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Kentucky Oaks Preview: Superstar Fillies Set for a Showdown
Malathaat (Credit: Coady Photography)

Kentucky Oaks Preview: Superstar Fillies Set for a Showdown

LOUISVILLE, KYThe field is set for this Friday’s 147th Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs, the marquee event for 3-year-old fillies that serves as the female counterpart to Saturday’s Kentucky Derby (G1).

A full field of 14 signed on for this year’s running, which will go off as race 11 and has a post time of 5:51 PM Eastern. In a race featuring several capable winners, the Todd Pletcher-trained Malathaat is the 5/2 morning line favorite.

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While Malathaat being made the favorite surprised some, there’s no question she’s earned it, with a perfect 4-for-4 record coming into the Oaks. Last time out, she made her 3-year-old debut a winning one, closing fast to take home the Ashland Stakes (G1) at Keeneland. She drew post 10 for this test and will have John Velazquez aboard.

“I’m basically fine with the draw,” Pletcher said. “I probably would have preferred to be a bit more toward the middle, but if it was a case of drawing inside or outside, I’ll take the outside. It’ll work out fine.”

The Brad Cox-trained Travel Column will be the other filly vying for favoritism. Along with 2 wins over this track including last year’s Golden Rod Stakes (G2), she dominated rivals in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2). The filly will look to give Brad Cox back-to-back Kentucky Oaks victories. Florent Geroux will be aboard, breaking from post 6.

The only horse to defeat Travel Column is the Steve Asmussen-trained Clairiere, who defeated her 2 races back in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2). The two fillies have formed quite a rivalry over the last 3 races, with Travel Column winning 2 of the matchups and handing Clairiere her only losses. Clairiere drew post 3 and will have new jockey Tyler Gaffalione in the saddle.

The full field from the rail out includes: Pauline’s Pearl, Maracuja, Clairiere, Crazy Beautiful, Pass the Champagne, Travel Column, Ava’s Grace, Moraz, Coach, Malathaat, Will’s Secret, Search Results, Competitive Speed, and Millefeuille.

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Top Choice

#6 Travel Column – This filly has been my pick to win the Kentucky Oaks since she won the Golden Rod Stakes (G2) as a 2-year-old over this race track. She’s done nothing wrong since then to show me that she’s not ready to win a race of this caliber, especially after her dominant win last time out in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2). Brad Cox is also fantastic with getting horses to run their best races on the biggest days, especially when they are running their third race off the layoff. With that said, the task of beating Malathaat is going to be tough, but she should be ready for the challenge.

Horses to Use in Multi-Race Wagers

#10 Malathaat – It’s hard not to be excited about this horse based on all the things Todd Pletcher has said about her, coupled with the fact she’s backed it up on the race track, winning all 4 of her starts in impressive fashion. After a lengthy layoff, she returned to the races last time out for her 3-year-old debut, closing furiously down the stretch to win the Ashland Stakes (G1) at Keeneland. That race should set her up beautifully for this, where she will be extremely tough to hold off once again.

#5 Pass the Champagne – Even though she lost her last race, she proved a lot in that effort, finishing second to Kentucky Oaks favorite Malathaat narrowly in the Ashland Stakes (G1). When you consider that it was her first start against winner and her first start going two turns, that’s very impressive, while she made a move at the top of the stretch where see looked like a superstar. If she can improve off of that effort, and logically she should, there is no doubt she can pull off the upset her at a big price. She is a must use.

#3 Clairiere – This filly has run well every time, finishing no worse than second in four career starts. She opened up the season defeating Travel Column in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2), before finishing second to her last time out in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2). These fillies have clashed since breaking their maidens, which has turned into a fun rivalry to follow. With the added distance, look for to have a shot at turning the tables once again on her rival.

Exotic Plays

#4 Crazy Beautiful – This filly has faced the best horses in the crop since breaking her maiden and always seems to put in a nice effort. Last time out, she put up the best performance of her career, taking home the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) in runaway fashion. There is no doubt she’ll need some pace to help come-from-behind running style, but it does look like she should get it. You can rely on her to put in a solid effort.

#12 Search Results – Chad Brown seems to have a calm demeanor about him this week with his Oaks and Derby runners, and he seems confident that Search Results is coming into the race well. She looked solid in her Gazelle Stakes (G3) win last time out, although she did look to get a little tired towards the wire. This horse is a fringe win contender; however, we’ll likely just use her underneath in our exotic wagers.

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Party Crashers

#1 Pauline’s Pearl – Steve Asmussen has brought this horse along very well, getting an improved effort from her in every start this season. After breaking her maiden at Fair Grounds in February, she shipped to Oaklawn Park and finished second in the Honeybee Stakes (G3) before winning the Fantasy Stakes (G3) last time out. This filly could be blossoming at the perfect time and is definitely a candidate to outrun her odds.

Throw Outs

#11 Will’s Secret – This solid filly won 2 stakes at Oaklawn Park before finishing third last time out in the Ashland Stakes (G1) at Keeneland. While the effort wasn’t bad last time out, she proved to be no match for the top two fillies in the Ashland, which makes me think it will be hard for her to turn the tables here.

#14 Millefeuille – She definitely ran better in her second start of the year, finishing second in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2), but couldn’t finish the deal late in this race. This outside draw won’t do her any favors in this one, either.

#8 Moraz – This filly was ultra-impressive when breaking her maiden at Santa Anita, but she failed to finish the job in her 3 stakes attempts after that victory, She hit the board in all 3 of those, though, which is a positive sign heading into this event.

#7 Ava’s Grace – She’s the expected pace setter of the race after finishing a strong second in Fantasy Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn Park. The Oaklawn circuit hasn’t produced the strongest-looking winners this year for the 3-year-old fillies, so there are still some question marks for her coming into the race.

#2 Maracuja – A big runner-up effort in the Gazelle Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct lands her in this race. That was one of her best efforts by far, which makes you wonder if she is blossoming at the right time. If you want to play a real long shot, she might fit the bill.

#13 Competitive Speed – This filly has been consistent in her last 2 starts, hitting the board at solid prices in stakes attempts at Gulfstream Park. Still, we’ll need to see a big improvement from her in this spot.

#9 Coach – She continues to improve with each race this year; however, she’s still a bit behind the rest of these at this point. She’ll need another large progression to make an impact here.

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