Hanson: Kentucky Oaks Day spot plays
If there's one sure thing for Friday's Kentucky Oaks Day card at Churchill Downs, it's an unfortunate one: rain.
How quickly the rain moves through Louisville and how it affects conditions for the Oaks itself remains to be seen, but bettors across the country should probably expect off going on both the main track and turf course for most if not all of the day.
Here are thoughts on various races throughout the 13-race program.
Race 4: Allowance (12:05 p.m. ET)
Alcibiades (G1) winner #7 Juju's Map, a distant second to champion Echo Zulu when last seen in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) in November, was installed as the even-money favorite in this second-level allowance. The older rivals she's facing are generally a nondescript bunch, but I'd still be wary at taking such a short price on a three-year-old facing older this early in the season while returning from an extended layoff.
#5 Semble Juste (10-1) perhaps has a chance at a minor upset. The Kenny McPeek trainee tends to run best at Churchill (4-2-1-1 here compared to 10-0-0-1 elsewhere), especially in wet conditions. She also figures to be a little more fit after a recent tightener at Keeneland following a winter break.
Race 8: Edgewood (G3, 3:03 p.m. ET)
Trainer Chad Brown potentially has a hammerlock on this 1 1/16-mile turf event for three-year-old fillies. The longest price of his trio on the morning line is #3 McKulick (7-2), who beat multiple stakes-winning stablemate Consumer Spending on debut at Saratoga last summer before finishing third as an odds-on choice in the Miss Grillo (G2).
A Frankel half-sister to a German 2000 Guineas (G2) winner, McKulick remains with a high ceiling and was seemingly well-meant from the start. Although any Breeders' Cup aspirations ended with that loss in the Miss Grillo after a less-than-ideal trip, McKulick starts with a fresh slate here and looms a big threat under Flavien Prat.
Race 9: Eight Belles (G2, 4:04 p.m. ET)
#5 Wicked Halo (10-1) was able to outsprint everyone in a trio of starts at age two, but whether by force or design, attempted to play the stalking game in two earlier starts this term at Oaklawn. She didn't win either of them, but those tactics might be preferred in this race, which has attracted a lot of speed.
A winner of her only try in the mud, Wicked Halo should also benefit from the stretch-out to seven furlongs.
Race 10: Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G2, 4:51 p.m. ET)
Although he's had limited experience in graded company #9 Pyron (6-1) enters in peak form, including a last-out victory in the Feb. 19 Colonel Power S. at Fair Grounds after producing a powerful late surge.
If the Al Stall trainee handles the footing and gets a solid pace in front of him, he can threaten late.
Race 11: Kentucky Oaks (G1, 5:51 p.m. ET)
I pretty much covered the reasons why I like morning line favorite #4 Nest (5-2) in this space earlier in the week. Hopefully some readers joined me in backing Nest in the Kentucky Oaks Future Wager back in March.
If Nest wins, the KOFW payoff will be a nifty $31. Nest is likely to pay $7 or less if she prevails on Friday.
Race 12: Allowance Optional Claiming (6:25 p.m. ET)
#4 Society (8-1) makes her first start for Steve Asmussen after posting a 27-1 upset in her debut for a different barn last fall at Keeneland. One of the pricier first-out winners by Gun Runner seen last year, Society won by a length over Hypersport, who won next out and has since placed twice in stakes at Oaklawn.
With a few others in the field likely to attract play, Society might offer a reasonably square price. Her recent five-furlong works at Churchill suggest she might be ready to roll off the bench.