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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, May 2, 2023 – Don’t look now but the Kentucky Oaks, even with only 14 starters, is as wide open as the Derby. And, of course, you can’t cash the Oaks-Derby double if you don’t get past the first leg.

The long range forecast for Derby weekend was good—but that was last weekend. As of this morning, however, there’s a 50% chance of rain Oaks day–and also Sunday–but only cloudy on Saturday? Only seeing is believing and the next 48 can’t fly by fast enough.

If Friday’s track is wet, 13 of these fillies may be running for place money only given favorite Wet Paint’s affinity for a sloppy track as she proved in Hot Springs. But she won on dry land, too, as she proved in Hot Springs. Wagering will be a game day decision, so stay tuned for updates.

For now, here’s a thumbnail sketch of all 14 fillies as to how we’re leaning. Sorry, but seven of the 14 would be no surprise if they were to be draped in lilies on the day, so we’re keeping options open. You should follow suit. Here’s the field, in post order, with early line odds:

1-MIMI KAKUSHI  20: Won her last three in on glib Meydan surface, her last at a longer than today’s 1-3/16ths. Has the pedigree for anything, regular top rider Barzalona, but trainer said before the draw “anything but the rail.” Oops, there it is…may be in for a slice.

2-THE ALYS LOOK  15:  Tactical filly is on a forward line and would be fast enough, but there’s a lot of gas in here and a wet track treated her badly here before.

3-GAMBLING GIRL  15:  A little on the slow side figure-wise but also forward looking and is reunited with Irad. Good effort in both nine- furlong starts and can handle any footing. Live price shot.

4-SOUTHLAWN  8:  Two ways to look at her explosive effort when she qualified winnings the Fair Grounds Oaks: regression or continued development as a spring three-year-old. Norm Casse wisely brings her in fresh and two of three dirt wins came on good tracks. Reylu a perfect fit.

5-WONDER WHEEL  12:  Two ways to look at her awful Ashland: She had a bad day or failed to make the transition from champion juvenile to 3. She worked very well since but is a good worker. Has tactical speed, kick and switches to Joel. Deserves a mulligan at this price.

6-BOTANICAL  4: What have we here? I don’t know; third base. Forward and fast enough to contend on Thoro-Graph scale. First dirt race following six starts but won four of them, and any horse that can finish strongly after showing early speed on synth must be taken seriously.

7-WET PAINT  5/2: The division’s leader until proven otherwise.She has a big late engine and was dominant in fast dry-track Fantasy. Has won thrice on wet tracks, is 3-for-3 beneath Prat, and is perfectly drawn with plenty of speed setting the table. She and Southlawn are the co-fastest.

8-PROMISHER AMERICA 30: Don’t sleep on this live price shot. She is forward with more room for development. Her improvement has come and the distance lengthened, with a pedigree that’s both long and wet if that’s the case. Tactical but sizable kick; Handel, Vargas coming out party?

9-AND TELL MENO LIES  15: Peter Miller in LAY-3 scenarios are a good a good thing. Grade 1 winner at 2 and multiple graded stakes placed thereafter. She’s tactical but kick has been lacking. Might like the Midwest surface but she’ll have to if she wants any piece of this.

10-FLYING CONNECTION  15: Likely the speed of the speed and will have to be quarter-horsed some from post 10 if she wants the front, although she has won stalking other speed, only not at this level. Has enough classy pedigree for the trip and 4-for-7 lifetime. Switching to ‘Flo’ makes sense.

11-DEFINING PURPOSE  12: Broke maiden here by a lot going long at 2 and McPeek in springtime, especially with fillies, knows how to do this. Moved forward to a competitive figure score but getting that race back at added distance a bit dubious. Couldn’t handle (wet) Wet Paint–twice.

12-DORTH VADER  20: Was a South Florida revelation when she dominated G2 Davona Dale but that was a flat mile. She acquitted herself better than many thought when fourth beaten 2-1/4 lengths in the two turn Florida Oaks but bottom-pedigree light. GP bullets and attracts Saez.

13-AFFIRMATIVE LADY 10: Narrowly beaten in Demoiselle as maiden juvenile then added blinkers for maiden breaker prior to GP Oaks score despite gate issue. Motion managing her brilliantly and he won a Derby with Johnny, astride here. Wish she were faster but wet an equalizer?

14-PRETTY MISCHIEVOUS  10: Handles any footing, loves the job, as her (6) 4-1-1 slate suggests but the draw did her no favors. Has won wet or dry and the best game has been pressing the pace, likely the tack here assuming a clean break. Working well, presumably in her new blinkers.



