For the first time, perhaps forever, the Kentucky Oaks on Friday – the filly version of the Kentucky Derby – may be a better race than Saturday’s Derby.
The Oaks is the 12th race on the Friday Churchill card and is scheduled for a 2:45 p.m. PDT, post time.
Your even money favorite is Gamine, a horse out of the Bob Baffert barn that will be ridden by Johnny Velazquez. The horse has looked sensational in her last two starts – both Grade I.
In the Acorn on June 20, Gamine drew off to win by 18 lengths and got 110 Beyer mark for the effort. That was followed by a seven-length romp in the Test at Saratoga where she received a 108 mark.
The two wins were so impressive that many hoped she would run in the Derby and take on the boys, which is something the other big favorite has done.
Swiss Skydiver (8/5, Kenneth McPeak trainer, Tyler Gaffalione jockey) was second in the Blue Grass, and although three lengths back of winner Art Collector, it showed the potential of the horse.
The next start was back against the ladies and it was a win in the Alabama at Saratoga.
Both Gamine and Swiss Skydiver like the lead and should present an intense front-end duel. There appears to be plenty of other speed in the race, so it should guarantee a very quick pace.
Speech (5/1, Michael McCarthy, Javier Castellano) has run second to both favorites and is coming off an impressive win in the Ashland on July 11. There has been a series of solid drills up to her return and I fully expect her to sit off the pace instead of pushing it and hopefully get first run.
I would love to find a good price here, but I just can’t see anyone, but the top two horses win this. There is a case to be made for Speech, but in the end, it must come down to either Gamine or Swiss Skydiver that brings it home.
By Dennis Miller