The Grade I, $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks is Friday’s feature at Churchill Downs on the eve of the Kentucky Derby. The 1 1/8-mile event for three-year-old fillies drew a field of nine, though two horses figure to take the bulk of the betting action – #1 SWISS SKYDIVER (8-5) and #5 GAMINE (EVEN, morning-line favorite). Post time for the Kentucky Oaks, Race 12 of 13 on the program, is 5:45 p.m. ET.
GAMINE is the one to beat on speed figures in the 2020 Kentucky Oaks. Her efforts in the one-mile Acorn and seven-furlong Test – both Grade Is – were sensational. However, when she was asked to go 1 1/16th-miles in her second career start, GAMINE was all-out to hold off #4 SPEECH (5-1). It remains to be seen if this daughter of Into Mischief is distance-limited, or if she was simply not far enough along in her development to appreciate the distance that day. John Velazquez has the call.
The Bob Baffert filly will get a stern test from the ultra-consistent SWISS SKYDIVER. The Ken McPeek trainee lost little in defeat behind Art Collector in the Grade II Blue Grass two starts ago. SWISS SKYDIVER then rebounded nicely in the 1 1/4-mile Alabama at Saratoga, so we know the Kentucky Oaks distance is no problem for this four-time stakes victress. Tyler Gaffalione will be in the irons once more.
SPEECH is an obvious contender for a minor award in the Kentucky Oaks based on her authoritative score in the Grade I Ashland Stakes at Keeneland. However, forcing her out could generate some value in the trifecta pool.
#8 HOPEFUL GROWTH (30-1) is a three-time winner who is fresh off a career-best effort. She romped by four lengths in the Grade III Monmouth Oaks when last seen. Her breeding (by Tapiture out of a Rock Hard Ten mare) suggests she won’t mind stretching out on Friday. HOPEFUL GROWTH picks up Manny Franco for the Kentucky Oaks.
The play: $5 trifecta 1,5/1,5/8 ($10)
Follow me on Twitter: @itsgood2beking