LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A speedy group of fillies will assemble Friday afternoon at Churchill Downs.
The 143rd Run for the Lilies, also known as the $1 million Grade 1 Longines Kentucky Oaks, is the feature race on Friday’s card under the Twin Spires. A crowd of over 110,000 is expected for one of the biggest races of the year for 3-year-old fillies. The race will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network during a telecast starting at 12:00 p.m. for the undercard and 5 p.m. leading up to the Oaks. Post time for the Kentucky Oaks is 6:12 p.m.
A full field of 14 fillies will head to the gate looking to win the most prestigious race of the 3-year-old filly division. With the defection of Unique Bella several weeks ago due to a shin injury, the race has turned out to be a very competitive race where the pace of the race will play an important factor.
Let’s take a look at the field (post position, trainer, jockey, ML odds in parenthesis):
Kentucky Oaks – Race 11 – 1 1/8 miles -- Churchill Downs – 6:12 p.m. EDT – NBC Sports Network
1 – Ever So Clever (Asmussen, Contreras 20-1). This daughter of Medaglia d’Oro upset the Fantasy at Oaklawn at odds of 16-1 under longtime Woodbine jockey Luis Contreras. She has a win on the track, breaking her maiden last summer. Her odds seem a little high at 20-1, and if she backs up her last in Arkansas she could hit the board.
2 – Lockdown (Mott, J Ortiz, 30-1). Lightly raced daughter of First Defence has never raced outside of New York proper, with all four career races at the Big A. She qualified for the Oaks with a second-place finish behind Miss Sky Warrior in the G2 Gazelle. It would be a big step up for this filly.
3 – Mopotism (O’Neill, Gutierrez, 30-1). She has been blown away by both Unique Bella and Paradise Woods in California. Nice pedigree that should be able to handle the nine furlongs with ease. The Uncle Mo filly out of a Bernardini mare will need a career effort to challenge this group.
4 – Paradise Woods (Mandella, Prat, 5-2). Richard Mandella retires one superstar (Beholder) and another one comes right along in Paradise Woods. She crushed the Santa Anita Oaks field, her nearest competitor 11 lengths behind to qualify for the Oaks. She has only three career races, all in her 3-year-old campaign, so she is lightly raced. This will be the biggest and most competitive field she’ll face. Duplicating that monster speed figure could be difficult and she’s worth trying to beat at a short price even though she may lap the field.
5 – Jordan’s Henny (Tomlinson, Rocco, 30-1). Henny Hughes filly looks like a miler to me. She has only one win in nine starts and sits just outside the speed. She comes in third off the layoff after a third-place finish in the Gulfstream Park Oaks. Selling, not buying.
6 – Vexatious (Drysdale, Desormeaux, 20-1). Her only win comes in a maiden after two third-place finishes in major preps gave her the necessary points to qualify for the Oaks. Giant’s Causeway filly runs for the historic Calumet Farm and should be handle the nine furlongs, just not sure she’s good enough.
7 – Farrell (Catalano, Hill, 5-1). Malibu Moon filly dominated the Fair Grounds preps and has won four straight on her way to Louisville. She has a wet track win in Louisiana and had two wins on the Churchill surface including the Grade 2 Goldenrod. The Cat Man has his son-in-law Channing Hill in the irons and proclaimed that he’d take 5-1 right now at the post draw. I’m high on this filly and she’s the pick.
8 – Sailor’s Valentine (Kenneally, Lanerie, 30-1). The upset winner in the Grade 1 Ashland at 22-1, is a daughter of Mizzen Mast out of a Tale of the Cat mare. She just hasn’t shown the speed necessary to win the Oaks. Passing.
9 – Wicked Lick (Walsh, Hernandez, 30-1). She’s another long shot filly that could relish a wet track on Friday. Has been following Farrell around the track at the Fair Grounds, where she amassed enough points to run in the Oaks. Daughter of Maclean’s Music could sneak into the exotics on an off track. Curious.
10 – Miss Sky Warrior (Breen, Lopez, 9-2). Second choice on the morning line has run well winning five straight, mostly on the New York circuit, although she has a graded win at Gulfstream on her ledger. There is some serious speed in the race so she’ll have to be careful not to get into a speed duel early. This filly has looked great in the mornings at Churchill. Hard to dismiss.
11 – Tequilita (Matz, Saez, 20-1). Union Rags filly took four races to break her maiden, but she’s been strong since then winning two of three, including the G2 Forward Gal at Gulfstream. Finished 13 lengths behind Miss Sky Warrior in the Gazelle on Wood day at the Big A. Not happening.
12 – Daddy’s Lil Darling (McPeek, Leparoux, 20-1). Leparoux gets the mount due to injury suffered by Robbie Albarado. She was the second-place finisher in a slow edition of the Ashland. Has a win on a muddy track at Churchill in the G2 Pocohontas in her 2-year-old year. She’s a late closer who could relish a fast pace. Longshot play.
13 – Abel Tasman (Baffert, Smith, 5-1). If not for Unique Bella and Paradise Woods, this one is your likely favorite based on her speed figures and popular connections. Baffert makes an equipment change and puts blinkers on the daughter of Quality Road. He’s won the Oaks twice with Silverbulletday (1999) and Plum Pretty (2011). Outside post could be an issue if she takes off due to the addition of the blinkers.
14 – Salty (Casse, Rosario, 6-1). Outside post shouldn’t be an issue for filly who will take back and make her run going into the far turn. Another Quality Road filly out of a Dixie Union mare who should enjoy a fast pace out ahead of her. She will be looking to pick up the pieces late should the pace collapse. Contender.
Post Time Outlook: 1 – Farrell; 2 – Paradise Woods; 3 – Miss Sky Warrior; 4 – Salty
Long Shot: Daddy’s Lil Darling
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.