The storm clouds are gathering over America… for another reason than politics as the Kentucky Oaks and Derby take place at a wet and wild Churchill Downs. The rains have come and at the time of writing the track was sloppy for the first, which was won from wire-to-wire by Naylor – and also the La Trioenne, which went to Big World, who also lead from gate to post.
It’s unlikely we’ll have a dry track for the Derby but we’ll certainly have a wet track for the Oaks, which takes place at 11.12 tonight, and that is a significant complicating factor given that many of the fillies going there will not have had experience of a wet track.
That is not a particularly off-putting factor for any of the fillies and pedigrees are a help .
The hot favourite here is Paradise Woods, precious and lethal off the front end. A fast earner, she made the jump from sprinting five and a half furlongs to destroying the field in the Santa Anita Oaks, putting 12 lengths between her and Abel Tasman (who reappears here), posting a 107 Beyer.
A repeat of that performance here will give her a huge chance although that was very much a backyard win when she wasn’t pressed early and whilst the raw power is there, this is going to be very much tougher, something to keep in mind when taking the 7/4 about her. Abel Tasman, a winner of the Starlet Stakes last season, was 9/10 to win that day but she had been denied a clear run towards the race by a slight fever after being moved to the barn of Bob Baffert thanks to a silks mix up (true story). She also received a very poor trip there, and will be sure to be far sharper today too. The pair should be Mopotism once again, a dual minor winner.
Miss Sky Warrior, who has won her last five, was just as impressive as the favourite when she slammed Lockdown in the Gazelle at Aqueduct, running roughly the same early figures and simply maintaining her pace as her rivals crumbled. Much like the favourite, she wasn’t aggressively pressed early but the only horse to be on her tail finished exhausted and she should be upto making another bold bid – although this will be the hottest pace she’s come into.
Farrell already has course experience, having won two from four here including a wide margin defeat of Daddys Lil Darlin’ in the Golden Rod Stakes, form that has been well represented since, before winning twice at Fair Grounds in Graded company. She had very little to beat in the Fair Grounds Oaks, going off 2/5 to take the honours there, and did the job nicely with Wicked Lick second but a fortunate second at that given that Vexatious, who is likely to be suited by the strong early pace at least, had a poor trip for the second time in April. A big show would be no surprise at all.
That’s three of the first four in the market, with the best Beyers, who race prominently and are yet to go close to a 45 half, which has to be a slight concern.
Since switching to the barn of Mark Casse, Salty has won two from two, including a particularly taking win in the Gulfstream Park Oaks when she was too good for Tequilita who was a hard fought winner of the Forward Gal Stakes the time beforehand, with Jordan’s Henny in third. It’s interesting to note that Jordan’s Henny had previously run Miss Sky Warrior to half a length in the Davona Dale Stakes despite getting weight (only 2lbs as jockey put up overweight). Clearly a strong stayer, she came from the rear to take the Oaks at Gulfstream with a strong late charge and she should have plenty of pace to run into on her third start for Mark Casse.
Ever So Clever came from the rear to take the Gulfstream Oaks and whilst she’ll need to run a lot faster to be involved, she would be one to watch in running.
Two things that are clear here is that this will likely be a strongly run race on a wet track and it’s a surprise that a deep closer who has won a Grade 2 over this course on a muddy track is 28/1. Daddy’s Lil Darling was beaten by Sailor’s Valentine in the Ashland on a fast track and whilst the time was not all that on the clock it was another solid effort in Grade 1 company and everything here is set to be well within her favour. It is well worth taking the chance that she comes alive for the track and pace here.
Advice – Kentucky Oaks
1 pt each/way Salty (10/1 general)
1 pt each/way Daddys Lil Darling (28/1 general)