While Saturday's Kentucky Derby is the main event of the weekend at Churchill Downs, Friday's Kentucky Oak's, just like the Derby, has been run since 1875. Run at the distance of a mile and an eighth, the Oak's, for the top three year old fillies in the country, is an eighth of a mile shorter than the boys run on Saturday. In recent years horses like Rachel Alexandra, and Rags to Riches have captured the Oaks and gone on to beat the boys in other Triple Crown races. This year's field is a competitive and deep one with multiple logical choices to wager on. There is a lot of early speed present in the race. Let's take a look at the field.
Silsita: Breaking from the rail, Silsita is one of four horses in the race for trainer Todd Pletcher. Veteran Gary Stevens rides the gray who's only race on a dirt surface was not good. She got up to win the Bourbonette Oaks last time out on a synthetic track, far and away her best effort in four career starts. Her career best 92 Beyer speed figure last time out will need to be improved upon to win today.
Midnight Lucky: Making only her third career start, Midnight Lucky puts her 2-0 record on the line facing by a large margin her greatest career challenge. She won the Sunland Park Oaks against questionable competition by eight lengths last time out. She posted a 100 Beyer figure in that win. Her debut was a maiden romp at six and a half furlongs at Santa Anita. She is raw and hasn't beaten great competition, but her two wins have been very impressive.
Beholder: The winner of last year's Breeder's Cup Juvenile Fillies, the premier race for two year old girls, Beholder has earned more than $1.5 million in eight starts, the most in the field. She has won five times including two straight with Beyer numbers in the mid 90's. She posted a 108 figure in her final prep for the Breeder's Cup last year. Her level of competition since winning the Breeder's Cup has been good but not great, and the last Cup winner to repeat in the Oaks was Silverbulletday in 1999. She has never raced at more than a mile and a sixteenth and there is some question about whether she wants to go any further. It would be surprising if she isn't near the lead early on.
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Unlimited Budget: The second of four Pletcher runner's is four for four lifetime. She is coming off of her best race, a relatively easy win in the Fair Grounds Oaks that earned a 98 Beyer rating. She has won going wide in each of her last two starts and seems as though she may be able to settle right behind the early speed in the race. Jockey Javier Castellano chose to ride her over Princess of Sylmar.
Seaneen Girl: Veteran trainer Bernie Flint looks in over his head with this one. Seaneen Girl won at Churchill Downs at 31-1 in the Golden Rod Stakes in November. She is one of only two horses in the race with a victory over the track. In her only race this year she finished third out of seven in the Fair Grounds Oaks. She should be coming late, but will need to show a kick that has rarely been present against worse competition over her first seven races to win today.
Princess of Sylmar: Pletcher's longest shot of four, Princess of Sylmar finished second in the Gazelle April 6 in her only race this year. She beat mediocre competition in New York over the winter and has never earned a Beyer figure greater than 84. By a huge margin this is the most difficult field she's ever faced.
Pure Fun: Kenny McPeek's longshot ran poorly against boys in the Lexington two weeks ago. She will have lasix for the time today, but will need to revert back to last year's form to have any chance today. Her effort to win the grade one Hollywood Starlet in December was excellent, though it came was over a synthetic track and earned just an 88 Beyer number. She won at Churchill Downs in a November optional claiming race
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Dreaming of Julia: If the favorite repeats her monster effort from March 30 in the Gulfstream Oaks, she'll win easily today for Todd Pletcher. Her last race earned a 114 Beyer figure and she won by nearly 22 lengths. Prior to that effort she fit very competitively in this field. She finished second in her 2013 debut earning a 93 figure in the Davona Dale Stakes. Her third place finish at 9/2 in the Breeder's Cup was solid if not spectacular. The question quite simply is will she bounce and how much after her career effort five weeks ago?
Rose to Gold: Calvin Borel has a knack for winning at Churchill Downs, and this $1,400 purchase has already earned nearly $718,000 in her career. A winner of two straight, Rose to Gold is stepping up in competition today but is not impossible at a decent price. She earned a 97 Beyer figure at Oaklawn Park in a good Honeybee March 9, and came back to easily win the Fantasy in the slop April 10. She is very good when the weather is inclement, and has run six good races in seven career starts including five wins.
Close Hatches: Trainer Bill Mott has been confident about this three for three filly, and jockey Joel Rosario has been red hot this year particularly at Churchill Downs. She won at today's distance in the Gazelle last time out earning a 88 Beyer figure. She has gotten better in each race and is untested but talented.
Prediction: If Dreaming of Julia runs like she did last time out, she will not only win, but be in position to face the boys at either the Preakness or Belmont. She is going to be even money, or 2-1, and I'm not going to bet on her being a super horse at that price, though it is a distinct possibility. Beholder is a pro but it is worth asking whether she has already run her best race. I don't like Midnight Lucky because Sunland Park rarely produces a big winner (Mine that Bird was one, but I can't think of another). I think Rose to Gold, Pure Fun, and Close Hatches offer value. The pick is Unlimited Budget who has done nothing wrong, improved in every race, and should stalk in what could be a very fast first half mile.