Thursday, May 2, 2019

2019 Kentucky Oaks Pick: Lady Apple

It'll be hard to replicate last year's Kentucky Oaks, where I gave out the winner (Monomoy Girl), a $362 trifecta and $1,387 superfecta for anyone who paid attention, but it's impossible to go back-to-back sitting on the sidelines, and so here are my thoughts on Friday's wide-open three-year-old Derby for the fillies.

Whereas I made clear that Monomoy Girl was 2018's standout, the 2019 Oaks is much more wide open, and unlike several pundits I think 2-to-1 morning-line favorite Bellafina is beatable. Sure she has already earned $1 million-plus on the track and has 6 graded-stakes wins in 8 lifetime starts, but she's been feasting on short fields of cupcakes in California to start this season. She's an absolutely credible candidate to hit the board, but there's a ton of speed in the field and so I'm leaning toward runners that can settle and stalk the pace or make a deep late run.
Lady Apple could get it done
at a big price

Lady Apple, from post No. 3 and with a 20-to-1 morning line, fits the profile and is my selection to win the 2019 Kentucky Oaks. 

Granted, Lady Apple only raced at the Grade 3 level and has some clunkers in her past, but from all the replays I've watched of the entire field since their 2-year-old debuts, she's clearly coming into her own and has matured since her rookie season. 

As I see it, the key for her will to stay in touch with the pacesetters, save ground and find a seem in the stretch while others fade. She's a daughter of Curlin and very capable of getting the mile-and-an-eighth distance, and I think will be sent off from the starting gate at low-teens odds. I'll build my tickets around her.

