5 MTP Staff Picks for Kentucky Oaks Day Stakes Races

G2 Eight Belles (Race 5)

by Brian Leckie (@bleck1022 on Twitter)

(1) Amy’s Challenge looks to be the speed of the speed. She ran down fellow contender Mia Mischief in the Dixie Belle at Oaklawn on the square before embarking on the Oaks trail at Oaklawn. She was in front at the 7-furlong point in both two-turn races before being passed in the last furlong. She may have gotten some stamina beneath her in those races as she returns to a one-turn sprint, but her late pace figures have not been flattering to say the least. As quick as she is, she might have more pace pressure on her in this race, and with other quality speed, she may have some trouble hanging on throughout the final furlong.

(2) Criminal Mischief is a dead closer who would benefit from a pace meltdown up front, but just seems way too slow here compared to the top contenders. Given that she’s trained by old-school D. Wayne Lukas, it’s not surprising the horse has raced six times since mid-January. This race looks too tough for her, and she’s a clear outsider.

(3) Mia Mischief ran lights-out last time in the Purple Morton at Oaklawn, widening to an eight-length win and stopping the clock in 1:09 3/5 for 6 furlongs. Her last race also showed she does not need the lead, sitting within a length off the pace- which may help her when confronting Amy’s Challenge who is the likely pacesetter. The Steve Asmussen trainee has never been out of the exacta in six starts, including a win and two seconds at Churchill, but has also never been able to string two wins together. Mia Mischief also tends to bounce each time she runs a big effort, so one might be due this time around. For those who are concerned about a likely off-track on Oaks day, Mia Mischief broke her maiden in the slop to a 16-length victory. She’s a solid win contender, but she has some questions at a short price.

(4) Salt Bae has only run two poor races in her career, her first race and a turf race that she did not belong in. Outside of those, she’s another one that has never been out of the exacta. However, judging by her running lines, it seems that she might be better suited to 6 furlongs rather than 7. In her last race, she switched leads inside the 1/8 pole, and while she was inching toward the leader, it wasn’t an effort that screamed “contender” in this spot. But if she goes to the lead, she can really mess things up for the leaders while compromising her own chances, so I can’t see why she might employ those tactics. Working in her favor, though, is an upgrade to jockey Javier Castellano, who can excel on these big stakes days.

(5) Talk Veuve to Me ran a PHENOMENAL race last time breaking her maiden at Fair Grounds, a track that produced many winners at the recently-concluded Keeneland meet. In that race, she broke like a rocket on top, running relatively quicker fractions than normal at FG while stopping the timer in 1:09 3/5 for 6 furlongs under a hand ride and was never asked once, winning by 11 lengths. We could have a star in the making here. The way she drew off, combined with the 101 late pace rating, suggests that 7 furlongs is well within her wheelhouse. She has also worked regularly since that win, suggesting she’s coming into this race in top shape. The second-place finisher in that race, Abounding Joy, came back to break her maiden next out at Keeneland on April 22. Talk Veuve to Me has a lot of room to improve as well, as this will be her third career start. I don’t think she will go off at her 6-1 morning line price, but she most certainly offers the best value in this race, and I think she’s the most likely winner.

(6) Gas Station Sushi is the only graded stakes winner in the field, and one of only two winners at today’s 7 furlong distance. But I thought the Beaumont was a weak race, despite Gas Station Sushi having her momentum stopped twice due to traffic. Like Talk Veuve to Me, Gas Station Sushi will be making her third career start, though she is also undefeated. I just feel the horse to her inside has a lot more upside. And while she has room to improve second off the layoff and run back to her debut effort, she offers little value at her 2-1 price for me to back her. Though she does look to benefit should there be a pace collapse.

(7) Hold Her Tight is the other 7 furlong winner in the field. She’s improving with each race and is coming in off a two-race win streak. She’s another closer who would prefer a fast pace up front. She hasn’t yet faced stakes competition, and while Talk Veuve to Me hasn’t either, Hold Her Tight doesn’t have a signature, eye-opening win to go along with her resume. While she’s not a clear outsider, I just feel she’s a slight notch below the top contenders in this field.

