Keying the Favorites in the Kentucky Oaks

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

April 30th, 2018

While it’s not easy to hit the trifecta in any race, let alone a Grade 1 event with fourteen horses, I get the feeling that Friday’s $1 million Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) at Churchill Downs could provide a great opportunity for bettors seeking to make a big trifecta score.

The 144th renewal of the “Run for the Lilies” pits some of the best three-year-old fillies in North American against each other in a nine-furlong battle under the historic Twin Spires. Yet despite the large field, on paper the Oaks looks like a two-horse race between #10 Midnight Bisou and #14 Monomoy Girl, and while some might accuse me of being a “chalk eater” I would be somewhat surprised if Midnight Bisou or Monomoy Girl finish out of the top three.

Just look at what they’ve accomplished this year. Monomoy Girl, a confirmed front-runner, overcame a poor start to win the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (gr. II) at Fair Grounds from the back of the pack, casually rolling by the leaders as though she'd always been a deep closer to win with complete authority. She subsequently returned to front-running tactics in the Ashland Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland and dominated by 5 ½ lengths.

Midnight Bisou has also shown versatility and talent. She tracked the early pace on her way to victory in the seven-furlong Santa Ynez Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita—a feat that required plenty of early speed—but showed that she’s just as comfortable coming from behind when rallying from eighth place to win the Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) last time out by 3 ½ lengths. Add in that Monomoy Girl and Midnight Bisou will be ridden by Florent Geroux and Mike Smith, two of the most successful jockeys in the country in recent years, and I think it’s clear that they’ll both be tough to keep out of the trifecta.

#11 My Miss Lilly, winner of the Gazelle Stakes (gr. II) at Aqueduct, and #13 Eskimo Kisses, runner-up in both the Ashland and the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II), are among the other logical contenders. But I’m actually more intrigued by the 15-1 shot #3 Classy Act. Trained by Bret Calhoun, My Miss Lilly finished a strong second behind Monomoy Girl in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (gr. II) despite setting a quick pace, then went out much too fast again in the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II), posting fractions of :46.28 and 1:11.02 before holding on well under the circumstances to finish fourth, beaten just 1 ¼ lengths. Drawing post three should help her save ground, and if she rations her speed more effectively at Churchill Downs, I think she can finish in the trifecta at a nice price.

Here's how I would play the race:

$3 trifecta: 10,14 with 10,14 with 3 ($6) $3 trifecta: 10,14 with 3 with 10,14 ($6) $2 trifecta: 10,14 with 10,14 with 4,9,13 ($12) $2 trifecta: 10,14 with 4,9,13 with 10,14 ($12) $1 trifecta: 10,14 with 10,14 with All ($24)

Total: $60

Good luck!