It's an oversubscribed field of 15 horses entered in the Kentucky Oaks on Derby eve this year, but only 14 will run. Don't ask me why they limit the Oaks to 14 while 20 can enter the Derby - it makes no sense. It isn't the greatest field ever set for the race, but it's more than solid and respectable. Oaks day can be an excellent warmup for bettors and a chance to get a sense of how the track is playing and what it could mean for the next day when all the marbles are on the line. So, who is going to win the Oaks? And where is the value? Let's take a look:
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Stellar Wind, Victor Espinoza (7/2): Espinoza should buy a lottery ticket because he sure has the hot touch right now - he is aboard the morning-line favorite in both the Oaks and the Derby. The first thing that stands out for this horse is the breeding. She's a daughter of Curlin out of a Malibu Moon (sire of Derby winner Orb) mare. She'll thrive at the distance. She has run very well in her last three outings, winning all easily - and in California, which probably has the strongest field this year for the fillies as well as the colts. I like how she has worked since her last race, and she appears ready. She also shouldn't get in too much trouble despite her outside post because she doesn't need or even want the lead. She's the one to beat - though not nearly as impressive as Espinoza's Saturday mount.
I'm a Chatterbox, Florent Geroux (4/1): She has also won her last three races. She is coming out of the Fair Ground Oaks in her last start, which has been a factory for Oaks winners of late. The problem here, though, is the distance. Her breeding doesn't stand out like Stellar Wind's, and she did not look to be enjoying herself at the end of the last race. I'm going to look to beat her.
Condo Commando, Rudy Rodriguez (4/1): Not fond of this one, either. I don't love her distance chances, though they are better than some. Most significantly, though, she has been nothing but first at any call in five of her six outings, and she hasn't been challenged that much in doing so. She faces stiffer pace tests here, though, and the danger of a horse who likes to lead like this is that they will burn too much energy early and have nothing left.
Lovely Maria, Kerwin Clark (5/1): She's the stablemate of I'm a Chatterbox and has been beaten by her once two starts back. I like her better, though. Her breeding is sound, and I like her versatility - she can win on the pace or stalking it. She seems to be improving quickly and could be sitting on a big one. I personally have a problem betting on Kerwin Clark - namely that I always lose when I do - but that's not reason enough to look away. She'll factor heavily in my exotics.
Birdatthewire, Irad Ortiz Jr. (6/1): There is tons of value here, and this is the third of three horses that will make up the bulk of my plays in this race. As a daughter of Summer Bird she is bred to run forever. I really liked her last two prep races at Gulfstream. She also is a deep-to-mid-pack closer, and that could serve her really well here because the early pace could be frantic. She's a real contender.
Forever Unbridled, Mike Smith (15/1): I like her but only underneath in exotics. She isn't good enough to win here, but she is the kind of grinder that always seems to get up for a piece. You never notice her during the race but then wonder who the horse was who was ahead of the one you bet on. She could finish third here quite conceivably. The move to Mike Smith in the saddle is huge upgrade.
Shook Up, Robby Albarado (30/1): She hasn't been good enough or consistent enough so far. Her last race was her best, though, and she is bred to like more distance. At this price I'll throw her in on the bottom of the exotics, too.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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