By Keith Pettyjohn — First, this apology to the HRI Faithful. Like many, I have learned to stay away from discussing politics and religion. People are going to believe what they believe, for whatever reason.
Typically there will not be any changing of the mind, just a lot of breath and energy wasted. But when it comes to my gambling religion, I never break the first commandment when it comes to America’s weekend at the races:
Never take a short-priced favorite in either the Kentucky Derby or Kentucky Oaks.
After the defection of Art Collector, Tiz The Law became the 3-5 morning line favorite to successfully negotiate a mile and one quarter against 17 rivals. There is no way I can take such a short price. The rationale for that position is for another day.
Today, our focus is on the fillies.; the boys will come tomorrow.
Gamine, the lightly raced Bob Baffert trainee, is the even-money morning line favorite. In her four career starts she has been able to make the lead and wire the field. Three of her four efforts have been around one turn where she has excelled.
But her lone start around two turns was much more eventful as she barely hung on for the win against one of today’s main rivals, Speech.
My assessment of today’s race shape is that Swiss Skydiver will likely to go to the front. That will put Gamine in a position that she’s never been; having to rate or sit just off of the pace.
When a horse is forced to do something new, against high quality competition and at a longer distance than ever tried previously, it often can lead to disaster. Taking a short price in this scenario is just not a good wager.
In our opinion, the most likely winner of this race is the rail horse, Swiss Skydiver. This filly has really come into her own after trainer Kenny McPeek decided not to take away her best attribute. “She has always had natural early speed,” her trainer said months ago.
Since then, she has gone on to win four of her last five starts, her only defeat coming against the boys in Keeneland’s Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes in July.
Her last start was in the mile and one quarter Grade 1 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga. She easily dispatched all challengers, winning completely in-hand and wrapped-up inside the final sixteenth.
Since the Alabama, she has been given a single half-mile maintenance breeze four days ago. We’re looking for the McPeek crew to be all smiles as they have their picture taken in the winner’s circle hoisting the Longines trophy.
In assessing the chances of her seven rivals, Speech stands head and shoulders above the rest. Trainer Mike McCarthy’s filly will be in a perfect stalking position behind the leaders and greatly outclasses the rest of the field.
If a speed duel should ensue up front, Speech has what it takes to end up in the winner’s circle. She is fresh going into this and is a definite must-use in all my exotic wagers.
On form, we believe that Swiss Skydiver is the most probable winner, so we’re taking an exotic approach to the Oaks.
We’re keying Swiss Skydiver on top, with Gamine and Speech second, and filling out the trifecta with those two fillies, plus Donna Veloce, Shedaresthedevil and Hopeful Growth to round out the play.
Churchill Downs has put together an awesome card for Oaks Friday. Enjoy the action and remember… it only takes one, so make it count.