It's Run for the Roses week at Churchill Downs but it's not just about the Derby. Friday's card traditionally features the Oaks, oddly run over a slightly shorter distance, and piping up with the preview, it's regular US racing correspondent, Jon da Silva, @creamontop.
Longines Kentucky Oaks
Grade 1, 3yo fillies
1749 local, 2249 GMT
This race was due to have one a monster filly in Songbird the imperious winner of all her races but with her scratch this preview is somewhat longer. Note all trials over a mile and sixteenth bar the Gazelle which is over the full classic trip.
Run Style E= Early Pace P=Presser and sadly S=Sustainer or plodder in TimeformUS parlance - late runner. The number indicates the amount of speed the horse has. Bear in mind these are lightly raced horses so run styles can change. Thus a P5 will be up there but not try for lead. An E8 is a stone lead horse who will likely contest the lead with another E8 but see off an E7 or less. Numbers run from 0 to 8. Expect S0s to run late if they get into it at all.
Terra Promessa Best Beyer 88 Last 86 Run Style E/P 6 Drawn 1
Slow horse on figures with early toe and most qualifying points coming in. Won 4 straight inc a maiden at Churchill before 3 straight at Oaklawn Park.
Lewis Bay Best Beyer 99 Last 99 P5 Dr 3
Bounced back from a seven length striping by Cathryn Sophia to win the Gazelle G2. Impressive burst to the front off a wide trip on a muddy track. She ran like a turfer... wide, unhurried, kicked and let down. Most of the others have finished trials on fumes bar Weep No More who is much more a stone closer. Way they finished looked like a trial but times solid and Brisnet pace numbers too.
Land Over Sea BB93 LB92 S1 Dr 13
The grim reaper except for the fact she ran into Songbird. A brutal late runner who won the Fairground Oaks 4.5L after being Songbird's bitch for five races. Only shocker/poorer result was in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies and only other time she faced nine or more opponents. Bigger field worries for me. So far not as quick as some.
Weep No More BB 95 LB95 S0 Dr 2
Closer who ripped dying horses down the stretch last time in the Ashland G1 - those possible non stayers included favourites here Cathryn Sophia and Rachel's Valentina. Beyer's only a guide but had four races 68 77 89 95. Horses she beat are the favs and she's at a bigger price. Downside track may have favoured closers that day and was 6.5L back top of the stretch and upside a neck in front when it counted.
Go Maggie Go BB92 LB92 E/P 6 Dr 4
Only had two races and won the Gulfstream Oaks last time on an off track. Hard to throw out completely. One you like or don't?
Cathryn Sophia BB102 LB94 E/P5 Dr 12
Beyers have regressed with distance. neck and neck behind Weep No More and Rachel's Valentina last time. Piled seven lengths into Lewis Bay prior. Clearly not without a chance but enough doubts to throw out as second fav?
Mo d'Amour BB89 LB89 E/P6 Dr 7
Beaten 8.5L in a muddy Gazelle by Lewis Bay and numbers seem shy. Possible pace on Brisnet classification
Venus Valentine BB89 LB80 S0 Dr 10
A seemingly slow plodder. Beaten 10L by Land Over Sea last time. On a better track some hope but think there are faster closers here.
Mokat BB89 LB87 P2 Dr 6
Dual Songbird victim also beaten 3.5L by Land Over Sea.
Rachel's Valentina BB 95 LB 94 E/P8 Dr 11
Pacy daughter of one of the greatest Oaks winners of all time Rachel Alexandra who beat the colts and the older colts. Carries some sentimental money but also some ability. Run down late in the Ashland by Weep No More and potentially this track might help and mitigate the extra half a furlong. Second to Songbird prior in the Juvenile Fillies. Only one run this year so a bounce forwards or backwards cannot be ruled out. The one run worries me. Wide draw albeit not a race packed with burners. Probably the right favourite but if in front of the others not so far she could overcome a poor trip or pace pressure?
Royal Obsession BB 97 LB97 P2 Dr 8
Closing second to Lewis Bay in fastest time over more than a mile by Beyers. Improving runs 75 81 87 97 as distance has increased. That was a muddy track and Lewis Bay looked the classier but certainly not a toss out in the under of the exotics.
Dream Dance BB90 LB86 S1 Dr 5
Exposed closer in her 10th race. OK similar logic probably factored into California Chrome being a toss a few years ago but does not have the numbers speed or form. Beaten by fellow plodder Land Over Sea the best part of 5 lengths. Some judges likes this as an outsider me not so much.
Taxable BB89 LB86 E/P4 Dr 14
If Terra Promessa has a chance then she does I guess beaten a neck last time by her. Fourth run so unexposed to a degree.
Dothraki Queen BB94 LB77 S0 Dr 15
Third in the Juvenile Fillies but has scraped in here on points. Connections must want a day out with this plodder who appears to have regressed to insignificance here?
Paola Queen BB90 LB90 E8 Dr 9
Her main role I suspect is that she is another pace horse in this race. Second to Go Maggie Go in the Gulfstream Oaks.
Nearly half the field are plodders and there is some pace albeit not packed. For me two trials stand out the Gazelle (mainly on numbers and style of winner) and the Ashland. Land Over Sea has the form as well over the piece but was uncompetitive in the Juvenile Fillies and is a toss at a shortish price. Go Maggie Go cannot be ruled out but I prefer hardened warriors. I am calling Cathryn Sophia distance challenged. Rachel's Valentina is best priced 7/2 UK books and I could not quibble with that but was beaten by Weep No More who came like she entered the race 2f out and is double the price. Lewis Bay's Gazelle looks like a stroll but was seemingly run at a strong pace and she flew and the 2nd Royal Obsession looked a huge green grey boat that day but stayed on well.
1. Lewis Bay
2. Weep No More
3. Rachel Valentina
4. Royal Obsession
5. Go Maggie Go
Win Lewis Bay 7/1 and 8/1
Best EW Royal Obsession 25/1
Worth noting on Morning Line estimates Lewis Bay is 8s PMU so may pay more and exotics with the Gazelle pair may be underrated.