Here's my analysis and selections, with a little bit on each of the 14 runners, based on my rankings:
  • #3, Lady Apple (20-1): Went 0-for-4 as a 2-year-old before breaking through on Feb. 7 in relatively easy fashion. Won that and her next allowance-level race on the front end, and won using more of a stalking tactic in the April 12 Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Jockey Ricardo Santana sat 3-4 lengths off the speed and waited for a late seam in the stretch before his mount distanced herself from rivals toward the finish line. She'd have won by way more if not bottled up heading into the final turn, and I think she can replicate the effort in the Oaks at a price. I will bet her to win and use as my key in the exacta, trifecta and superfecta.
  • #8, Motion Emotion (15-1): I was a little skittish about making her my second choice, but for my money she's the speed of the speed and the most gutsy runner in the field. Like Lady Apple, she break her maiden until this year, and has since shown a flair for fast early fractions and, more importantly, being able to carry that speed at least a mile. She has really progressed as a three-year-old and isn't too far from being 4-for-4 this season. Once other need-the-lead types are unable to pass her heading into the homestretch, we'll see them quit as Motion Emotion battles in the stretch before fading, though she'll absolutely hit the board. Ceiling is 2nd, as happened when Lady Apple chased her down late in the Fantasy.
  • #2, Chocolate Kisses (20-1): Gave consideration as a win candidate, but not entirely sure what to make of this one. An out-of-control pace would favor this deep closer. Don't be surprised if she's behind by double-digit lengths at the half-mile point, though as shown in the Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn, she's capable of coming from way out of the clouds. I think her odds are inflated by a weak effort in last month's Grade 1 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland, but if you watch the replay, she was far more forwardly placed, which I took more as a potential experiment to see how she'd handle being toward the early leaders. It backfired, but to me it's a toss and she's an outside win candidate if the clock reads about 45 seconds for the first half mile. Distance won't hurt her a bit, and I was torn but ultimately decided the ceiling is 2nd here. Definite use underneath on my exotic tickets. 
  • #4, Bellafina (2-1): Considered leaving her completely off my ticket, but she's clearly got talent -- just an awful post position inside of all the early speed. Jockey Flavian Prat's gonna have to aggressively send, in my opinion, and may become discouraged if forced to eat Motion Emotion's and others' dust for long early stretches of the race. A clean break and position will mean everything. Just not sold she's the short-priced favorite. I'd endorse a win bet at 3-1, but sense there's no value at the morning line and won't put her in the win spot. Using 2nd-4th.
  • #10, Champagne Anyone (6-1): I had a hard time narrowing down the next three, but think this one is the most proven stalker of the bunch. Her August 2018 maiden-breaker was a thing of beauty, weaving in and out of horses impressively after much trouble to win. Yet all of her 2019 stakes tries she was either too far back and has had to work extremely hard in the stretch. I think she'll make up ground on a fading pack and can see a belated 3rd-4th, as she won the Gulfstream Oaks at a shorter distance but would have been passed if it went another sixteenth.
  • #1, Out for a Spin (15-1): If she gets an unencumbered lane into the first turn, she'll be in the hunt, much as she was in winning the Ashland at 52-to-1 odds and in her three races prior. Gets a top rider in Irad Ortiz, though this is his first time aboard. I wonder about chemistry and the horse's ability to get the distance, but will play defensively at the bottom of my tri and super.
  •  #14, Restless Rider (6-1): Very promising as a 2-year-old, but I dislike that she drew alongside the leader in her last two races and couldn't pass the winner. Just think it's a really difficult post and she's going to have to motor from the gate for a decent spot. Ceiling is 3rd.
  • #13, Serengeti Empress (8-1): A need-the-lead type who was vanned off in her last prep. I'm taking a risk and leaving her off my tickets, but recognize she could hit the board if sound.
  • #12, Street Band (15-1): Not super impressed with Fairgrounds Oaks win. Seems like a plodder who benefited that day from ground-saving trip and outlasting another long-shot in the stretch. Not fast or gifted enough to factor here. Pass.
  • #9, Liora (20-1): Really gutsy in a November stakes win at Churchill, but couldn't follow up with a stakes win in her last three tries. Replays, to me, showed a horse who looked wilted at 8 furlongs. Going another panel on Friday isn't going to help. Off the board; pass.
  • #11, Jeltrin (15-1): Yeah, she won the Davona Dale at 50-1, but the time was slow and she'll be trying two turns for the first time. Could see in the early pace mix, but will fade. Pass.
  • #7, Jaywalk (8-1): Could be the early leader. Tons of early speed, but to me the 2018 Breeders Cup Juvenile champ looks completely dusted, losing her last 2019 Oaks preps to $105 and $106 winners. May hang on the lead for a bit but I think she's one who maybe would be better-served skipping this race and getting re-energized for Preakness weekend.
  • #6, Positive Spirit (30-1): A stalker who had success at Aqueduct but backed up in her last two Oaks preps, including an ugly finish at Fairgrounds in March. Couldn't win the Gazelle in April after dictating slow race, then faded. Can't see her hitting the board. Pass.
  • #5, Flor de La Mar (20-1): Bet against Bob Baffert at your own risk, but if this horse had some other trainer she'd be the longest shot on the board. Never posed a threat to Bellafina in her lone stakes try after sucking vs. optional claimers in her second lifetime start. Pass. 

Kentucky Oaks Wagers

I've generally kept to a $50 budget on the Oaks each year, but may "splurge" a bit more, including a superfecta ticket ($1 base wager makes it more expensive than the typical 10-cent offering) that runs this year's total to about $90. I just think it's a chance to score big with a horse that'll at least go off at about 12-to-1 by post-time.

Everyone enjoy, good luck, and feel free to comment!
  • $5 Win 3 = $5
  • $10 Show 3 = $10
  • $3 Exacta: 3-8 = $4
  • $1 Exacta Key Box 3 with 2, 4, 8, 10 = $8
  • $2 Trifecta: 3 with 8 with 2, 4, 10 = $6
  • $1 Trifecta: 3 with 2, 4, 8 with 1, 2, 4, 8, 10, 14 = $15
  • 50-cent Trifecta: 2, 4, 8 with 3 with 1, 2, 4, 8, 10, 14 = $7.50
  • 50-cent Trifecta: 2, 4, 8 with 1, 2, 4, 8, 10, 14 with 3 = $7.50
  • $1 Superfecta: 3 with 2, 4, 8 with 2, 4, 8, 10 with 1, 2, 4, 8, 10 = $27

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