There is an old adage in horse racing that says, “Pace makes the race.” Those words could speak volumes in Friday’s 145th running of the Grade I Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs. Jaywalk, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner from last year over the same track, has done all of her winning when she makes the early lead. Serengeti Empress was outrun for the early lead in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies last year and reportedly bled when stopping badly in the Fair Grounds Oaks in Louisiana in March.
She has come back to train in excellent fashion since, however, and can be brilliant when she can dictate the pace. Her trainer Tom Amoss says she will be on the lead Friday.
Mix in fellow early speedsters Motion Emotion and even Out for a Spin and the Kentucky Oaks seems ready for the taking by a closer.
The likely favorite will be Bellafina, shipping from California off an easy win in the Santa Anita Oaks. She figures to get a nice pressing trip in the Oaks, but the worst race of her career came at Churchill Downs in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (a distant fourth) and the nine-furlong trip may test her distance limitations. That makes her vulnerable at a short price.
Positive Spirit is the only Oaks entrant with a win at the Oaks distance of 1-1/8 miles (she was 10 lengths the best in the Grade II Demoiselle at Aqueduct last December) and her form may be hidden since she found herself on the lead setting a slow pace before ending up second in the Grade II Gazelle at Aqueduct April 6, her prep for the Oaks. That is just not her style.
She will be reunited with regular rider Manny Franco, and she runs her best with a target to chase, Best of all, she will offer fair value on the tote at a morning line of 30-1.
In betting the Oaks, how about a win bet on Positive Spirit as well as using her as a key in the Exactas and Trifectas with fellow long shot closer Chocolate Kisses, Bellafina, Restless Rider and Serengeti Express?
Don’t forget, there is a Daily Double from the Kentucky Oaks Friday to the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, too. The Oaks-Derby Double is a very popular bet with horseplayers.
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