I’ve always believed that quality speed doesn’t come back, as was the case in the 2015 Kentucky Derby. The speed horses in this field are very good, and as long as Salt Bae does not engage them early, I can’t see the speed coming back here. I strongly feel that Talk Veuve to Me should be an exacta key, while Mia Mischief passes a tiring Amy’s Challenge- who will find this 7 furlong distance to be too far to carry her speed. The other wild card here is Gas Station Sushi on whether she can improve off of the relatively weak Beaumont and run back to the numbers of her maiden win.


#5 Talk Veuve to Me

#3 Mia Mischief

#1 Amy’s Challenge

#6 Gas Station Sushi

G1 La Troienne (Race 6)

by Jason B. (@JasonNYM on Twitter)

Selections: 3-8-4

(3) Abel Tasman makes her return to the races for the first time since finishing 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Del Mar in late November. She has shown a series of strong workouts for trainer Bob Baffert and all signs point to go for this now four year old daughter of Quality Road. After finishing 5th in her career debut, Abel Tasman has run either 1st or 2nd in all 10 of her starts since. Over those 10 races Abel Tasman has won 4 Grade 1 races including an impressive score over this track in last years Kentucky Oaks. I suspect she should be sitting a nice trip off the early pace setters, and I wouldn’t be overly concerned with her layoff.

Martini Glass (8) is a consistent sort who has hit the board in 17 of her 23 lifetime starts including 10 victories. She will come into this race after posting consecutive graded stakes victories in Gulfstream’s G3 Royal Delta, and Oaklawn Park’s G2 Azeri. Like Able Tasman, Martini Glass seems like she would prefer to sit off the early pace, and her outside post may dictate that. She comes into the race off a series of bullet workouts at her home base at Tampa Bay Downs for trainer Keith Nations.

Ivy Bell (4) has spent her career sprinting so far and has hit the board in 12 of her 16 career starts. In her last race she showed a nice improvement running a career best in her first start for top trainer Todd Pletcher as she proved much the best in Gulfstream’s G2 Inside Information despite lacking running room. The daughter of Archarcharch will stretch out to 1 1/16 miles, but I don’t see any reason why she won’t handle the distance and she has the most experience at Churchill going 8-2-4-0 over the strip.

The Rest: The rest of the field is compromised of talented racehorses including graded stakes winners Salty (1), Farrell (2), Tiger Moth (6), Streamline (7), and graded stakes placed Apologynotaccepted (3). Of that group the one I find most intriguing is Salty as she should appreciate stretching out after running out of ground late in Keeneland’s 7 furlong Madison Stakes. Last year Salt squared off against Able Tasman on 4 different occasions and finished behind that foe all 4 times, but did finish 2nd and 3rd in 2 of those races.

Betting Strategy: While I am not overly concerned about the layoff for Able Tasman I wouldn’t strictly single her in multi race wagers or exotics as I think Martini Glass in her current form will be a worthy competitor. I would use at least those 2 on smaller tickets, and depending on your budget throw in Ivy Bell who should offer a better price than the top pair.

G3 TwinSpires Turf Sprint Stakes (Race 7)

by Aaron Hayes (@AHaze24 on Twitter)

Selections 1-7-4


(1) Delectation (6-1 m/l) returns back to the track after a 6 month layoff. Despite her absence from racing, Wesley Ward is winning at 23% when 90+ days away. He also gets a major upgrade to jockey John Velasquez who is winning at 28% in 108 starts on the turf. She cuts back in distance from a mile and adds lasix. If there is some rain, Delectation has a win over the soft and good footing on the turf. There is plenty of early speed and look for her to close from slightly off the pace. Brisnet gave her a 98 late pace speed rating which is the highest out of this group. That was also her only start in the states. She’s had 3 workouts on the turf at Keeneland on the turf in preparation for this race.

(7) Vision Perfect  (3-1 m/l) is coming off an impressive win last out at Gulfstream on March 10th. He broke out the gate alertly and sat a comfortable 3rd behind the 2 dueling leaders. The half was set at a blistering 43.1 and she easily moved passed her foes down the stretch to win by almost 5 lengths. That solid performance gave her a 98 Bris speed rating, which is the highest from each horse’s last race. Jason Servis shouldn’t have a problem shipping her to Churchill. He’s winning at 31% with shippers and in the money 62% of the time.