G2 EIGHT BELLES                                                                    Race 7

The Skinny: It’s a simple as this: The victory by 9-Munnys Gold (6-5) in a Florida-bred stakes at Tampa Bay was the most comprehensive, dominating sprint score as we’re seen all year. Full stop.

Alas, the world isn’t perfect. Formerly undefeated 8-Ready Carpet Ready (3-1) wasn’t ready for her closeup in the G2 Davona Dale, for Mr. Demille or anyone else for that matter. She faded to third going one mile–more likely a regression than an inability to get the trip. She won the G3 Forward Gal in prior at today’s trip and has worked strongly since. Good spacing into this and very likely to rebound.

3-Oliver Twist (12-1) and 4-Effortlessly Elegant (12-1) both benefit turning back into sprint and 7-Positano Sunset (10-1) showed some class taking Keeneland sprint finale.


WIN-VALUE POTENTIAL: Red Carpet Ready at 3-1 or greater

EXOTICA: Cold Exacta 9-6. Exacta Box 6-9. Superfecta Wheel: 9 // // //

UNBRIDLED SYDNEY                                                     Race 8

The Skinny: What would a Pick 5 be without a little chaos from the world of turf sprinting. This 5-1/2 furlong dash could be complicated further depending on the amount of moisture the course gets. Nevertheless, this event boasts another strong favorite, the redoubtable 11-Caravel (4-5) who gamely withstood an onslaught of males winning the G2 Shakertown, her 6-year-old debut. But she can stalk and beat you, too. Horses don’t go 10-for-17 sprinting on grass without versatility to bank on. Whether she maintains, goes forward, or regresses is a bit tricky.

She has two main rivals on paper: 8-Oeuvre (5-1) loves the game and the trip—(5) 4-0-0 and had excuses at Keeneland last out. Obstreperous before the race, she broke OK but was buffeted abut between fillies soon after the start, was steadied several times, looking for running room that proved elusive. She won her FG finale under confident handling, taken in hand at the end. 1-Bay Storm (6-1) has the most early gas assuming a clean break, which she will need given pole position. She was second in her lone try at today’s trip here at 3, chasing a strong pace throughout then staying doggedly for place. She, too, can be effective stalking from close range. Both are working swiftly.

Superfecta Filler: 2 (20-1), 5 (20-1), 7 (50-1), 9 (8-1)


WIN-VALUE PLAY: Either Oeuvre or Bay Storm, price dependent

EXOTICA: Exacta Box: 1-8-11. Superfecta Wheel: 1.8.11 // 1.8.11 // //

G1 LA TROIENNE                                                            Race 9

The Skinny: Where to begin, although it may not matter, it’s where you land in the end. At this point, have no idea. I can make cases for exactly half of the 10 entered, but the problem is there’s an inherent negative with all. It’s the quintessential spread race.

The five we left open are, in post order, 1-Played Hard (9-2), 4-Secret Oath (3-1), 7-Society (4-1), 9-Pauline’s Pearl (8-1) and A Mo Reay (5-1). If Played Hard had a prep, the choice would be easy. She hits hard, loves the track and trip, gets Johnny and the pole with tactical speed and kick. She’s working very well but a salty group to tackle off the bench. Of course Secret Oath is the 2023 Oaks winner and holds a class edge as she gets away from Clairiere. But this is her third race in 35 days and no Lasix today.

Love that Society prepped at 7 furlongs vs last year’s female sprint champion Goodnight Olive in Keeneland’s G1 Madison. She’s 2-for-2 at CD and at the trip but her best game is on the lead and can’t believe she won’t be pressured–unless she is quarter-horses like she was in the G1 Cotillion last year, then it might not matter. That could set things up for mate Pauline’s Pearl, who won the 2022 renewal, and she did have a prep. But she was flat through the lane and it’s hard to evaluate if that prep will be enough. A Mo Reay is the now filly, fresh off a G1 score in Santa Anita’s one-mile Beholder. She’s stretching back out and is 2-for-3 at this trip but never has run here. And she projects to have a wide trip. Like I said, lots of plusses and minuses. Decision time:


WIN-VALUE PLAY: Pauline’s Pearl at 6-1 or greater.

