2013 Kentucky Oaks Picks and Betting Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 5/1/2013
For three-year-old colts, there is no bigger race on the planet than the Kentucky Derby. It is the race that all owners, trainers and jockeys dream of winning. For fillies, the Kentucky Oaks, held the day before the Derby, doesn’t hold quite the same magical appeal, but it is still one of the biggest prizes of the year, and it is run in front of the second-biggest horse racing crowd of the year as well. As the race nears, here are some 2013 Kentucky Oaks picks and betting predictions to get you ready for post time:
It is far more important in the Oaks than the Derby for the horse to have momentum coming into this race. Seventeen of the last 20 winners of the race won their last prep race, and two more looked very good in defeat. Only one winner has overcome a clunker in their last outing.
Of those last 20 winners, 11 have been the winners of one of three prep races — the Ashland, Fantasy or Santa Anita Oaks. That’s good news for the winners of each race this year — Rose To Gold won the Fantasy, and Beholder cruised in the Santa Anita Oaks. Ashland winner Emollient is skipping the Oaks.
This is a race for favorites — in nine of the last 18 races the favorite has finished either first or second. It is also a race that favors inside post position — in the last 20 years 23 horses have started outside of post No. 9, and only three have won the race.
Todd Pletcher in the big story in the Derby with five entrants in the 20-horse field. In terms of percentages, he dominates even more of the field here, with four of the 10 entrants. Dreaming of Julia is the morning line favorite at 3/1, though the race is top-heavy, so she could easily fall from favoritism. Unlimited Budget, Silsita, and Princess of Sylmar are his other three. He wasn’t supposed to be the only trainer with multiple runners — Bill Mott entered Close Hatches and Flashy Gray, but scratched the latter on Wednesday.
Last year Rosie Napravnik became the first woman jockey to win the Oaks. She has a shot at a repeat this year, though it won’t be easy — her mount Seaneen is a 20/1 longshot.
An unbeaten horse always captures the imagination of bettors. In this race bettors will have to decide which unbeaten mark is most impressive because there are so many to choose from. Unlimited Budget has won all four of her starts without a real test. Close Hatches in unbeaten for Bill Mott. So is Bob Baffert’s Midnight Lucky, though she has only run twice. Baffert is trying the same unconventional prep path of the Sunland Oaks with her that worked for him in 2011 with Plum Pretty.
The race sets up to be quite crowded up front and likely reasonably fast as a result. Serious contenders Beholder, Rose to Gold, and Midnight Lucky as well as Close Hatches all prefer to set the pace or press it. They all can’t lead early on, obviously, so the ability of a horse to assert herself without burning out is a big factor here. They won’t be able to relax up front, either, because most of the rest of the field — Dreaming of Julia, Unlimited Budget, Princess of Sylmar, and Silsita — all like to stalk the pace while maintaining close contact with the leaders. Those four horses won’t want to get boxed in and lose their opportunity to move, so with so many horses looking to run the same race there is a good chance that a jockey or two will make the decision to move earlier than usual. It all sets up for aggressive early fractions. That could be good news for the closers — Seaneen Girl and Pure Fun. Both are longshots that don’t seem to have the class to match this field, but if things get crazy up front they could be poise to pick up the pieces and blow by exhausted horses. I don’t think it will work out that way for them because the quality in those front two groups, but the longshots certainly have a better shot than they otherwise might.
The serious contenders
This race doesn’t have a huge field, but it is ridiculously deep. The morning line odds certainly reflect that. Dreaming of Julia was made the favorite at 3/1, but Beholder and Unlimited Budget are right behind at 7/2, and Midnight Lucky is just a step further back at 9/2. With four horses at less than 5/1, you can’t afford to back them all if you want to make money. Of the four, the easiest one to pass on in my eyes is the favorite. She has looked incredible in her wins, but I’m not convinced she has beaten anyone of note in Florida, and she is facing a big step up in class here. I could also comfortably dismiss Midnight Lucky — she has started only twice in her career, so experience is in short supply, and her pedigree doesn’t ooze distance capabilities.
With so much money destined to be bet on the elite horses, there are going to be some attractive longshots further down the board. Rose to Gold could be in real trouble if she can’t get the lead and may have to work too hard to get it, but she has a solid record, including that key win in the Fantasy. She appears to be a bargain if she sticks near her 15/1 morning line price. Princess of Sylmar will be forgotten at odds of 20/1 or more. She needs to improve significantly, but the race shape could suit her, and jockey Mike Smith is hungry to win a race he has never won despite plenty of success on big race days at Churchill Downs.
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