(4) Riser (20-1 m/l) is a West coast invader who hasn’t run since Sept. 9th at Hastings. This front runner who has tons of early speed cuts back in distance from 1 1/8 mile to 5F. In his last 5 races, he’s had the lead from the start until deep in the stretch. He won 3 of those races with 2 of those losses coming by a neck and a head. In his shortest race of his career at 5 ½F, he won going wire to wire winning by 7 lengths. Despite the lengthy layoff, he has 2 consecutive bullet workouts at Golden Gate. With the unknown element of not sprinting and only 1 turf start, his speed is worth a look. It’s obvious that there’s some factors against him, but at his morning line price (20-1), he’s definitely a play underneath.

$10 Win & Place (1) Delectation$20 Show (4) Riser

$1 Tri Box 1,4,7,9

G2 Alysheba Stakes (Race 8)

by Joe Santos (@joesantos_33 on Twitter)

Friday at Churchill Downs, older males face off in the $400K GII Alysheba, going 1 1/16 mi on the dirt. This marks the Churchill Downs return of last year’s winner of the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby, Always Dreaming.

(1) Good Samaritan comes off a triumphant return to his 2018 campaign, winning the New Orleans Handicap GII at the Fair Grounds. Though that was a much softer group than he faces today, he handled the 1 1/8 mi distance easily and looked sharp doing it. Last year, he came a half length short here at Churchill, losing the Clark Handicap GI, to Seeking the Soul. I expect him to come with his patented late run, as well as take another step forward in his second start of the year for Bill Mott and Joel Rosario.

(2) Hence is one of two in here who competed in last year’s running of the Kentucky Derby, where he was 11th of 20. Hence is also making his second start of the year for connections Steve Asmussen and Ricardo Santana Jr. Hence was a dismal fourth in his last start, a 3rd level allowance at Oaklawn, where he failed to make any headway in the lane. He should improve, but I doubt it is enough to make an impact against these

(3) Always Dreaming will be returning to Churchill Downs, where he last won the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby! Trained by Todd Pletcher and piloted by John Velazquez, Always Dreaming has yet to find the winner’s circle since. His last race was the first start of his 2018 campaign, where he was second in the Gulfstream Park Handicap GII on Florida Derby day. Today he seems to have a nice pace set up that should make it difficult to run down. Expect a good effort from Always Dreaming today.

(4) Backyard Heaven cakes his stakes debut for Chad Brown and Irad Ortiz Jr. off of a victory in a first level allowance race at Aqueduct last March. Chad Brown though enough of that effort to try deep waters here. Out of respect for Chad Brown, you have to think this one has a shot, but being his graded stakes debut and his first time going two turns, I will have to take the watch and see approach on this runner.

The Globetrotting (5) Hoppertunity returns to Churchill Downs for his second start of his 7 year old campaign for Bob Baffert and Flavien Prat, coming off a victory in the 1 1/2 mi Tokyo City GIII at Santa Anita. For me, Hoppertunity has always seemed very one paced and better at the longer distances (1 1/8 mi and further), unless he got a very hot pace. I don’t see that happening today. I expect a solid effort as always, but don’t see a win for him today.

(6) Giuseppe the Great is back again in stakes competition for the fourth time this year. All of those starts have led to off the board efforts. I don’t see much changing here today, as he faces the deepest field he has yet in 2018. Don’t see much better for the Zito trainee than rounding out the superfecta at a price.

(7) Hawaakom comes off a lethargic effort in the Oaklawn Handicap GII, where he was a far back 7th behind City of Light. The Wes Hawley trainee has proven himself a very solid late closer over the last few years at Churchill, and gets the services of perineal Churchill leading rider Corey Lanerie. I expect a better effort than last time out of Hawaakom, but that may only be good enough for third verses these

(8) Awesome Slew adds an interesting dynamic here. Though I don’t feel his JS best at two turns, he will make sure Always Dreaming stays honest and most definitely brings class to the table. The Casse trainee has proved he loves Churchill Downs, and always brings his race. That being said I don’t see him being able to stay with Always Dreaming going this far, or being able to hold off Good Samaritan’s late charge. He will be an under play for me

(1) Good Samaritan
(3) Always Dreaming
(5) Hoppertunity
(8) Awesome Slew
(7) Hawaakom

