Friday’s $1 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) drew a full field of 14 three-year-old fillies that will go 1 1/8 miles on the main track at Churchill Downs, one of six graded stakes on a stellar betting card on the eve of the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Songbird was hammered in the early betting for the Oaks all spring, but spiked a fever a couple of weeks ago and will miss the race, making this year’s edition a wide open betting affair.
Rachel’s Valentina was installed as the 7-2 morning line favorite and will break from the 11 post under jockey John Velazquez for trainer Todd Pletcher, who has saddled three Oaks winners in his career.
The filly is out of great mare Rachel Alexandra, who won the Oaks herself in 2009 and then two weeks later won the Preakness Stakes (G1) against the boys on her way to the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year.
She catches a deep field this year that include Ashland (G1) winner Weep No More, Gazelle (G2) winner Lewis Bay, the undefeated Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) winner Go Maggie Go, Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) winner Land Over Sea, and the once beaten Cathryn Sophia, a two-time graded stakes winner.
Friday’s stakes action kicks off with the $300,000 La Troine (G1) which goes off as the seventh race on the 13-race card. Madison (G1) winner Sheer Drama is the 8-5 morning line favorite and runs into Curalina (9-5) who makes her first start since running third in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).
The $200,000 Eight Belles (G2) drew a field of eight three-year-old fillies that will go seven furlongs on the main track. Carina Mia (8-5) is cutting back from the two-turn Ashland (G1) where she set the early fractions and weakened to finish fourth.
The Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G3) is always a great betting race and this year is no exception, drawing a field of 13 that will go five furlongs on turf. The Wesley Ward trained Hootenanny is the 7-2 morning line favorite.
The $400,000 Alysheba for older runners at 1 1/16 miles drew a field of 10 including the top two from the Ben Ali (G3) at Keeneland, Eagle (7-2) and Noble Bird (4-1).
The $150,000 Edgewood (G3) features the talented Catch a Glimpse (2-1) who has now won five in a row, taking the Appalachian (G3) in her last outing at Keeneland.
Post time for the opening race is 10:30am ET and the NBC Sports Network will be providing live coverage from 12:30 to 6:00 ET.
Let’s head out to Churchill Downs for Friday’s featured race of the day:
Churchill Downs Race 11 The Kentucky Oaks G1 (Post time 5:49 ET)
#3 Lewis Bay 8-1
#11 Rachel’s Valentina 7-2
#12 Cathryn Sophia 9-2
#13 Land Over Sea 5-1
Analysis: Lewis Bay looks like good value if she goes off near her 8-1 morning line. The Chad Brown trainee has won twice at nine furlongs, winning the Demoiselle (G2) in her stakes debut at Aqueduct last November and winning the Gazelle (G2) in the mud last out. In that outing she tracked the early pace, took command at the top of the stretch and was geared down late, winning by 1 1/2 lengths but the margin could have been bigger.
The racing strip that day was also favoring off the pace types. She has a nice pedigree, by Bernardini out of the stakes winner Summer Raven ($168,910) who has dropped two other winners and they are both stakes winners—Winslow Homer ($273,365) and Misconnect ($327,100).
Rachel’s Valentina does not have a shabby pedigree herself, by Bernardini out of the multiple Grade 1 winner Rachel Alexandra, who won the 2009 Oaks and went on to win the Preakness (G1). The Todd Pletcher trainee has made just one start this year, beaten a neck in the Ashland (G1) at Keeneland by 30-1 longshot Weep No More, who also is entered here. Last year she won the Spinaway (G1) in her stakes debut and then was no match for Songbird in the stretch in a runner up finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1).
She is reunited with Johnny V. who was aboard for her two wins and should move forward in her second start off the bench. Pletcher has won this race three times, most recently with Princess of Sylmar in 2013.
Cathryn Sophia tracked the early pace, came with a four wide bid to get to the front and did not have enough punch left late in a close up third in the Ashland, beaten a half-length for the top spot as the beaten chalk. It was her first loss after starting her career perfect in four starts, all around one turn.
She does have enough pedigree to handle nine furlongs, by Street Boss out of a Mineshaft mare, her first foal to race. She came back with a bullet drill over at Keeneland on April 23 and may be too early to give up on her.
WIN: #3 to win at 9-2 or better.
EX: 3,11 / 3,11 ,12,13
TRI: 3,11 / 3,11,12,13 / 2,3,11,12,13
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