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Kentucky Oaks Preview: Can Anyone Beat Bellafina?

Kentucky Oaks Preview: Can Anyone Beat Bellafina?

The field is set for this Friday’s 145th Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs, which serves as the female version of the Kentucky Derby. A full-field of 14, plus 2 also eligibles have signed on to run in this year’s running of the race, which has a local post time of 6:12 PM ET. This year, the race features what should be a heavy favorite, with California shipper Bellafina set as the 2/1 morning line favorite.

Bellafina comes into this race off of a blowout victory in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1), which was her third straight win. Overall she has six graded stakes wins on her resume, including three Grade 1 triumphs. She is undefeated this year, with all of her wins coming at Santa Anita. Flavien Prat has the mount once again for this race, breaking from post 4.

Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) winner Champagne Anyone has been installed the co-second choice in the race at 6-1. She has turned heads in the mornings leading up to this race at Churchill Downs, while giving all the looks of horse who is improving at the right time. Chris Landeros will have the mount for trainer Ian Wilkes, while the filly will break from post 10.

Trainer Larry Jones knows a thing or two about winning this race, with 3 Kentucky Oaks (G1) wins under his belt. He brings another major contender into the race this year with Street Band, who dominated the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) last time out in impressive fashion. However, the filly must overcome an outside post in this one, drawing the 12 hole with regular rider Sophie Doyle aboard.

The full field from the rail out includes: Out for a Spin, Chocolate Kisses, Lady Apple, Bellafina, Flor de la Mar, Positive Spirit, Jaywalk, Motion Emotion, Liora, Champagne Anyone, Jeltrin, Street Band, Serengeti Empress, Restless Rider, Dunbar Road, and Point of Honor.

Kentucky Derby Picks

Top Choice

#4 Bellafina – She is easily the deserving favorite, while being the most likely winner of this race without question. You definitely have to try to beat her in the exotics, as the reward will be great, but you can’t deny she looks tough on paper. The major question mark with her is the distance of this race. Many believe she might be best going a bit shorter, which makes a few others playable in here, which we highlight below. None of them have shown the kind of talent that Bellafina has, though, which is why she is the top choice for us in the race. You can draw a line through her performance in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Stakes (G1), with her being “in heat” that day, so the poor performance at Churchill Downs shouldn’t be a worry. She’ll be tough in this spot.

Horses to Use in Multi-Race Wagers

#12 Street Band – You can never count out Larry Jones in the Kentucky Oaks. He has a way of winning this race, while he brings in a filly this year who is rapidly improving. After a fourth-place finish in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2), many wrote her off, including me. However, she rewarded those that stayed on her side in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), winning the race in dominating fashion by nearly 4-lengths. That win was eye-opening, while the horse should have no trouble with today’s longer distance. She is a solid alternative to the favorite, while also likely to be a double-digit price.

#5 Flor de La Mar – When trainer Bob Baffert is sky-high on a horse, you always must listen. He has talked up Flor de la Mar since the beginning; however, she has given us mixed signs on the track. She was impressive in her debut effort, before a terrible second start over the slop against allowance company. Her third start came in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1), where she was a well-beaten second to Bellafina. Baffert still elected to run her here after that effort, which tells me he still expects this horse to improve. That is enough of a sign to have her involved at what should be a big price.

#10 Champagne Anyone – This is a filly that seems to be progressing forwardly at the right time coming into the biggest race of her life. After a pair of third-place finishes to start her year, she put it all together last time out, winning the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) in impressive fashion over the highly thought of Dunbar Road. That horse is actually on the Also Eligible list, with a morning line of 5-1, which shows how highly people think of her abilities. Champagne Anyone has looked great in her morning workouts leading up to this race.

Exotic Plays

#14 Restless Rider – Exotic play just seems to sum up this horse beautifully. She has finished second in three straight tough races, which is great, but she looked like a winner in two of the three and couldn’t finish the job. Especially in her last start in the Ashland Stakes (G1), as she lost a stretch deal with long shot Out for a Spin. Her class will certainly show up in a race like this; however, it’s tough seeing her actually winning in this spot.

#3 Lady Apple – This Steve Asmussen trainee has developed tremendously well this season. After two straight victories against lesser company, she moved up in class to the Fantasy Stakes (G2) in her last start, winning the race with an inside rally down the stretch. Asmussen has always been high on this horse since way back in the summer of her 2-year-old. This is the type of filly you want to play in a race like this, with a solid improvement in each of her last few starts.

