LOUISVILLE, Ky. – An competitive array of contenders will go to post Friday afternoon at Churchill Downs in the most prestigious race of the year for 3-year-old fillies.
The 145th Run for the Lilies, also known as the $1.25 million Grade 1 Longines Kentucky Oaks, is the feature race on Friday’s card under the Twin Spires. A six-figure crowd 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 will head to the gate looking to take the reigns in the 3-year-old filly division. West coast-based Bellafina drew the No. 4 post on Monday and received the morning line favorite role at 2-1.
With a more than 50 percent chance of rain in the forecast for Friday morning, the potential for an off track exists in Louisville.
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 – Out for a Spin (Stewart, Ortiz, Jr., 15-1). This daughter of Hard Spun upset the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland on Blue Grass Stakes day and draws the rail in the Oaks. She’ll likely be on or around the lead and trying to maintain the inside path which typically is the place to be at Churchill on a wet track. Exotics player.
2 – Chocolate Kisses (Casse, Leparoux, 20-1). Expensive Fasig Tipton $410k purchase didn’t fire in the Ashland after winning the Grade 3 Honeybee at Oaklawn. Shows a sharp workout on Apr. 27 over the Churchill surface and pulled a DNF in one of here two races at Churchill when she lost her rider, who happened to be Leparoux that day. Her only other effort over the CD track was a second-place finish on a sloppy track in her racing debut. Risky play.
3 – Lady Apple (Asmussen, Santana, Jr., 20-1). Qualified with a win in the Grade 3 Fantasy at Oaklawn for dynamic connections who have had great success together. Daughter of Curlin has the staying pedigree on top and comes into the Oaks on a three race winning streak. Thinking she’s a step slower than the top fillies in here.
4 – Bellafina (Callaghan, Prat, 2-1). Cruised into the year with three straight wins at Santa Anita, although her speed figures have regressed since her 2019 debut. She finished a well beaten fourth in the BC Juvenile Fillies here last November, and she hasn’t taken to the track since she arrived. At that price, it’s worth trying to beat her.
5 – Flor de La Mar (Baffert, Rosario, 20-1). Same jockey-trainer combination as Game Winner in Saturday’s Derby trying to pull off a natural double. She finished five plus lengths behind the favorite in the Santa Anita Oaks in her lone graded race. The lightly raced daughter of Tiznow running in the Godolphin silks will have to make a huge move forward to compete with the big girls in here.
6 – Positive Spirit (Brisset, Franco, 30-1). She has run her best at Aqueduct, but has struggled when shipping out of the Big A. She did win her lone effort at Churchill in her maiden breaker against weaker. Daughter of Pioneerof the Nile will have Manny Franco in the irons, after Jose Ortiz jumped off her to ride Serengeti Empress for Tom Amoss. Her second-place finish in the Grade 2 Gazelle qualified her for the Oaks, but she looks to be a tad slow.
7 – Jaywalk (Servis, Castellano, 8-1). The 2-year-old filly champion and winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies returns to the scene of the crime to try and avenge her last two defeats in her only races of the 2019 season as the race favorite in both. If the real Jaywalk shows up look out. She sorts a bullet work at Keeneland on Apr. 25 and has Hall of Famer Javier Castellano in the irons who replaced Joel Rosario after a uninspiring ride in the Davona Dale. Tough to look past the champ at 8-1.
8 – Motion Emotion (Van Berg, Smith, 15-1). Like the rail horse, the speed of the race looks to go through Motion Emotion. She couldn’t hold on after trying to go gate-to-wire in her two Oaks prep races finishing a length behind the winner in both. Should be the pace setter, but will likely fade with the added distance.
9 – Liora (Catalano, Hill, 20-1). The Cat Man and his son-in-law go after the Lilies with this daughter of Candy Ride out of a Giant’s Causeway mare. She comes off of two straight second-place finishes out of the Fair Grounds preps at sizable odds. Her speed figures look light to compete for the top prize, but she has shown improvement and would have to make a major move forward.
10 – Champagne Anyone (Wilkes, Landeros, 6-1). Became a Landeros fan on Pegasus day when he made a number of impressive moves on horses on a messy day. This filly has been working lights out and has looked terrific on the Churchill grounds for trainer Ian Wilkes. Won the Gulfstream Oaks on Florida Derby day to qualify and the daughter of Street Sense could sit a perfect trip with her stalking style and pounce on the early pace setters in the stretch. Has the pedigree to go the 9 furlongs. The pick.
11 – Jeltrin (Delgado, Saez, 15-1). Daughter of Tapizar won the Davona Dale at big balloons on Fountain of Youth day at 52-1. Has had a two month break for Delgado after skipping the Fair Grounds Oaks. Stretches out to 9 furlongs for the first time which is enough for me to take a pass.
12 – Street Band (Jones, Doyle, 15-1). Surprise winner of the Fair Grounds Oaks has the only female rider in the race, Sophie Doyle who will look to duplicate Rosie Napravnik, winner of the 2012 and 2014 Oaks. The daughter of Istan has show steady improvement in her races. Trainer Larry Jones is looking for his fourth Oaks title, which would land him one shy of the record set by the legendary Woody Stephens. Contender.
13 – Serengeti Empress (Amoss, Ortiz, 8-1). After a freaky performance in the Rachel Alexandra where she was geared down after opening up a multiple length lead, she bled in the Fair Grounds Oaks and was vanned off after the race. She has recovered and has trained lights out at Churchill since her arrival in early April and will be another that will likely be on the engine early in the Oaks, especially from an outside post. She has some stamina on her bottom side being out of a Bernardini mare and her sire’s sire (Distorted Humor) is a noted sloppy track horse. In the mix.
14 – Restless Rider (McPeek, Hernandez, 6-1). Has known Churchill rider in the irons on the Distorted Humor filly. Will likely have to settle mid pack and then make a late run on the front runners. Improving speed figures and will have to break a three-race skein of seconditis to wear the Lilies. One of the few Grade 1 winners in the field (Alciabides). Second best again.
15 – Dunbar Road (AE) (Brown, Ortiz, 5-1). Needs a scratch to get into the race for Chad Brown. Lightly raced filly only has two races on her dance card and both were impressive races. If she gets in does Ortiz jump off Serengeti? The Quality Road filly has the pedigree to handle the extra half-furlong and her first graded stake appearance showed she belongs. Dangerous if she gets in.
Post Time Outlook: 1 – Champagne Anyone; 2 – Restless Rider; 3 – Serengeti Empress; 4 – Jaywalk
Long Shots, Exotics Players: Street Band, Out for a Spin
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.