G3 Edgewood Stakes (Race 10)

by Vinny from Real Dynasty Picks (@PicksByDynasty on Twitter)

(11) Rushing Fall is the horse to beat.  The undefeated Filly who just keeps getting better is coming off an impressive 3 year old debut in the G2 Appalachian.  To me the only thing that can stop Rushing Fall from winning today is the track condition.  With the rain in the forecast there is a chance she does not take to the softer turf.  She is also crossed entered in the American Turf on Saturday in which she drew post 12.  Chad Brown says he is leaning towards running her here in the Edgewood, but looks like it will be a last minute decision.  If she is running in this spot she is a must use on all your tickets.

(3) Altea (Fr) is the 2nd of the Chad Brown horses entered here and she will be the value if Rushing Falls does run.  She made up ground late in her North American debut and just missed in the Florida Oaks and should improve with 2nd time with Lasix.  It is a very strong possibility that Chad Brown runs 1-2 here in the Edgewood with Rushing Fallsand Altea (Fr).

(1) Got Stormy should have double digit odds come post time and she is a horse I would use for exotic wagers.  She has improved in both starts as a 3 year old and just missed last time out with a close 3rd place finish.  She likes to stalk the pace and there appears to be enough speed in here that Got Stormy should get a ground saving trip right behind the pace setters.  I think she outruns her 20-1 morning line odds.

(4) Figarella’s Queen looks to be the controlling speed in this one and has the pedigree that makes her very dangerous on the front end.  She is 3-2-1-0 as a 3 year old and has improved in each start.  If Rushing Fall does not run or if this race due to weather is taken off the turf, I like Figarella’s Queen to take them all the way around.

Suggestive wagers:  $5 Tri 11/1,3,4/1,3,4

*If Rushing Fall Scratches*– $5 Exacta Box 1,3,4.

Kentucky Oaks notes from Trackside Talk

(@TracksideTalk on Twitter)

(13) Eskimo Kisses will sharply move up on a wet track ~~ take a look at her race in Feb at Oaklawn Park

(10) Midnight Bisou is just two nostrils away from an undefeated record ~~ she’s 3/3 this year & completely smoked the field in the SA Oaks

(11) My Miss Lilly–her numbers have increased every start ~ more importantly as the distances increased ~ a final NY prep has produced just 1 winner

If (7) Rayya runs well then the odds on Mendelssohn will drop ~ she finished 2nd behind him when he smashed a field by 18 lengths

(4) Chocolate Martini could have been purchased for $15,000 in January

(2) Coach Rocks (Oxbow) & (11) My Miss Lilly (Tapit) both move up on a wet track thanks to their sires ~~ Chocolate Martini moves up on a wet track due to her dam Successful Appeal

***largest winning margin ​20 1⁄4 lengths – Rachel Alexandra 2009

***longest shot to win the Oaks 47/1 – Lemons Forever 2006

***most wins by a jockey  4 – Eddie Arcaro 1951, 1952, 1953, 1958  4 – Manuel Ycaza 1959, 1960, 1963, 1968

***female jockeys to win Rosie Napravnik  2012, 2014

***most wins by a trainer 5 – Woody Stephens  1959, 1960, 1963, 1978, 1981

***most wins by an owner  6 – Calumet Farm  1943, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1956, 1979

G1 Longines Kentucky Oaks (Race 11)

by Jeff O’Reilly (@Jeff_Boyardee on Twitter)

(1) Sassy Sienna exits back to back stakes at Oaklawn Park. She hasn’t had a bad effort since her poor showing four back at Remington Park. The only problem is she is just a cut below on speed figures. She would need to improve greatly to get a piece here. She does have good tactical speed which should help her in this spot. However, I am playing against the Fantasy as a race. Pass.

(2) Coach Rocks is an interesting horse in this spot. She took awhile to break her maiden before winning a graded stakes last out. It was the classic lightbulb angle. If you watch the replay of the race, she was under pressure fron Saez nearly the entire stretch and even before it. That is usually a toss next out for me. In my opinion that is also a bit of an indictment on the rest of the field as well in the GP Oaks. To her credit she did wear down Take Charge Paula by a good margin in the end. I am just a bit skeptical of this horses chances to run a big one and hit the board.