EXOTICA: Trifecta Key-Box: 9 // Superfecta Key: 7 //

G2 EDGEWOOD                                                    Race 10

The Skinny: This appears to be another spread affair for Pick 5 players, but unlike the previous race in which each contender had their Achilles heel, this event has players that go from strength to strength. We narrowed our choices down to five—and we do mean narrowed—but are confident the winner will be among:

2-Liguria (6-1),  3-Cairo Consort (3-1), 5-Preliminary (5-1), 6-Mission of Joy (5-1) and 10-Flashy Gem (10-1).

Two of these five fillies comprise two-thirds of the Chad Brown attack on the Edgewood. Liguria moved forward shipping to Del Mar for her juvenile finale and beat 11 rivals with authority taking the G3 Jimmy Durante, running as fast as most of these as a juvenile and obviously is a year older. Brown is 28% effective with 90 days-plus layups and a profitable 29% teaming with Prat.

Cairo Consort was arguably best when beaten a neck in the troubled G2 Appalachian. Long-striding late runner needs a clear path in the lane and can run down any rival. Preliminary could not have been more impressive winning on debut with an eye opening turn of foot. Scratched from last week’s rescheduled Memories of Silver, this is more ambitious, then this is the Chad-Irad team…

Mission of Joy saved ground from her pole position but was forced to swing wide into the in in the G3 Florida Oaks, where she unleashed a powerful turn of foot to get up by a head then galloped out strongly. She can make it four straight for Graham Motion, who taps Joel Rosario, peerless when it comes to timing late-run turf ralliers. Flashy Gem was on the Oaks trail, tuning up with two fast synth runs at Turfway Park but broke maiden in her juvenile finale by 5-1/2 on Pea Patch turf; attracts Saez.


WIN-VALUE PLAY:  Mission of Joy to win at 6-1 or greater

EXOTICA: Exacta Box: 2-3-5-6.  Trifecta Box: 2-3-5-6. Superfecta Wheel: 2.5.6 // // 2.5.6 // 2.5.6

GI KENTUCKY OAKS                                                      Race 11

The Skinny: This year, 7-Wet Paint (5-2) emerged as the divisional leader with three straight score in dominant style with her big late kick. In winning the G3 Fantasy last out she proved that she was more than a mud-lark. Co-fastest on the Thoro-Graph scale and with good spacing not this., there’s no good reason to expect a regression, and we don’t.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any viable value horses or price shots; there are. Among those of interest are: 5-Wonder Wheel (12-1), 6-Botannical (4-1), 8-Promiseher America (30-1), 11-Defining Purpose (12-1), 13-Affirmative Lady (12-1) and 14-Pretty Mischievous (10-1). All are profiled in greater detail above.

As for the grid below, the tiebreaker among several contenders are fast workers; juvenile champion Wonder Wheel, 2-for-2 here to begin her career, and Defining Purpose, who never has taken a backward step including a competitive-figure score last out.

Meanwhile, Botanical is a legitimate dark horse as this will be her first run on dirt. But she earned fast figures racing over Turfway Park’s Tapeta surface where she was undefeated in four starts, earning extra credit for fast wins while setting the pace, not the usual synthetic winner’s profile.

Promiseher America has improved markedly with experience while graduating in distance in four lifetime runs, winning in race horse time at today’s trip; many of her rivals have never been 9 furlongs. Defining Purpose is another competitive-figure filly that has never regressed for a barn owning a historically good record in this division. Affirmative Lady is 2-for-2 since adding blinkers, including the G2 Gulfstream Park Oaks and with trip experience and Pretty Mischievous is disrespected by the linemaker owning excellent figures and is multiple graded stakes placed including a win. Team Walsh/Gaffalione were on fire at the recently concluded Keeneland meet.


WIN-VALUE PLAY:  Wonder Wheel at 8-1 or greater

EXOTICA: Exacta Boxes: 5-6-7 / 5-7-8 / 5-7-11 / 5-7-13 / 5-7-14.   Superfecta Wheel:  5.7 // 5.7 // // also 5.7 // // 5.7 //

Per usual: Suggested exotic wagers are at minimums available, straight wagers in $2 units

this is a live column that will be updated through Friday

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2 Responses

  1. May 5,2023
    Kentucky Oaks
    1. Pretty Mischievous (10-1) blinkers get her position. Walsh positive rate of return, blinkers on.
    2. Defining Purpose(12-1) distance only question
    3. Botanical(4-1) d o’ro top, blame bottom, 3 good works on dirt and Cox. He fires.
    4. The Alys Look(15-1) same line as Defining Purpose. I’m with a chance
    What you want to do with Wet Paint is up to you.

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