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Kentucky Oaks preview

It's Run to the Roses week in the US at the classic but controversial Churchill Downs. Classic because of the time-honoured great races this weekend, controversial because of the recent takeout hike by arrogant racetrack owners who have defied all economic lessons of the past where increasing the price equates to less business. And punters aren't happy about it, boycotting the most famous racecourse in North America. Find out more at

Ignoring the politics and the local tote, it's still a great weekend and Friday's meeting is headlined by the Kentucky Oaks. Regular US racing contributor Jon da Silva, @creamontop saddles up for the preview.


Kentucky Oaks
9 Furlongs

Nine furlongs is a Route in US racing. That is pronounced as in 'rout' as in 'Man United fans have been discovering routs can happen more than once a year'. In the UK of course a Route is pronounced 'Root' and many Aussie men have been known to 'Cop a Root'. Which leads us nicely on to a three year old fillies race. Nine furlongs or a mile and an eighth as the US calls it. Nine may seem odd (literally and figuratively) but really having almost all big races be an even number of furlongs is equally odd. What it does do is make obvious throw outs mildly less obvious than say the 10 furlong Kentucky Derby. Nonetheless we are likely to have a big field so stamina of a degree will likely be a factor. Most here are stepping up only an extra sixteenth from the really odd trip of a mile and a sixteenth.

Untapable last three Brisnet speed figures, latest first 107 100 87
Has the numbers to be competitive in the Derby itself. Has leathered her last two fields grabbing the lead after the second call (four furlongs) and just extending. Her work shown in a brief Vine showed her killing a gallop mate. Main blemish was a Lasix-free shocker in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies beaten 68 lengths Breeders Cup the only time she faced a strong early pace and was beaten hollow. Only other defeat on Synths. Draws widest of 13 with plenty of speed wide so how Napravnik uses her early and how wide her trip is could be decisive. As a fully paid up member of the 'Whole Lotta' Rosie Napravnik's Appreciation Society she'd be a welcome winner. Trained by recently in the news for alleged horse abuse Steve Asmussen so the reception could be mixed - Andy Beyer wrote that singling Asmussen out for doing what most US trainers do is absurd and I agree with him, the issue is the drugs culture not an individual.

Sugar Shock 93 92 88 90
Pace horse who can rate. Won last four at Oaklawn Park including two Gr3s. Could grab a decent pitch from post three with early speed and ability to rate. A bit behind some in terms of rating.

Fashion Plate 92 91 97
Has led at every call (from go to whoa) in three victories. Note her best figure came in a maiden where she would have dominated. Even that number has her needing an off day from Untapable. Has a chance at the lead from her draw but likely to be contested.

My Miss Sophia 97 94 98
Only had three starts and was beaten on her debut but that was over 5.5F and note a big figure [98]. Brisnet have her as an 'on the lead' horse. Has run nine furlongs in a seven-length rout of the Gr2 Gazelle. Draws 11 of 13 so may need to be heavily used early outside Fashion Plate.

Rosalind 100 87 87
Banged out a big number in the Gr1 1/16th Ashland at Keeneland on Polytrack dead heating with Room Service. A closer, sustainer if you prefer, which means she may get a favourable pace scenario with the burners outside. Closed dourly in the Breeders Cup Juvenile in third to record a 93 on dirt. Contender and gets another 1/16th here to close into.

Got Lucky 88 89 90
To be glib dropped a point in speed rating for each extra 1/16th. My Miss Sophia's 7 length victim in the Gazelle. Beaten 9.5L by Untapable prior to that. No obvious reason to improve. Drawn wide in 12 of 13.

Aurelia's Belle 91 86 86
Stepped up on last start breaking her maiden in a Gr3 but that was on Synths and at a mile as well. Probably not good enough on dirt.

Ria Antonia 91 83 94 -> 94 was BCJuvFil last season
Breeders Cup Juvenile Winner who will press the pace and close. Two runs this year have seen progress notably when second to Fashion Plate in the Santa Anita Oaks. Type seems right and profile is upward off two preps even if comeback was being dissed 14 wickets by Untapable. Winner in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies ahead of Rosalind.

Kiss Moon 92 90 72
Clashed with Sugar Shock last two getting closer on the second start. Lacks the zip of some of the other prominent runners to get a solid position.

Unbridled Forever 96 85 100
Two runs this year and some progress but was a way's back behind Untapable. Figures to press the early pace. Another drawn wide with some speed in barrier eight.

Thank You Mary Lou 92 98 87
Who calls anyone Mary Lou? The mysteries of Americana I guess. This Mary Lou appears to be a sprinter. Third to Rosalind and Room Service last time closing till final call then being drawn off on.

Please Explain 82 91 81
Beaten last two times by Sugar Shock last time by 10 long. Although in an 11 runner race with more pace on such as here did get within a narrowing neck of Sugar Shock. Likely best chance to affect the result is a plodding on third or fourth in the exotics if there is a pace collapse (fast, fast, glacial, walking home). Those who handicap a meltdown may find her a big odds play there.

Empress of Midway 84 78 81
Has some early toe but only a maiden to her name. Main effect could be drawn 10 to helps force Untapable wide. In only her fourth start as well and surrounded by speed.

Untapable looks solid but has drawn the outside post 13. My Miss Sophia has 11 and Fashion Plate gate seven with three speedsters in 8,9 and 10 so I can see a wide trip for Untapable. I think Rosalind is the best of the closers and with Untapable unlikely to be much more than 5/4 in the UK and 3/5 in the USA I'll take her on given the speed in this race. Untapable is the potential star but the Breeders Cup and her odds enough to put me off.

1pt Rosalind 7/1 or more.


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Melbourne Cup preview

I was going to pen a lengthy analytical preview for the Race That Stops The Nation but that was rendered futile when I got the email notification for this magnificent piece of work - Andrew Hawkins' Complete Guide to the 2017 Melbourne Cup. For all the background, all the detail, video links, back stories (read the one about Tiberian especially), go there, you won't find a better analysis anywhere.

So instead I'll keep it short and sharp, which based on the lack of sleep I've had in the past week, can only be a good thing!

AU$6 million
Group 1 Handicap, 3200m
1500 local, 0400 GMT

1. HARTNELL - third last year when looked poised to win at top of straight. Has been 'running more like a two-miler' this prep according to trainer, but hasn't run beyond 2000m either. History isn't kind to horses coming back a second time to win (actually it's his third attempt) especially high in the weights. No.

2. ALMANDIN - defending champ an…