Friday, May 1
Race 1: Optional Claiming $75,000/N1X at seven furlongs for fillies and mares
8 – Pleasant Tales
I expect Chide (#2) and Opening Act (#3) to take the bulk of the play here off their recent maiden scores. Chide, in particular, appears to have plenty of upside and may end up going off a solid favorite.
I respect both of those runners, but I’m more interested in one of the fillies with more experience. It took PLEASANT TALES (#8) a while to come to hand, but she really stepped forward this winter at Fair Grounds. One could make the argument that it was just the sloppy track that moved her up, but I’d say it was more a combination of factors, since she was also getting Lasix and stretching out around two turns for the first time. She had no chance when part of the fast pace in the Rachel Alexandra and now returns from a short breaking turning back in distance. I think the seven furlongs of this race should suit her and I’m encouraged by the rider switch to Mike Smith. She’d offer good value at anything over 9/2.
$15 Win 8
$5 Exacta 2,3 with 8
Race 2: Maiden Special Weight at one mile on the turf for fillies and mares
9 – Kiteta
1 – Zealous Madame
Of those with turf experience, I strongly prefer second time starter KITETA (#9). The running line comment of her last race fails to note that she was hemmed in at the top of the stretch behind a pair of tiring frontrunners as others got the jump on her. She lost valuable momentum, but once clear showed a lot of grit for a first time starter, re-rallying along the inside to just miss second. She has some early speed, which should give Javier Castellano some options from a wide post, and I view her as the most likely winner.
I also have to take a small shot with one of the first time turfers, who will be a much larger price. ZEALOUS MADAME (#1) is by a capable turf sire in More Than Ready and out of a dam who has produced two turf winners from two runners, including the talented Keening. I thought Zealous Madame displayed some turf action in her dirt races at Oaklawn and she may take a big step forward getting on her preferred surface.
$20 Win 9
$10 Win 1
$4 Exacta Box 1,9
Race 4: Maiden Special Weight at one mile on the turf for fillies and mares
5 – Counterfactual
11 – The Strip
In what appears to be the weaker division of the second race, I’ll take COUNTERFACTUAL (#5), who was blocked for much of the stretch drive last time and would have finished much closer with a clear run. I’m not totally sold on the quality of that race, but I also can’t build a solid case for too many others.
If she’s anything around her 12/1 morning line price, I’d also want to throw THE STRIP (#11) into my plays. She didn’t run very well in her debut, but Ken McPeek’s horses often need a race first time out. She showed some ability when switched to dirt – that is, until last time when she was awful at 4/5. Her pedigree suggests that turf should be within her wheelhouse since she’s a half-sister to multiple turf winner Inchcape, and it’s possible that she may have bled in her last since she gets Lasix here. Don’t be surprised if this one puts in a much-improved effort today.
$15 Win 5
$10 Win 11
$2 Exacta Box 5,11
Race 6: The Edgewood (G3) at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for three year-old fillies
5 – Lady Zuzu
Sunset Glow (#3) may be the most talented horse in this race, but I don’t quite trust her to get a mile and a sixteenth, even with a pace advantage.
LADY ZUZU (#5) should be perched just off her flank early, and I think she is sitting on an improved effort. Lady Zuzu was very good when breaking her maiden at Keeneland last fall and then had her season cut short when she was a late scratch in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Last time, she stepped up to face a tough field of three year-old turf fillies out in California, and I thought she put in a respectable effort despite tiring through the lane. Now she’s back with Lukas and gets Lasix for the first time. I don’t expect to get her 15/1 morning line, but I do think she has real talent and will offer value at 8/1 or higher.
Quality Rocks (#1) and My Year Is a Day (#4) are the other two that will attract play, and both should be used in some capacity. I’m taking a stand against Feathered, who actually does have some turf pedigree, but Todd Pletcher has uncharacteristically poor numbers moving horses to turf for the first time in stakes company. (He’s 3-for-30 over the past 5 years, with a paltry ROI of just $0.42.)
$15 Win 5
$4 Exacta Key Box 5 with 1,4
Race 7: The La Troienne (G1) at 1 1/16 miles for fillies and mares
1 – Tiz Windy
While perhaps not truly Grade 1-quality, this year’s La Troienne nevertheless attracted a very competitive field. Sheer Drama (#5) and Gold Medal Dancer (#7) deserve to take money coming off solid winter campaigns, but it’s not as if either has that much room for error here. My Miss Sophia will be a major factor if she can ever get back to the form she displayed in last year’s Kentucky Oaks, and Churchill-loving Molly Morgan (#8) should take a step forward after getting in a prep at Gulfstream last time.
