The eyes of the racing world will focus on the Kentucky Derby this Saturday, but it will be understandable if anyone’s attention is diverted slightly on Friday afternoon at Churchill Downs. The $1.3 million Kentucky Oaks could emerge as the Race of the Year, with a blockbuster field of 3-year-old fillies set to go 1-1/8 miles in the 11th race. The Oaks is part of a 50-cent Late Pick 4 on the wagering menu that shapes up this way:
CD 10th race (4:51 EST) -- Punch the ‘ALL’ button in the leadoff leg of the Pick 4. The 13 entrants in the Grade II Twin Spires Turf Sprint are a combined 45-140 on turf with average earnings of more than $400,000. The field includes six graded stakes winners spanning five tracks, four other graded stakes-placed grass sprinters, a 10-1 shot that has seven minor stakes wins in the last year and a 20-1 shot who is 4-4 on the lawn.
CD 11th race (5:51 EST) -- To put into perspective how deep the Kentucky Oaks field is, consider this: The 14 entrants – half trained by Hall of Famers – ran in 23 graded stakes this year, combining for nine wins, five seconds and three thirds. To add further perspective: ECHO ZULU won three Grade I stakes and a Grade II in front-end fashion at four tracks, but she isn’t the favorite. Ditto for KATHLEEN O, who has done nothing but improve with eye-catching rallies to win back-to-back Grade II route races. Ditto for SECRET OATH, who was a troubled favorite against the boys in the Arkansas Derby at today’s distance. NEST earned morning-line favoritism with an 8-1/4-length romp in the Grade I Ashland. The picks here are Secret Oath and Kathleen O. Secret Oath was squeezed and bumped between rivals early, at least 4-wide from the backstretch to the top of the stretch, and in range of the winner until her sustained rally fell short in deep stretch. Kathleen O was unhurried and 5-wide chasing a slow half-mile pace, then overpowered the 8-to-5 runner-up in the stretch in the Grade II Gulfstream Park Oaks.
CD 12th race (6:25 EST) -- WISH YOU WELL set a brisk pace, drew clear on the turn at 7F and turned back a late run by the troubled runner-up to win in a heavily-bet debut. REAGAN’S DECISION rallied for an 18-1 debut upset, was roughed up at the start in allowance company, then finished third again behind Matareya (3-6, $374k) in a Grade III long sprint.
CD 13th race (7:00 EST) -- Race: Not sold on the company lines of several contenders in this 12-horse Maiden Special Weight sprint, so use only one of them alongside two first-time starters. COLORFUL MISCHIEF, a $300,000 sales buy, debuts off a series of bullet workouts at Palm Beach Downs. Trainer Todd Pletcher wins at a high percentage with first-time starters but was only 1-for-17 from March 5-April 4. MILAN’S GIRL went 4 furlongs in :47.1 in her final prep over the track for reigning Trainer of the Year Brad Cox. Her dam, Sky Gesture, went wire-to-wire first out at Saratoga. She gets Lasix but must avoid a wide trip from post 12. Of those that have run, RATHER BE LUCKY gets top billing. She led until the last jump in her 6F debut at Fair Grounds, then faltered as the favorite next out while chasing faster fractions than a same-day, MSW sprint for the boys (:45.1 half-mile split).
Suggested 50-cent Ticket
CD 10th Race: ALL
CD 11th Race: 1, 10
CD 12th Race: 2, 9
CD 13th Race: 8, 9, 12