The Kentucky Oaks kind of sucks this year. Harsh, but true. Typically a great race, this year's edition was robbed of all excitement when Songbird fell ill and was scratched. She is the best three year old in training right now - of either gender - and it's not even close. She's one of those effortless freaks that makes the sport look far too easy. She was going to win this race by about a million lengths and then hopefully follow in the footsteps of great fillies Rachel Alexandra and Rags to Riches and teach the boys a lesson in one of the final two Triple Crown races.
With her gone, the race lost all of its sizzle. Now it's much like this year's Derby - a collection of simultaneously interesting and somewhat uninspiring runners, many of which are capable of winning on their best day but none of which are clear and obvious superstars. The Kentucky Oaks this year will be a fine race, but oh what it could have been…
Handicapping the race has also changed dramatically. With Songbird in you would have just singled here - to win and/or in multi-race exotics. You wouldn't have made a lot, but you wouldn't have sweated too much, either. Now, like the Derby, it's a totally wide-open race and a bit of a betting mystery. Fearlessly, let's do a Kentucky Oaks preview:
Rachel's Valentina (7/2): This horse is as regally bred as it gets - a daughter of Rachel Alexandra by Bernardini. Unfortunately, to date she has proven that while a very nice horse she is not about to surpass either of her parents. She has been second in her last two - the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and the Ashland. There was more than four months between those two outings, too, so she isn't exactly seasoned. Her upside is obviously tremendous, and she could easily win, but this price - and especially the significantly lower price she is likely to be bet down to - just doesn't justify the risk for a serious investment. Trainer Todd Pletcher has won this race three times, though, so he isn't the liability here he is in the Derby.
Weep No More (9/2): Last time out this filly beat Rachel's Valentina in the Ashland. Now many seem to think that the second-place horse will get her revenge. I'm not so sure. She is a closer, but there is enough pace here to set things up for her. She drew the No. 2 gate, but that's not a concern for her because she can drop back and avoid the rush early on. This price would be below a floor for her in my eyes, but at 6/1 or so I'd have to take a close look. No matter what, she's going to be in my exotics.
Cathryn Sophia (9/2): This filly is only here because Songbird isn't. Her connections smartly were pointing her elsewhere until the defection. She should have stayed away, in my eyes. She had a disastrous outing in the Ashland last time out, running out of gas in the stretch as the heavy 1/2 favorite to wind up third in the five-filly field, and it didn't look like she loved the distance. Now she has to go further. At this price she's an easy toss for me.
Land Over Sea (5/1): This poor filly has run against Songbird five times, performing admirably but never winning. Last time out she ducked the wonder-horse by heading to the Fair Ground Oaks, which she won. I've hated how she has trained since, though - both how little she has been asked to do and how she has looked doing it. I don't mind this filly and will have her in my exotics, but I like the next filly much better.
Lewis Bay (8/1): This is another daughter of Bernardini and one at much nicer odds. She won last time out, but that was on slop so it has raised concerns for many. She has run nicely on dirt, though, and is the only filly that has already won at the Oaks distance. I like her running style in the middle of the pack. I also love her connections - Irad Ortiz Jr. and Chad Brown are turning everything they touch together into gold. She has a good running style here - she'll sit far enough off the pace to avoid any early stupidity but close enough to be first in line when it becomes time to move. At this price or close to it this is my bet.
Terra Promisa (10/1): I am a sucker for any horse sired by Curlin, so it takes great discipline on my part to toss this filly. She won last time out, but it was as ugly a win as there is - she looked on the verge of losing her mind the whole time. I just don't trust her maturity in this tough spot - especially on the rail. She'll draw a good amount of action, but not from me.
Go Maggie Go (12/1): This one is just bizarre. Go Maggie Go only debuted on March 13 and has just two career starts. She has won both and has done it by setting the pace and not looking back. She's likely going to try to steal this one from the front. I don't see it - I just can't bet on a horse this raw.
1. Lewis Bay
2. Weep No More
3. Rachel's Valentina
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