 18% with his debuting juvenile runners and this colt also has a flashy worktab. 9-Mystification holds the experience edge over several of these and comes off a better than looks fourth in March 18 debut when breaking slowly and spotting the field about two lengths. The colt gathered up some momentum along the inside– got in some tight quarters– and was then forced to check losing some valuable ground. He’s a $250K Ocala Breeders Sale purchase by multiple Grade 1 winner Good Magic and has trained well since his only career start.
Race #7: 2-Doncic returned off a 9-month layoff to run a bang-up 2nd at this level on March 31 when missing by a neck and figures to be a handful with any normal second off the bench improvement. He owns the field’s best last out turf Beyer (93). 6-Marks Hip was interfered with at the start in the John Shear Stakes losing any realistic chance and now drops down to a more logical spot today for trainer Steve Knapp. This 3-year-old gelding looks quick enough to establish a clear lead in here with an aggressive pilot and could be tough to reel in late. 1-Thunderheart steps up in class off a sharp win and projects to get another favorable tracking trip with today’s rail draw. The gelding makes his third start off the bench today with an improving Beyer pattern.
Race #8: 6-Point and Shoot makes her first start over the main track today and is bred to handle the surface switch for conditioner Ian Kruljac. This barn is 4 for 13 (31%) with a $2.09 ROI the past 3 years with runners going turf to dirt. 4-Rose Harbor comes off a career best Beyer when just missing in most recent effort March 17 when finishing in front of a next-out winner. That (71) Beyer speed figure is on par for this class level, and she gets a more than capable rider replacement with Smith taking over. 1-Act of Serendipity is slowly on the improve and makes the third start of the form cycle today for low-profile barn. She drops in class today and could work out the right trip from off the pace.
Race #9: 2-Organic has not been out since August of last year but returns with Lasix today off a strong worktab and is bred to handle today’s surface switch. Her sire multiple Grade 1 winner Dads Caps gets 30% with his grass sprint prodigy (10-3-2-0). 4-Golden Microphone is by Stanford who gets 18% with his 3-year-old & up debuting prodigy and turf sprint runners. Trainer Jonathan Wong is more than capable of getting a debut runner home and is a sharp 5 for 16 (31%) with $3.78 ROI the past 2 years with first time starters on turf. This filly’s Golden Gate drills are decent. 1-Ms Maub makes first start in 11 months and initial turf try for capable layoff barn. This 4-year-old has worked well at San Luis Rey for today’s return effort and did show some ability over the synthetic last spring.