How to Bet the 2019 Kentucky Oaks

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

April 29th, 2019

There’s no shortage of speed entered in the 145th Kentucky Oaks (G1) on May 3 at Churchill Downs, which could present challenging circumstances for several key contenders in the 1 1/8-mile race.

A full field will turn out to contest the Oaks, which pits the best 3-year-old fillies from across the U.S. against each other in an interstate showdown. But many of the favorites share similar running styles, preferring to race on or very close to the early lead.

Need examples? The 2-1 morning-line choice #4 Bellafina has never been more than 1 1/2 lengths off the lead at the first call of a race and usually sets or presses the pace. Ashland Stakes (G1) winner #1 Out for a Spin is always involved from the outset. Last year’s champion two-year-old filly #7 Jaywalk is a confirmed frontrunner, along with the Fantasy Stakes (G3) winner #8 Motion Emotion and Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2) winner #13 Serengeti Empress. #6 Positive Spirit and #9 Liora have also shown a tendency to race on or near the lead.

It seems evident that the Kentucky Oaks will unfold at a rapid pace, particularly since Serengeti Empress (arguably the fastest filly in the field early on) has drawn an outside post and will have to use her speed to secure good position. And as strange as this might sound, I believe a fast pace could play to the strengths of #5 Flor de La Mar.

On paper Flor de La Mar looks like yet another speedy filly who will be involved in the pace, but watching her races, I don’t get the impression that this daughter of Tiznow is a true speed horse. In both her races and workouts, she appears most comfortable when she has a target to chase and seems uncomfortable when she finds herself alone on the lead.

As a result I’m inclined to take a favorable view of Flor de La Mar’s distant runner-up effort behind Bellafina in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1). Forced to vie for the early lead in a small field, Flor de La Mar eventually settled just off the pace while racing inside of horses, surely an awkward position for such a large and imposing filly. I don’t think she ever had a chance to settle down and find her rhythm, which was quite a contrast to Bellafina, who raced in a perfect stalking trip on the outside.
Since the Santa Anita Oaks, Flor de La Mar has come back to post two sharp workouts, including a bullet five furlongs from the Santa Anita starting gate in :59 4/5 April 26. That’s an impressive time over the slow track at Santa Anita.

Overall I feel we haven’t seen the best Flor de La Mar has to offer. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert (a three-time winner of the Kentucky Oaks) has always held this filly in high regard, and with a better trip than she received in the Santa Anita Oaks, this stoutly bred filly could be poised to take a big step forward in her second start around two turns.

Since Flor de La Mar is 20-1 on the morning line, I don’t see any reason to get creative with our Kentucky Oaks wagers. I’ll just bet Flor de La Mar to win and key her in the exacta with Bellafina, Jaywalk, and Restless Rider.

$12 to win on #5 Flor de La Mar $1 exacta: 5 with 4,7,14 ($3) $5 exacta: 4,7,14 with 5 ($15)

Good luck!