Race Preview: Kentucky Oaks – Churchill Downs, May 3, 2013

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Matt Carter

May 3rd, 2013

The feature race on Friday under the twin spires at Churchill Downs is the Grade 1, $1-million Kentucky Oaks for three-year-old fillies.  Ten fillies will break from the gate in the nine-furlong race, but most eyes will be on two of them.

Dreaming of Julia comes in off perhaps the best recent race in history.  The A.P. Indy filly absolutely crushed her rivals in the Gulfstream Park Oaks, winning by an easy 21 and three-quarter lengths.  The sheets gave her the best number by any horse in the history of the numbers.  The one caveat; however, is that traditionally fillies coming from Gulfstream Park have not fared well in Kentucky.

Midnight Lucky is the pick to upset as she has been working lights out over this past week.  She has dusted off two colts in her morning preparations and is coming off a dominant eight-length win in the Sunland Park Oaks.  Trainer Bob Baffert completed the Sunland-Kentucky Oaks double two years ago with Plum Pretty and he is back with perhaps a better filly. 

After the top two there is a second group of fillies that any other year may be the post time favorite. 

Beholder is the actual second choice on the morning line, but she has perceived distance limitations.  She is not bred to go nine furlongs and the best race of her career was a six furlong sprint.  She is the speed of the speed; come and catch her.

Unlimited Budget is four-for-four in her career and is trying to make it back-to-back years that the Fair Grounds Oaks winner has won the Kentucky Oaks.  By Street Sense, Unlimited Budget looks to still be learning the game and with a move forward could contend with the favorites. 

Close Hatches is also perfect in her career, winning all three of her starts by a combined 11 and one-half lengths.  She will break from post 10, but jockey Joel Rosario should be able to get a good position early.  She has been a bit eager in the early stages of her races, which won’t be ideal with all the speed in the Oaks. 

As far as long shots go, Rose to Gold is the one to back.  The chestnut filly was purchased for only $1,400 and now has made over $700,000 in her career.  She is training very well in the mornings and gets Calvin Borel in the irons.

On paper, the race shape sets up for a closer and those two are Princess of Sylmar and Pure Fun.  Of course jockeys can read the form too so the thinking is Beholder and Rose to Gold go while the others sit.  If the past years have been any indication, the winner will not be farther than three lengths back at the half.  Only in 2010 with Blind Luck was there a deep closer and that was with a full field and Blind Luck was no ordinary filly.

While the odds may be short, the race should come down to Midnight Lucky and Dreaming of Julia.  It should be an outstanding stretch run.

Post time for the Oaks is 5:45 pm ET and first post is coming up fast at 10:30 am.