Kentucky Oaks doesn't get the hype of the Derby but it is the premier race for 3yo fillies. Looking at the sheet below, the top 3 morning line choices are at the top of the sheet, get the only 3 letter grades and have no value. So tough betting race as a result. The RANK column has very few horses with Pauline's Pearl (for BEST Odds), Pass the Champagne (ENERGY) and Moraz for (JOCKEY/TRAINER). Read the RANK blog if you want more detail on this important column. The filly with the best VALUE is Pauline's Pearl and as such gets the "+" grade. There are no E horses in the race so advantage to the E/P horses who could still set a quick pace but have the tactical speed to also find a good spot for their horse.
1. Pauline's Pearl - Rail draw is perfect for Asmussen/Santana who want to save ground and will. Has not had a break in training so not eligible for huge improvement and ENERGY is already a little slow.. BEST Odds rank is based on the significant improvement for horse in the Fantasy beating Ava's Grace & Coach. This horse makes sense and with the "+" identifier will be a key horse for me in the trifecta.
2. Maracuja - Lost to Search Results who was an absolute beast in Gazelle. The time of that race was so slow but with deep track horse should come into this race with excellent fitness. Big long-shot with no break in training. Profitable jockey & trainer combination.
3. Clairiere - Gets a jockey upgrade with Gaffalione. Beat Travel Column in Rachel Alexandra but lost the other two times they met. If you use Travel Column you have to use this one also in the exotics. Should improve in 3rd start of 3yo season and has a win at Churchill. Big Closer.
4. Crazy Beautiful - Finished ahead of Travel Column as a 2yo and improved significantly in Gulfstream Oaks. Eligible to improve again in 3rd start of year. Another closer with good ENERGY. McPeek is profitable in graded stakes.
5. Pass the Champagne - Tactical speed and good draw with all closers to his inside. Should get a clean trip into the first turn. Lightly raced, making fourth lifetime start (all in 3yo year).
6. Travel Column - Should be prominent early & on a fast track beat Clairiere. Loss to Clairiere on a slow FG surface. Track should be quick this weekend. Gets A grade & top spot on sheet. Little slow on Energy. Makes sense.
7. Ava's Grace - May set the pace in Oaks and was stubborn in lane losing to Pauline's Pearl. Eligible to improve off that effort and if speed holds, could get a piece. UPDATE: SCRATCHED
8. Moraz - Heavily raced with no break in training. McCarthy a good shipping trainer but appears a notch below.
9. Coach - Superb trainer Cox and gets a massive jockey upgrade with Saez. Has a win at Churchill but has been consistently beaten by other horses in this field and appears very unlikely.
10. Malathat - Pletcher/Velazquez combination and horse is undefeated. Should improve in 2nd start of year. $1M daughter of Curlin is a deserving favorite.
11. Will's Secret - Won Honeybee when set a very slow pace. Was soundly defeated in Ashland. Stewart/Court are profitable together and are capable of big upsets. Making 5th start without a break doesn't help chances.
12. Search Results - Tough draw for undefeated filly who may go off favored for Brown & Irad. Aqueduct deep surface could have her very fit. Filly has tactical speed and should be in good position early despite the draw.
13. Competitive Speed - Making 8th start without a break and handily beaten by Crazy Beautiful. No shot.
14. Millefeuille - Regally bred Juddmonte filly and trained by Mott. Gaff jumps off to ride Clairiere but Rosario is red hot. Working out very strongly at Churchill. Not without a shot but post position is a concern.
Bottom Line - Very hard race and with the pace scenario this becomes a jockey race. Not going to risk a lot in this race and think one of the top 3 horses on sheet will win. With that said, if a horse makes a huge move forward they can win. Besides the 3 favorites, horses who could pop Oaks day are 3,4,7 and 14. My top selection is Malathat but its boring picking the morning line favorite. My key will be using the Asmussen filly Pauline's Pearl underneath at a big price and won't forget to use Clairiere as well.
UPDATE: Ava's Grace is scratched making a slow pace even slower. Search Results should have no problem getting over into a good position early. Travel Column dominated the FG Oaks and can't use Clairiere on top after watching that. Closers are going to struggle to win this race. Malathat is going to make her presence felt late and could certainly win. Those are the top 3 horses and they all make sense. Pass the Champagne made a really bold move in the Ashland in first route race and barely lost to Malathat. She's my upset special and figures to get a good ground saving trip. Pauline's Pearl can also be used underneath with ground saving her big advantage.