Magic Man previews the 2018 Kentucky Oaks

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With all the preps in the books in both the filly and colt divisions, we are now set to embark on a great two days of racing at Churchill Downs. I will provide in-depth analysis of both Friday’s Kentucky Oaks and Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.

Last year, I struck gold in the Kentucky Oaks with Abel Tasman, who took advantage of a furious speed duel to win at 9-1 over a sloppy track. An early look at the weather forecast for Oaks day calls for a 40 to 50 percent chance of rain. I sure hope it does not happen though.

Before I give you my preview of the Kentucky Oaks, I want to apologize to my readers for my inactivity during this past season at the Fair Grounds and through all the prep races. I am here to provide a public service to you and I have not done enough in that respect so I am back and ready to roll.

I have watched the races and feel like I can duplicate my success in finding the winner this year. The draw for this year’s Oaks had a lot of drama as the presumed favorite Monomoy Girl drew the 14 hole which is not ideal. Watching her trainer Brad Cox post draw, I could tell he was none too pleased with it.

“We will work out a game plan and hope for the best,” Cox said. That’s not too encouraging.

California shipper Midnight Bisou drew the 10 post but her running style should not affect her from that spot. As for how much true speed is entered, look at Classy Act who shows two strong races earlier this year at the Fair Grounds. But there is other speed here and tactically speaking that should make for a good chess match regarding who takes the initiative early and who will hold back.

Below is horse-by-horse preview of the 2018 Kentucky Oaks with my picks as well.

Purse $1,000,000. For Fillies, Three Years Old. One And One Eighth Miles.

P# PP Horse  Virtual
A/S Med Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 1 Sassy Sienna (KY) [ ] 3/F L G L Stevens 121 B H Cox 15/1
2 2 Coach Rocks (KY) [ ] 3/F L L Saez 121 D L Romans 12/1
3 3 Classy Act (KY) [ ] 3/F L B J Hernandez, Jr. 121 W B Calhoun 15/1
4 4 Chocolate Martini (KY) [ ] 3/F L J Castellano 121 T M Amoss 12/1
5 5 Wonder Gadot (ON) [ ] 3/F L J R Velazquez 121 M E Casse 20/1
6 6 Kelly’s Humor (KY) [ ] 3/F L I Ortiz, Jr. 121 B H Cox 30/1
7 7 Rayya (KY) [ ] 3/F L D Van Dyke 121 B Baffert 12/1
8 8 Heavenhasmynikki (OH) [ ] 3/F L C H Borel 121 A T Quartarolo 50/1
9 9 Take Charge Paula (KY) [ ] 3/F L J L Ortiz 121 K P McLaughlin 15/1
10 10 Midnight Bisou (KY) [ ] 3/F L M E Smith 121 W Spawr 5/2
11 11 My Miss Lilly (KY) [ ] 3/F L J Bravo 121 M A Hennig 10/1
12 12 Patrona Margarita (TX) [ ] 3/F L R Santana, Jr. 121 W B Calhoun 30/1
13 13 Eskimo Kisses (KY) [ ] 3/F L C J Lanerie 121 K G McPeek 15/1
14 14 Monomoy Girl (KY) [ ] 3/F L F Geroux 121 B H Cox 2/1

Owners: 1 – China Horse Club (Ah Khing Teo), Medallion Racing (Phillip Shelton), Sandra Lazaruk, Zayat Stables, LLC (Ahmed Zayat) and Jerry McClanahan; 2 – Roddy J. Valente, RAP Racing (Rick A. Pitino) and West Point Thoroughbreds, LLC (Terrence Finley); 3 – Carl R. Moore Management, LLC (Carl R. Moore); 4 – Double Doors Racing, LLC (D. Walker, S. Cruikshank, T. Garrett, B. Pinto and G. Sledge); 5 – Gary Barber; 6 – Dawn and Ike Thrash; 7 – Sh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi; 8 – Loooch Racing Stable, Inc. (Ron Paolucci); 9 – Peter Deutsch; 10 – Allen Racing, LLC (Lori Allen) and Bloom Racing, LLC (Jeffrey Bloom); 11 – Courtlandt Farms (Donald and Donna Adam); 12 – Craig D. Upham; 13 – Gainesway Stable (Antony Beck), Harold Lerner, Nehoc Stables (Dale Cohen) and Magdalena Racing (Sherri McPeek, et al.); 14 – Michael Dubb, Monomoy Stables, LLC (Sol Kumin), The Elkstone Group, LLC (Stuart Grant) and Bethlehem Stables, LLC (Michael J. Caruso)

