Race of the Day, May 2, 2014
Churchill Downs (Louisville, KY), Race 11, The Kentucky Oaks
Post Time: 5:49 EST Purse: $1M
For the fillies, the Oaks is the equivalent of the Derby. It’s a bit shorter — only 1 1/8 miles — and only has 13 horses, instead of the 20 (19 with the scratch of Hoppertunity) that will go forward in the Derby. While not as big as the Derby among the general public, for insiders, this is an extremely important race, almost equal in importance to the Derby.
Who is in this race?
These are simply the best 3-year old fillies in the United States. Racing economics tend to push fillies into tough competition fast, and fillies tend to get retired quickly. This always puts a big of a drag on this race. That said, it takes a very good horse to win here.
What are the questions?
- This race starts and ends with the heavy favorite, Untapable (#13, 4/5). Everybody loves her. That, of course, pricks my ears up to see if she can be beaten. Sure, she’s the fastest in the race by far. But will she duplicate her previous efforts at the Fairgrounds here at Churchill?nThat’s far from a given, especially considering the likely very short price.
- Who will improve? These are top notch 3-year olds. It’s likely that some horse will have a unforeseen, much improved effort.
- Ria Antonia (#2, 10-1) , the juvenille champion, hasn’t moved forward yet. She’s reportedly training well under Baffert. Are her workouts meaningful?
- Unbridled Forever’s (#9, 12-1) mom — Lemons Forever — won this race. Can she run to this pedigree and turn the tables on Untapable?
I think it’s wise to try to beat Untapable here. There’s a significant question as to whether her speed will translate, and there’s no reason to take a short price in a field of improving, well-bred horses. The difficulty, of course, is figuring out who else to go with. Nothing can be more frustrating than being right about the favorite and not being able to bring home the winner! Of the other contenders, Unbridled Forever seems to have the ability to rate what could be a fast pace. Just like her mother! If not her, I’d look to the Rosario-piloted Rosalind (#4, 8-1) to pick up the pieces.
Wow! Untapable was not just a Fairgrounds horse, but is a superstar. She’s a once-a-generation talent. Still, she only paid even-money and, although she answered the questions, they were still there. Unbridled Forever ran a strong third. We’ll see if she improves, or whether she’s hit her ceiling.