Kentucky Oaks

Kentucky Oaks Preview: Big Favorites Draw Outside Posts

Midnight Bisou and Jockey Mike Smith Winning the G1 Santa Anita Oaks (credit: Melanie Martines)

A full field of 14 3-year-old fillies are set to battle in the 144th running of the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. As always, the Kentucky Oaks will be contested the Friday before the Kentucky Derby and is one of the biggest racing days each and every year. Five others stakes races will be run on the card, including the the Grade 1 La Troienne Stakes, the Grade 2 Alysheba Stakes, the Grade 2 Eight Belles Stakes, Grade 3 Twin Spires Turf Sprint Stakes, and the Grade 3 Edgewood Stakes. First post for Kentucky Oaks Friday will begin at 10:30 AM ET.

This year’s Kentucky Oaks is said to be a two-horse race according to many pundits and the morning line. The 2-1 favorite, Monomoy Girl, comes into the race off of a victory in the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland. That win gave Kentucky native Brad Cox his first-ever Grade 1 victory as a trainer, but he didn’t celebrate for long, as the Oaks has been the ultimate goal from day one. Cox seems to be enjoying the week leading up to the big event.

“I’m sure I’ll get to be a little more nervous Friday when we’re leading over the favorite for the Oaks,” he said. “She continues to do well and I’m getting excited for Friday. The Oaks and Derby exclusive training period is pretty cool for all of the fans and media to get a look at all of the horses on the track at once.”

2018 Kentucky Oaks/Kentucky Derby Wagering Guide

California shipper Midnight Bisou is the other headliner in the race and also exits a Grade 1 win. After falling way behind in the Santa Anita Oaks, Midnight Bisou flew past her rivals to win easily. Trained by Bill Spawr, Midnight Bisou will break from post 10 with jockey Mike Smith aboard. This will be Spawr’s first Kentucky Oaks appearance, and he seems to be relaxed coming into the big event.

“I never ran in the race before,” Spawr said. “I’m undefeated. Everything’s been perfect.”

The fully field from the rail out: Sassy Sienna, Coach Rocks, Classy Act, Chocolate Martini, Wonder Gadot, Kelly’s Humor, Rayya, Heavenhasmynikki, Take Charge Paula, Midnight Bisou, My Miss Lilly, Patrona Margarita, Eskimo Kisses, and Monomoy Girl. Post time for the Kentucky Oaks will be 6:12 PM ET on Friday evening.

Top Choice

#10 Midnight Bisou – If not for two losses by only a nose, she would be undefeated. Since beginning her career with those two close finishes, she’s a perfect 3-for-3, including a win in the Santa Anita Oaks in her last start. Her running style is to sit back and make one run at the end, which shouldn’t be affected with this outside post position draw. In a 14-horse field, there should be a swift pace up front. This race isn’t loaded with speed, though it does have enough to make the early pace honest. Midnight Bisou should be the one running fastest in the stretch and will be very tough to hold off. Monomoy Girl drawing the far outside post is what pushed me towards Midnight Bisou.

Horses to Use in Multi-Race Wagers

#14 Monomoy Girl – Her outside post position is not ideal, but this filly has proven that she can win from off the lead as well as coming from behind. She was victorious in the Ashland in dominating wire-to-wire fashion, and two races back, she won the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra Stakes while coming from dead-last. That kind of versatility is hard to find and is why she could still be very tough to beat in this spot, despite the terrible draw, and Cox has been thrilled with her recent workouts. She and Midnight Bisou were hard to separate when handicapping, but the post position gives Midnight Bisou a slight edge.

#7 Rayya – Trainer Bob Baffert just got richer after the Group 3 UAE Oaks winner shipped to his barn for an American campaign that starts with the Kentucky Oaks. After winning the UAE Oaks in stylish fashion, she then faced the boys in the Group 2 UAE Derby. Baffert has had success with Dubai shippers recently; Vale Dori and Mubtaahij have won several stakes since joining him. Rayya has the talent to do the exact same thing, and she drew perfectly for this race. Her morning line price of 15-1 is absolutely insane; don’t think for a second that you’ll be getting that, but she’ll likely be a decent price as the third or fourth choice.

#2 Coach Rocks – It took a while for trainer Dale Romans to figure this filly out, but now that he has, she’s a rising star. Romans finally put her on the dirt going long two races back, and she rewarded him by breaking her maiden in stylish fashion at Gulfstream Park. She quickly wheeled back in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks and won despite a poor trip. She might run her best career race at the perfect time, but she must work out a good trip, as her inside draw could make things a bit tricky.

Exotic Plays

#5 Wonder Gadot – How can you not have respect for this classy filly? She’s been frustrating to those betting her to win this year, as she’s been so close in four Kentucky Oaks prep races. Most recently, she was second in the Grade 3 Fantasy Stakes after losing a photo finish to Sassy Sienna. She might not be good enough to win this race, but she’ll come with a solid effort like usual. This field does seem a bit top-heavy, but she’s a logical underneath candidate for those looking for value.

#4 Chocolate Martini – She won the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks for trainer Tom Amoss in upset fashion and will look to do more of the same in Kentucky. She progressed nicely at Fair Grounds over the winter/spring, and Amoss seems to be very high on her coming into the race. Her recent workouts suggest that she’s ready to roll. Perhaps she’s ready to fire her best shot at the perfect time.

#13 Eskimo Kisses – The race flow was against her in the Ashland; she’s a deep closer that was trying to run down a loose-on-the-lead Monomoy Girl. This Kenny McPeek trainee has been consistent for most of the year and was a tough-luck second in the Fair Grounds Oaks. She can be counted on to make a solid run in this spot.

Party Crashers

#3 Classy Act – This filly looked to be in good shape heading into the Fair Grounds Oaks, but she went too fast up front and burned herself out. This was surprising, as she was solid in her race prior, when she was second to Monomoy Girl in the Rachel Alexandra. If she relaxes here, then she could improve, but this inside draw is a little scary because she might contest the lead too aggressively. However, she should be at least 20-1 (ignore her morning line), which makes her playable.

Throw Outs

#12 Patrona Margarita – She’ll look to drop way back and make one run in the end. From a speed figure standpoint, she has some improving to do if she wants to compete with this tough field.

#11 My Miss Lilly – This Tapit filly has been a bit inconsistent over the past few months, but when at her best, she’s shown that she can be useful. She won the Grade 2 Gazelle Stakes at Aqueduct to qualify for this event, but that field was’t as strong as some of the other preps. Still, she does seem to be a filly that could really love going this distance.

#9 Take Charge Paula – It looks like she could be stretching her distance limitations here because she was very tired when finished second in the Gulfstream Park Oaks. Now she must go an extra 1/16 of a mile and will probably be better when they cut her back to one-turn races.

#1 Sassy Sienna – This filly is the second of three entries from Cox. She’s been consistent all year at Oaklawn Park and finally broke through for her first stakes win last time out in the Fantasy. She’ll still need to improve off of that effort to have a shot here, though.

#8 Heavenhasmynikki – She’ll have a say in things from a pace standpoint, but she might be a cut below the top horses in this group. However, it’s always nice to have her owner, Ron “Loooch” Paolucci, involved in a big race.

#6 Kelly’s Humor – The third Cox entry draws in after several defections. She’ll be making just her second start of the season after finishing second in the Grade 3 Beaumont Stakes last time out.

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