Breeders: 1 – Haymarket Farm LLC; 2 – Calumet Farm; 3 – George Krikorian; 4 – Savino A. Capilupi; 5 – Anderson Farms Ont. Inc.; 6 – Chappell Alpine Farm; 7 – Mineola Farm II LLC, James W. Hirschmann& Silent Grove Farms, LLC; 8 – Langsem Farm, Inc.; 9 – Extern Developments LTD.; 10 – Woodford Thoroughbreds; 11 – Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC; 12 – Craig D. Upham; 13 – Gainesway Thoroughbreds Ltd.; 14 – FPF LLC & Highfield Ranch

Pedigrees (Sire – Dam, by Dam Sire): 1 – Midshipman – Tap for Gold , by Pleasant Tap ; 2 – Oxbow – Mexican Moonlight , by El Prado (IRE) ; 3 – Into Mischief – Acting Class , by Distorted Humor ; 4 – Broken Vow – Nicksappealinglady , by Successful Appeal ; 5 – Medaglia d’Oro – Loving Vindication , byVindication ; 6 – Midnight Lute – Cauy’s Humor , by Distorted Humor ; 7 – Tiz Wonderful – Spread , by Coronado’s Quest ; 8 – Majestic Warrior – Floral Park , by Forest Wildcat ; 9 – Take Charge Indy – Perfect Paula , by Songandaprayer ; 10 – Midnight Lute – Diva Delite , by Repent ; 11 – Tapit – Wicked Deed , by Harlan’s Holiday ; 12 – Special Rate – Margarita Mistress , by Naevus ; 13 – To Honor and Serve – Silver Colors , by Mr. Greeley ; 14 – Tapizar -Drumette , by Henny Hughes ;

Sire of Sassy Sienna standing at Darley

Sire of Chocolate Martini standing at Pin Oak Stud

Sire of Wonder Gadot standing at Darley

Equipment Changes: 3 – Classy Act – Blinkers off;9 – Take Charge Paula – Blinkers On

1-Sassy Sienna-This gal pulled off an upset win in the Fantasy at Oaklawn in her most recent start as she showed a lot of heart to get up at the wire to win. Looking at her form, she does not pair up wins and her speed figures are below the main contenders but she is one of three for trainer Brad Cox. This one has to break not so much on the lead but she needs a good start to get her best trip. She looks a cut below the main players and the only way I would use her is at the very back end of the superfecta.

2-Coach Rocks-Winner of her last two starts with her most recent victory in the Gulfstream Oaks, she is a late bloomer. It took this filly six starts to break her maiden. Has she figured this racing thing out? Her speed numbers show a slow climb and I have mixed signals about her chances here. She can work out a trip but she seems like a minor award is her ceiling as I just don’t think this Coach is good enough to win here.

3-Classy Act-Out of the field of 14 horses, this is the likeliest to go to the lead. She set strong fractions in her two races at the Fair Grounds and, if she can break and clear, then maybe she can get very brave. Remember she was only three lengths behind Monomoy Girl, a favorite saddled with a tough draw, so maybe this gal could be around late.

4-Chocolate Martini-Coming off the upset win in the Fair Grounds Oaks in her last out, can she surprise again? Before you eliminate her, check out her work tab coming into this race. She is training splendidly and attracts rider Javier Castellano who will drive the price lower than her 12-1 morning line. It sure looks like she is set for another big effort. At anywhere near 10-1 or so, she could be a very attractive win play. At the very worst she can be on the board so I am seriously considering her for the win because her running style suggests she can really do well.

5-Wonder Gadot-She should have won the Fantasy in her last out but she looked like she hung when she got near Sassy Sienna and looked one paced very late. Though John Velasquez gets back aboard, I am not a fan of horses that cannot finish the job. As deep as this field is, I just don’t think she is good enough or fast enough to impact.

