Early observations of Kentucky Oaks card
Lovely Maria brings improving form into the Kentucky Oaks and I’m expecting a big performance from the Larry Jones-trained filly.
Friday's 12-race program is strong and here are some early thoughts on the Oaks undercard:
Stall Factor – Al Stall is usually live on the Oaks undercard – the trainer has won either a maiden or allowance race three of the last five years – and he’ll bookend the card with a pair of runners making their second career start.
CHIDE was a good-looking debut winner at Oaklawn on March 18 and will tackle winners for the first time in Race 1, a $67,000 seven-furlong allowance that drew nine horses. From the first crop of Blame, the filly is out of the regally-bred Grade 2 winner Yell, a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Eastern Echo and the dam of Congrats and Flatter. Chide is listed at 4-1 with Shaun Bridgmohan.
PAID UP SUBSCRIBER is one of the top contenders in Race 12, a seven-furlong maiden test after the Oaks. Third when making her debut at Keeneland on April 4, the Candy Ride filly was installed at 3-1 in a full field of 12.
Trip Horse: COUNTERFACTUAL offers appeal in Race 4 following a troubled debut at Fair Grounds. Bet down to 5-1 in a 13-horse turf maiden special weight, the $100,000 Scat Daddy weanling saved ground along the rail before attempting to advance leaving the far turn but was forced to check behind wall of horses. She didn’t get clear until late, surging to save fourth after being shuffled back in traffic, and trainer Tom Amoss switches to jockey James Graham. She’s an early 9-2 here.
Surface Switch: PLEASE EXPLAIN goes turf to dirt in Race 5 for Tom Proctor (21% win from a 42-race sample). Tenth in last year’s Kentucky Oaks, the four-year-old filly returned from a lengthy layoff this year with a rallying fourth in a turf allowance at Tampa Bay Downs. The stakes-winning filly switches back to her preferred surface and will be re-united with Julien Leparoux, who was up for her last two wins. She’s also a two-time runner-up on the main track at Churchill Downs and owns a 2-1-1-0 mark at a mile. Please Explain shows a couple of swift workouts at Keeneland and Churchill Downs, and the Curlin filly is eligible to keep showing more at age four. I like her 10-1 odds in this conditioned allowance.
Horse for course: Second in last year’s La Troienne, MOLLY MORGAN could find herself in the winner’s circle this time around. Listed at 4-1 in Race 7, the six-year-old mare is a five-time winner under the Twin Spires, including a Grade 2 score last fall, and she’s certainly eligible to keep moving forward in her second appearance of 2015. With several speedy types entered, the Dale Romans trainee should receive a nice set up well for her finishing kick.
Lone Speed: PROTONICO won’t offer any value as the 7-5 morning line favorite in Race 8, the Alysheba, but the probable lone speed is an obvious single candidate for any multi-race wagers following his front-running romp in the April 11 Ben Ali (career-best 107 BRIS Speed rating). He appears to have a major tactical advantage over main rival Honor Code.
Turf Bomber: POSITIVE SIDE (Race 9) opened last year with a placing in a Fair Grounds turf sprint before recording a pair of superb efforts, finishing a neck second in the Shakertown and a third in the Twin Spires Turf Sprint. He was beaten only a neck by Undrafted in the latter and the gelding is following the same pattern again this year, placing in a Fair Grounds turf sprint last time that was strictly a tightener. Grant Forester is an underrated trainer who seems to get the most out of his horses and Positive Side looks sneaky in this spot, especially when given that he’s 30-1 on the morning line. He’s placed in five of six starts at 5 or 5 ½ furlongs and can challenge for at least a minor award if he shows up with his best on Friday.
Photo of Lovely Maria courtesy of Coady Photography