Kentucky Oaks Preview!

Photo credit: Coady Media/Churchill Downs

The eyes of the horse racing world will be on the 3-year-old fillies Friday afternoon with the running of the Longines Kentucky Oaks.

The 1-1/8-mile race is the 11th on the Churchill Downs Friday card and is set for a 2:51 p.m. PDT post time.

There will be a full field of 14 going to the starting gate. Let’s run through the field, separating into groups of what I see for the potential to win the race.

Please keep in mind that this is being written in the days leading up to the race that horses often scratch out and one scratch can change the complexity.

The Favorites

Tarifa (Brad Cox trainer/Flavian Prat jockey/7-2) is the morning line favorite and justifiably so. The winner of all three starts this year and four of five overall has gotten better in each start this year.

In her last start, the Fair Grounds Oaks she got the perfect stalking trip, took the lead and the head of the lane, then outdueled Our Pretty Woman for the win.

In each of her four wins that has pretty much been the case, sitting just off the lead and then charging home for the win. Breaking in the middle of the pack there is every reason to expect she’ll get the trip she is looking for.

Leslie’s Rose (Todd Pletcher/Irad Ortiz/4-1) took the lead in the Ashland at the top of the lane, then drew off to win by three. It was an impressive performance and earned a 95 Beyer. My question would be that the horse was 9-1 in the last start, coming off when she was third as the prohibitive favorite, getting out run in the lane. Which horse shows Friday is the question that needs to be answered.

Just F Y I (Bill Mott/Junior Alvardo/9-2) was second in the Ashland behind Leslie’s Rose in her first start of the year. Last year she won all three starts, including the year-ending win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. I thought it was a solid run for first off, a break. There was a maintenance work after the race, followed by a bullet work April 22, then a solid maintenance work on April 29. I think this one is a major player.


Thorpedo Anna (Kenny McPeek/Brian Hernandez/5-1) is coming off a win in the Fantasy at Oaklawn Park back in late March. It was the first start of the year after going to the bench for four months. In the Fantasy she stalked the pace, went three wide then powered home to win by four lengths.

A consistent, solid work tab since the return makes the horse look like a runner here.

Ways and Means (Chad Brown/Tyler Gaffalione/5-1) has also made on start this year, running second to Power Squeeze in the Gulfstream Park Oaks.

Value plays

Power Squeeze (Jorge Delgado/Daniel Centeno/12-1) She had been on the shelf for over six months and after a couple of great works, she turned in a banner performance. The barn hits over 20 percent in the second start after a layoff so there is every reason to expect a big run.

She is enticing as she could be right in the mix and double-digit odds to win. The winner of the Gulfstream Park Oaks at 11-1 just wins races, taking her last four starts. The GP Oaks was the first graded stakes win for Power Squeeze and this will be the toughest field she has seen but she has been beating the horses put in front of her. Well worth watching the tote board with this one.

Into Champagne (Ian Wilkes/Julian Leparoux/30-1) may be a reach as a value play but this may be a savvy move underneath in exotics.

Was third in the GP Oaks behind Power Squeeze and Ways and Means. Set the early pace before getting run down in the lane. Might get an easy lead here and if Leparoux, who has ridden the horse in all five starts, gets her to relax out front, may have gas in the tank heading for home.


Fiona’s Magic (Michael Yates/Luis Saez/30-1) ran a bad one in the GP Oaks and was slowly ridden out to finish 44-lengths off the winner.

Before that she was the winner the Grade II Davona Dale at Gulfstream at 9-1. Blessed with early speed it will be interesting to see if she gets an easy lead it could lead to a longshot winning the race.

Where’s My Ring (Val Brinkerhoff/Jose Lezcano/15-1) is confusing me as to why this horse is only 15-1. Did win a prep in her last start, taking the Grade III Gazelle at Aqueduct, but I am not high on the New York preps. One positive, she ships well. Her start two back was at Santa Anita, and she was second in the Santa Ysabel. Then again, I think the California preps are down this year.

Regulatory Risk (Chad Brown/Jose Ortiz/20-1) has been in New York since the fall of last year and as I have said many times before, I am not a fan of horses that winter in New York.

She is 0-for-2 this year but did run second to Where’s My Ring in the Gazelle. Possibly worth a look and watch the board for hints.

Toss off your ticket

I could get burned here if someone runs off the table, but I will take my chances.

Tapit Jenallie (Eddie Milligan/Emmanel Esquivele/30-1) was third in the Fantasy and second in the Honeybee, both preps at Oaklawn but only had two wins in six starts. May be pushing the pace early but there does not seem to be much staying power.

Gin Gin (Brad Cox/Florent Geroux/30-1) is a rarity in that not many times will I toss a horse with these connections but this just looks like a horse that is in over his head. Lone non-maiden win came in a $75K race not quite the $1.5 million offered here.

Lemon Muffin (D Wayne Lukas/Keith Asmussen/30-1) won the Honeybee at 29-1, then came back and was a badly beaten 7th in the Fantasy. Which is the real horse? I am going with the Fantasy effort as she has one win in seven starts.

Everland (Eric Foster/Abel Cedillo/30-1) has won three races, all over synthetic surface at Turfway Park. The last race was a win that showed good closing power, but it was way below this level.

Also entered (in case of a late scratch)

Our Pretty Woman (Steve Asmussen/Joel Rosario/15-1) could be an interesting runner if she draws into the main field. She has come through the Louisiana ranks and was second in the Fair Grounds Oaks, won by Tarifa, losing by less than a length.

With Tarifa the favorite here and interests you then you need to a long here. She was 4-1 in FG Oaks and ran a solid second.

My ticket: I will play Just F Y I for the win, then play an exacta and trifecta box of Just F Y I, Tarifa, Thorpedo Anna, and Power Squeeze. For a frame of reference, the 4-horse exacta box would cost $12, with a $.50 cent trifecta box also costing $12.

By Dennis Miller