6-Kelly’s Humor-The second of the three entries for trainer Brad Cox on paper looks the weakest of the bunch. This filly only has one race thus far this year, a second place finish in the Beaumont at Keeneland. Sure she has a license to move forward but her paltry speed figures tells me she cannot win this one so I will confidently toss her out.

7-Rayva-This will be her first start for trainer Bob Baffert who won this race last year with Abel Tasman. The 15-1 odds seem generous when you consider that she is coming off a second to Mendlesshon in the UAE Derby. This filly’s performance in the Oaks will tell you a little bit about Mendlesshon’s chances in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. It would not surprise me if she was forwardly placed here, and her work tab coming in is very stout. I feel like Rayva can outrun her odds but why is she 15-1 after her UAE Derby? She is just an interesting one to consider here.

8-Heavenhasmynikki-Having started her career with two sprint victories, she faltered when she was asked to stretch out. This filly does not have the credentials to compete but it would be an utter shock if she were to win. One of the easiest throwouts in a contentious race.

9-Take Charge Paula-Coming off a game second place finish in the Gulfstream Park Oaks, her running style dictates that she could be forwardly placed. She gets blinkers added for this race but looking at her form she seems to have distance limitations. In a field this deep, that cannot be what is ideal for her. I am inclined to throw her out.

10-Midnight Bisou-She is two noses from having an unbeaten record and comes off a very easy win in her last out in the Santa Anita Oaks. She has speed figures slower than the favorite Monomoy Girl plus this will her first time racing outside of California. I respect her trainer Bill Spawr immensely but he has limited experience at this level of racing. Factor in that she ships for the first time. It might be foolish to toss her out but I do have some nagging questions about her.

11-My Miss Lilly-This filly has really come to hand in her brief career and it was punctuated with a win in the Gazelle at Aqueduct in her last out.  She has the right type of running style to do some real damage. I really liked her work over this surface a few days ago and think she is one who could very well rate an upset chance.

12-Patrona Margarita-It seems she is up against it as she has not been anywhere close to the top choices in prior races. Thus, she is an easy throw-out in this one.

13-Eskimo Kisses-She figures to be heard from late on and it would seem that she could find a good finish. However, she has a bad habit of missing the start in her career and to be honest she cannot afford that in this race if she is to impact its conclusion. I did like her Ashland in which she out-finished everyone except Monomoy Girl; if she reproduces that effort with the speed signed on, maybe she could surprise. This one is a tough read.

14-Monomoy Girl-Only a neck separates her from being undefeated. I loved her Ashland as she showed true dominance. Yes, the post is a concern but if you are as good as this filly is, you find a way to overcome the draw. I have been bullish on her all winter and spring and I really cannot find a valid reason outside of the draw that tells me she gets beat. She is so tractable that I don’t know if the draw worries me that much in the final analysis.

My Selections

1-Monomoy Girl — I cannot go against her but what the draw might do is inflate her price just enough. I would absolutely take 3-1 if people are scared of the post. This is my pick to win and I am very confident in her here against a strong group.

2-Chocolate Martini — She will make her presence felt late and for those who thought her Fair Grounds Oaks is a fluke I warn you to reconsider. This filly is training exceptionally well and I love the switch to Castellano. If my top pick cannot overcome the draw then this to me is the likeliest one to pounce.

3-Rayva-Another one who to me is a value play for any exotics that you take, Rayva did enough with her second to Mendleshohhn although she was beat by a parking lot to suggest she could run well here against her own sex. I will use her in my exotics.

4-Midnight Bisou-I have my doubts and although maybe I am being nitpicky, I have seen types like her who ship for the first time flop. She should be used in gimmicks but I am going to try and beat her for the exacta.

I hope when it is all said and done that I am celebrating back-to-back Oaks wins. Looking ahead, I will have my look at the Kentucky Derby where I am hoping to finally end my dry spell of missing winners. Until then as always may your winners be plentiful and your wallets be fat.

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George Pepis

George Pepis

Horse Racing Analyst

George Pepis provides racing analysis during each Fair Grounds racing season. He also shares commentary and selections for major stakes events and prep races around the country. In the past, George has hosted sports talk programming on WGSO 990am in New Orleans. He has served as both play-by-play and color analyst on Louisiana high school football radio and internet broadcasts.

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