#9 Liora – An upset win in the Golden Rod Stakes (G2) over this track to close out her 2-year-old season got her on the radar. Her 3-year-old season has been solid; however, she has yet to win in three starts. Last time out she looked like a winner in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), taking the lead at the top of the stretch, before finishing second to Street Band. Her first win of the year shouldn’t be expected today, although hitting the board is doable.

Get in-depth Kentucky Oaks coverage from professional handicappers in our Inside Track to the Kentucky Derby wagering guide!

Party Crashers

#7 Jaywalk – The 2-Year-Old Filly Eclipse award winner has had a miserable 3-year-old season. Sent off at odds of 1/9, she ran off the board in the Davona Dale Stakes (G2), with a performance that was too bad to believe. Next, she improved in the Ashland Stakes (G1), finishing third, but she still lacked the turn of foot we saw from her as a 2-year-old. However, her trainer seems very confident coming into the race, while we know the horse has a tremendous amount of talent. Let’s not forget the heavy favorite for this race is a horse Jaywalk dominated in their only meeting, which came in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Stakes (G1).

#13 Serengeti Empress – Simply put, she is an all or nothing entry. She either wins by multiple-lengths looking like a world beater, or she finishes dead last and stops before they enter the stretch. With a pace set up that looks very fast it’s hard to see her making a big impact in this one; however, she is definitely a “just in case” play. We know the talent is there, which is what always makes her a little bit scary.

Throw Outs

#1 Out for a Spin – We know trainer Dallas Stewart knows how to pull off some major upsets, which is exactly how this filly got into the race, winning the Ashland Stakes (G1) in upset fashion. Now, she must step up in competition again today, which will make it very tough on her making it two wins in a row. Also, the pace dynamics in this event will be much different than what she saw in her last start.

#2 Chocolate Kisses – After an allowance win at Fair Grounds she shipped to Oaklawn Park next, where she took home the Honeybee Stakes (G3) with a fast closing finish. The pace fell apart that day, though, which didn’t happen in her next start in the Ashland Stakes (G1). In that spot, she finished sixth, while never playing much of a factor. She’ll need major pace help again today.

#8 Motion Emotion – This is a filly with a ton of talent and early speed. She just hasn’t been able to hold on in either of her last two races, finishing second in both the Honeybee Stakes (G3) and Fantasy Stakes (G2). Jockey Mike Smith hopped aboard her last time out, with the horse performing better, yet the result was still the same. It’s a good sign that Smith is back for this race; however, her chances of winning decrease the longer the distances get.

#6 Positive Spirit – As a two-year-old this horse flourished with a win in the Demoiselle Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct. Her 3-year-old season has not gone all that well, though, with two losses along the Kentucky Oaks Trail. Her last race was at least a positive step in the right direction, finishing second in the Gazelle Stakes (G2), but this will be a tall task for her today.

#11 Jeltrin – The upset winner of the Davona Dale Stakes (G2) will try to pull off another shocker in her first race since that win back in early March. She has had several solid workouts since; however, her lack of racing since that win brings up several question marks. It’s hard to see her pulling off another upset in this spot.

Also Eligibles: #15 Dunbar Road, #16 Point of Honor 

1Out for a Spin (Hard Spun)Irad Ortiz, Jr.Dallas Stewart 15-18
2Chocolate Kisses (Candy Ride)Julien LeparouxMark Casse20-114
3Lady Apple (Curlin) Ricardo Santana, Jr.Steve Asmussen 20-13
4Bellafina (Quality Road) Flavien PratSimon Callaghan 2-11
5Flor de la Mar (Tiznow)Joel RosarioBob Baffert 20-111
6Positive Spirit (Pioneerof the Nile)Manny FrancoRodolophe Brisset 30-112
7Jaywalk (Cross Traffic)Javier CastellanoJohn Servis8-19
8Motion Emotion (Take Charge Indy)Mike SmithTom Van Berg15-1NR
9Liora (Candy Ride)Channing HillWayne M. Catalano20-14
10Champagne Anyone (Street Sense)Chris LanderosIan Wilkes 6-17
11Jeltrin (Tapizar)Luis SaezAlexis Delgado15-110
12Street Band (Istan) Sophie DoyleLarry Jones 15-12
13Serengeti Empress (Alternation) Jose OrtizTom Amoss8-16
14Restless Rider (Distorted Humor) Brian Hernandez, Jr.Kenny McPeek 6-15
AE-15Dunbar Road (Quality Road)Jose OrtizChad Brown5-113
AE-16Point of Honor (Curlin)John VelazquezGeorge Weaver30-1NR Free Kentucky Oaks Past Performances

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