I ultimately ended up going in a slightly different direction, and picked TIZ WINDY (#1). I’ve always liked this filly a bit and I think she could be sitting on a breakout performance. She showed that she could run some fast races last fall when she was an impressive winner of the Indiana Oaks before putting in a decent effort behind tough older runners in the Falls City. She needed her first race back from the layoff at Gulfstream, and then ran a better-than-it-appears fifth in the Doubledogdare, when she was wide for much of the way and found her best stride too late during that short stretch run at Keeneland. I like the addition of blinkers since this filly appeared to be a little unfocused in upper stretch last time before leveling off. She has enough tactical speed to be placed just in behind the leaders, and I think she can spring the upset at what should be a very generous price.
$10 Win/Place 1
$2 Exacta Key Box 1 with 5,7,8
Race 9: The Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G3) at five furlongs on the turf
8 – Good Deed
I believe that GOOD DEED (#8) is as talented as any turf sprinter in the country and I’m glad that her connections are giving her a chance to prove it in this spot. She’s going to get the firm turf that she prefers, and drew a good post position outside most of the speed. While her last race was slower than her other turf efforts, she did have a ton of trouble at the start and around the turn that day, and actually did very well to get as close as she did at the finish. Additionally, I’m encouraged by the fact that she was able to run through traffic and rally from off the pace, something that she had never been asked to do before. She has all the tools to win this race.
If I have to use her with one of the Shakertown runners, it would be Something Extra (#11). I know he got a good trip up front that day, but unlike other frontrunners in this race, he’s shown that he’s just as capable from a stalking position. Also, unlike runners-up Channel Marker and Undrafted, shortening up to five furlongs shouldn’t work against him.
$20 Win 8
$5 Exacta Box 8,11
Race 11: The Kentucky Oaks (G1) at 1 1/8 miles for three year-old fillies
12 – Stellar Wind
5 – Condo Commando
14 – Puca
I went into this race with little idea of who I was going to pick. Through the process of watching replays, assessing past form, and analyzing pedigrees, I considered many runners, but kept coming back to one the horse that had checked more boxes than the rest.
STELLAR WIND (#12) has all the qualities that you want in an Oaks winner. She’s run fast, has shown the ability to adapt her running style to various pace scenarios, has a world-class rider on her back, and is bred to excel at the nine-furlong distance. The only conceivable knock I can find is that the California preps for this Oaks were weaker than those run on other circuits. However, Stellar Wind’s utter dominance in those races mitigates those concerns.
Stellar Wind has shown an affinity for racing outside of horses, so I expect Victor Espinoza to keep her outside placed somewhere in midpack before unleashing that powerful far turn run. She may have to merely repeat her winning effort in the Santa Anita Oaks to beat this field, and I actually think her morning line price of 7/2 is fair.
Condo Commando (#5) is a polarizing runner. Some love and respect her on the basis of her blowout wins while others deride her as the beneficiary of favorable setups in those races. I fall somewhere between those two camps. Favorable setups or not, she is the only filly in this race to have won at a mile and an eighth – and she’s done it twice. With no other confirmed frontunners signed on, it’s a virtual certainty that she’ll be on a clear lead barring trouble at the start. I really don’t think the pace of this race is going to be all the fast since few will be looking to engage her early. If Rudy Rodriguez is able to get her to transfer her New York form to Kentucky, she’s going to take them a long way up front.
I wanted to like Puca (#14) more, but couldn’t bring myself to pick her any higher than third. I think the extra distance will help her, but she’s yet to run a truly fast race and that’s a concern in an Oaks field that isn’t lacking depth. The far outside post position may force Junior Alvarado to take her farther back than he otherwise would in an effort to try and save some ground, and I’m just not sure that you want to be a deep closer in this year’s Oaks.
As for the others, I respect what I’m a Chatterbox has done at the Fair Grounds, but I can’t shake the feeling that her most recent win in the Fair Grounds Oaks was the least impressive her three wins down there and I wonder if she may be heading in the wrong direction. Lovely Maria got a respectable Beyer for her last race, but I still feel that she’s a cut below the best here. Birdatthewire is another who has improved steadily this winter, but she’s gotten very favorable setups in some fast-paced race at Gulfstream and I just wonder if she’s going to get the pace she needs this time.
$25 Win 12
$10 Exacta Box 5,12
$5 Exacta Box 12,14
$4 Trifecta 12 with 5,14 with 5,7,8,13,14
$2 Trifecta 12 with 7,8,13 with 5,14