Betting the Oaks-Derby double got a little more complicated when the morning-line favorite for Friday’s Kentucky Oaks got stuck with the outside post here at Churchill Downs. Her biggest rival did not draw much better.
Two-time graded-stakes winner Monomoy Girl (2-1), winner of this month’s Grade 1 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland, was still made the morning-line favorite Monday despite getting saddled with post position 14. Three-time Santa Anita graded-stakes winner Midnight Bisou (5-2), first in this month’s Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks, drew 10, but she was still named the second choice.
Call it the respect that goes along with the two fillies being a combined 5-for-5 this year against a shaky group of 3-year-old fillies.
“At the end of the day I guess you probably prefer to be in a little bit,” Monomoy Girl’s trainer Brad Cox said. “Everybody sees the 14 hole and it scares them, but it’s pressure-free being on the outside. We’ll make the most out of it.”
Midnight Bisou’s trainer Bill Spawr was not at the draw, and his prized filly had not yet landed in Louisville. She was due to arrive later Monday – and Spawr after that. In the meantime he just sounds happy to be in the $1 million Grade 1 race.
“Everything’s been perfect,” the 78-year-old Spawr said Sunday at Santa Anita. “I never ran in the (Oaks) before. I’m undefeated.”
And his star is healthy. While the 2018 crop of 3-year-old colts appears deep and has proven itself durable, the fillies have been just the opposite.
Last year’s champion 2-year-old filly Caledonia Road has been out most of the year with an ankle chip. Road To Victory and Dream Tree – winners last year against Monomoy Girl and Midnight Bisou – have vanished so far this year. Three-time stakes winner Blamed was scratched this week because of a hairline pastern fracture. And Rushing Fall, Chad Brown’s undefeated Breeders’ Cup winner, is being kept on the turf with an eye on Royal Ascot.
All this opens the door for value players to look away from the Big Two in the nine-furlong Oaks. If the post-time odds bear any resemblance to the morning line – a big if – then the rest of the field will have double-digit odds led by My Miss Lilly (10-1), an impressive winner this month for trainer Mark Hennig in the Grade 2 Gazelle in New York. She drew post 11.
“She’s a big, long-legged Tapit just trying to run two turns,” Hennig said. “We’ve always been looking forward to getting around two turns.”
If there was one morning-line price that looked a lot longer than the odds will be Friday, it was on Rayya (15-1), the UAE Derby runner-up – albeit 18 lengths behind Mendelssohn – that has been transferred from Dubai-based trainer Doug Watson to Californian Bob Baffert.
“She has a lot of speed and a beautiful way of going,” Baffert said. “She jumps a long way, but she has natural speed, so (jockey Drayden Van Dyke) can’t take too much of a hold of her.”
With Blamed out of the race, it may be left to Classy Act (15-1) to assume the early lead from post 3 for trainer Bret Calhoun. At least Geroux and Monomoy Girl will get a good look to their left at the kind of pace they will be chasing.
“Florent knows this filly very, very well,” Cox said. “I’m OK with the post. We’re the last one in (the gate), and there’s less time for her to stand in there. The negative is the loss of ground in the first turn and getting hung wide. I don’t think we need to be glued to the rail or be on the lead. She is versatile, which makes her very dangerous.”
Following is the Kentucky Oaks field with each filly’s trainer, jockey and morning-line odds set by TwinSpires.com handicapper Mike Battaglia. The scheduled post time is Friday at 6:12 p.m. EDT.
1. Sassy Sienna (Brad Cox, Gary Stevens) 15-1
2. Coach Rocks (Dale Romans, Luís Sáez) 12-1
3. Classy Act (Bret Calhoun, Brian Hernandez Jr.) 15-1
4. Chocolate Martini (Tom Amoss, Javier Castellano) 12-1
5. Wonder Gadot (Mark Casse, John Velázquez) 20-1
6. Kelly’s Humor (Brad Cox, Írad Ortiz Jr.) 30-1
7. Rayya (Bob Baffert, Drayden Van Dyke) 15-1
8. Heavenhasmynikki (Anthony Quartarolo, Calvin Borel) 30-1
9. Take Charge Paula (Kiaran McLaughlin, José Ortiz) 15-1
10. Midnight Bisou (Bill Spawr, Mike Smith) 5-2
11. My Miss Lilly (Mark Hennig, Joe Bravo) 10-1
12. Patrona Margarita (Bret Calhoun, Ricardo Santana Jr.) 30-1
13. Eskimo Kisses (Ken McPeek, Corey Lanerie) 15-1
14. Monomoy Girl (Brad Cox, Florent Geroux) 2-1
Ron Flatter’s racing column is posted every day this Kentucky Derby week at VSiN.com. You may also hear the Ron Flatter Racing Pod this week on Wednesday and Friday at VSiN.com/podcasts. Wednesday’s pop-up edition will include handicappers Dave Tuley of VSiN and Patrick McQuiggan of the South Point race book in Las Vegas. Last Friday’s edition with TVG’s Christina Blacker and WinStar’s Elliott Walden is still posted and current. Please subscribe and post a review where available at Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music and Stitcher.