(3) Classy Act has good speed and will be on the engine early. It seems like the Mile and an eighth is a step too far for her. There is a good amount of other speed signed on in here and she should start backing up once they hit the top of the lane. If she gets an easy lead she might be tough late and hang on for a piece. I just don’t see it happening. Toss.

(4) Chocolate Martini has a good late kick. She closed okay last out to win the Fair Grounds Oaks. She should get a similar trip and pace here Friday. Chocolate Martini doesn’t have to be way out of it as she has shown the ability to break well and press the pace. For me, I just don’t envision her run being quite good enough to hit the board as I prefer other closers in here to pick up the pieces.

(5) Wonder Gadot has taken a lot of money in nearly every start in her career. Last out she had no excuse to not win the FG Oaks going away. She simply just isn’t fast enough or talented enough to get the job done here. Pass.

(6) Kelly’s Humor would be a shock to even run well. Should cut back to sprinting. Pass.

(7) Rayya is the wild of the race. She raced against the boys in the UAE Derby last out. The pan was always to make the oaks with Baffert as the trainer. Now she did run second but was absolutely no match for Mendelsshon. He will be the second choice in the derby and people are likely to overbet her in this spot. My guess is she will be around half the 12-1 ML. I will play against on top but use underneath to fill out exotics.

(8) Heavenhamynikki has a lot of speed and might be on the outright lead early. Has never raced around two turns and should cut back to one turn after this race. Is only a pace factor in here. Pass.

(9) Take Charge Paula did all the dirty work last out in the GP Oaks. She dueled for much of the race and was very stubborn to let Coach Rocks by. Now she will not likely have a clean lead again as there is some pace signed on here. She might be able to stick around for a piece but a win seems like a mighty ask. Will play a bit underneath in second and mainly third.

I LOVE (10) Midight Bisou in this spot Friday. I think she is the best horse in the race and gets to prove it. She has won with absolute ease in each of her last two starts and does it so easily. She draws perfect from the 10 hole and should be able to work out a dream trip in behind the speed. Anything over 2-1 and I will be placing a large win bet on her. She has romped from off the pace and pressing the pace. She can work out her own trip and still come with a big turn of foot. Last out she was well off a moderate-slow pace and still crushed the field. Nearly an ice cold single for me.

(11) My Miss Lily swooped up four wide and prevailed in a long stretch drive last out in the Gazelle. The speed figure came back pretty solid but I am a bit skeptical. She was all out to beat much lesser and will be chasing a hotter pace than she’s used to. If she can take back a touch more and not get caught up in a duel, that would be ideal. Contender for filling out the exotics but that is about it in my eyes.

(12) Patrona Margarita is a very honest horse who runs her race pretty much every time out. The only problem is that her best race isn’t nearly fast enough to contend in this spot. She got absolutely buried by the likely favorite in Monomoy Girl. I don’t see how she can turn around the 13 length defeat as she didn’t have any excuse. Pass.

(13) Eskimo Kisses is my longshot play in this race. Two back in the FG Oaks she was gobbling up ground while the leaders weren’t exactly backing up. She barely missed getting up at the wire and needed one more jump to get it all. Last out in the Ashland, she made a middle move and flattened out a bit in the lane. If she can take back to make one run, she could be dangerous late. She might not win but is a must use underneath filling out exotics. I will even play her to win a bit if I can get over 15-1 which I think I will. She will be a saver for me aginst Midnight Bisou.

(14) Monomoy Girl has done absolutely nothing wrong in any of her lifetime starts. She has won with ease and pretty much toyed with the field in her last two efforts. My only concern is the outside post and getting caught 3-4 wide in the first turn and the amount of speed signed on. If she wide and cooking early, she will be empty in the lane. She might just be that good to overcome it all. There are enough question marks for me to downgrade her slightly and try to beat her on top with Bisou.

Exacta: 10 w 13,14

Trifecta: 10 w 2,7,9,11,13,14 w 2,7,

Agreesive Bet Tri: 10 w 13,14 w 2,7,13,14

Saver Tri: 13,14 w 10 w 2,7,9,11,13,14

Super: 10 w 7,13,14 w 2,7,11,13,14 w 2,7,9,11,13,14

*****ALSO, check out KAITLIN FREE’s analysis of the Kentucky Oaks

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