2018 Kentucky Oaks Cheat Sheet
By J.J. Hysell, Hello Race Fan's Contributor
2018 Kentucky Oaks Replay
So you want to watch the 2018 Kentucky Oaks on Friday but have no idea who’s running. Not to worry! Here’s a thumbnail of the field in order of post position with morning line odds.
1. Sassy Sienna (15-1) – This well-traveled filly has finished in the money – including two wins – in the last four starts with veteran jockey Gary Stevens aboard, and Stevens gets the call for the Oaks. While stablemate Monomoy Girl gets most of the spotlight, don’t overlook that this versatile runner appeared to turn a corner when she beat Oaks foe Wonder Gadot by a nose in the Grade 3 Fantasy. With the right stalking trip, she could pose a threat to hit the board again at nice odds.
2. Coach Rocks (12-1) – Although it took the Dale Romans trainee seven starts to break her maiden, her race record is deceiving. She fared much better on turf, but could that be due to the longer distance? A cutback to 7 furlongs in January wasn’t her game, so Romans returned her to routing and she’s flourished. After a wire-to-wire romp for her maiden win, she rallied from the back of the pack to overtake Oaks foe Take Charge Paula in the Gulfstream Park Oaks. While she should relish the added ground, the competition could be a tier too tough for his daughter of 2013 Preakness Stakes winner Oxbow.
3. Classy Act (15-1) – Yet another possible pace factor, her best race to date was on turf. Seeking her first stakes win, she’s flashed talent but so far hasn’t reached the level of many of the fillies she’ll face on Friday. She was caught by Monomoy Girl after setting the pace in the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra and was fourth as the betting favorite in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks. Distance is the main obstacle for this Bret Calhoun trainee. After the Fair Grounds Oaks, jockey Javier Castellano questioned her ability at two turns. “In my opinion, she doesn’t want to go that far. At two turns, she gets too rank and she’s not going to get there.”
4. Chocolate Martini (12-1) – Claimed out of a turf race in February, this filly has blossomed since transitioning to the barn of Tom Amoss, who moved her to dirt. She raised eyebrows with a win in an optional claiming race at 27-1 odds, then proved it was no fluke in a Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks victory in which she outdueled Oaks foes Eskimo Kiss and Wonder Gadot. The Fair Grounds Oaks has been a routinely successful path to the Kentucky Oaks winner’s circle, and this filly is a top candidate to carry on that tradition.
5. Wonder Gadot (20-1) – PLACE (2nd) – A familiar filly on the Oaks prep circuit, this Mark Casse trainee has faced stakes competition eight times in her nine-race career. Although the Grade 2 Demoiselle in December was her last victory, two of her most recent losses were by slim margins, including a loss by a neck in the Silverbulletday and a nose loss to Sassy Sienna in the Grade 3 Fantasy. It’s tough to pin down her running style, but her best efforts have come on the lead or just off the pace. With a solid speed set-up likely, that could spell trouble. She can handle the distance, but what about the pressure? Pedigree is a plus as she’s a daughter of Medaglia d’Oro, sire of previous Oaks winners Rachel Alexandra (2009) and Plum Pretty (2011).
6. Kelly’s Humor (30-1) – One of three Oaks entries for trainer Brad Cox, she won the Ellis Park Debutante Stakes last August in a race that was a visual beauty. She rallied with a rush from the back of the pack and stormed home to win at 11-1 odds. Her late rally came up short when she stretched out to 1 1/16 miles in the Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades, finishing fifth. After a change of tactics and being forwardly placed resulted in a 10th-place finish in the Grade 2 Golden Rod, she returned to her late-closing ways and finished a solid second in the Grade 3 Beaumont. In a race loaded with early speed, this filly’s running style could put her in the mix for the exotics.
7. Rayya (15-1) – Bob Baffert’s lone Oaks contender is unknown against U.S. competition as she’s raced solely in Dubai – and very well with the exception of a sound defeat behind Kentucky Derby contender Mendelssohn in the UAE Derby. She’s a proven router with a dominant win in the UAE Oaks at 1 3/16 miles. She showed growth in that test as she turned the tables on White Lightning, who had beaten her twice previously. Forwardly placed in the UAE Derby, she could prove to be another pace factor. Interesting to note that Rayya was paired with 2017 Kentucky Oaks winner and champion Abel Tasman for her final pre-race work at Santa Anita, and apparently she matched up well with her older, more accomplished stablemate.
8. Heavenhasmynikki (30-1) – The lightly-raced chestnut started her career with two sharp wins at 6 furlongs. She’s proven vulnerable at longer distances as she faded to fourth in the Grade 3 Forward Gal after setting the pace. She was in the mix early in the Grade 2 Davona Dale but slipped to third in the stretch. This spot looks daunting for the Anthony Quartarolo trainee because of the added distance; she’s got the makings of a talented sprinter/miler.
9. Take Charge Paula (15-1) – The Gulfstream Park Oaks runner-up has only one poor effort to her name: a 10th-place finish in the Grade 2 Pocahontas at Churchill Downs in September. She’s competed at six different tracks and has come a long way since that loss with three stakes victories, including the Grade 3 Forward Gal, and three runner-up placings in stakes company. The front-running approach didn’t work out in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks as she was caught by rallying Coach Rocks, so look for her to sit just off the pace.
10. Midnight Bisou (5-2) – SHOW (3rd) – The Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks winner is three for three since jockey Mike Smith took the reins in January, and she’ll have the Hall of Fame rider aboard for this test. Versatility is her top asset, and that should come in handy in a race that appears to be loaded with speed. She can rally from the back of the pack or stalk a pacesetter. The way she’s won with such ease indicates the extra distance shouldn’t be an issue. Tough to find any weaknesses with this Bill Spawr trainee; only drawback is she hasn’t raced outside of California. Win candidate.
11. My Miss Lilly (10-1) – Although this eye-catching gray filly is lightly raced, she’s flashed talent from day one when she won her debut easily over a sloppy Aqueduct track. She jumped to stakes company for her 3-year-old debut and delivered a solid third-place finish – with a driving move between two foes – in the Grade 3 Forward Gal. Her third-place showing in the Busher Stakes came with a legitimate excuse as she hit the gate at the start. She bounced back with another tremendous show of determination, winning a three-way battle at the finish of the 1 1/8-mile Grade 2 Gazelle. Her inexperience might catch up with her here, but her grit and style could put her squarely in the exotics equation.
12. Patrona Margarita (30-1) – Many facets to like about this Texas-bred, but what stands out the most is her affinity for the Churchill Downs fast track. She won her debut and the Grade 2 Pocahontas over the strip but didn’t care for the slop in the Debutante, so she’ll need sunny skies on Friday. A solid third in the Grade 1 Ashland, she’ll need to move up a few notches to turn the tables on Monomoy Girl, who beat her twice.
13. Eskimo Kisses (15-1) – She’s two for seven but has finished worse than second only once – in a maiden race in November over the Churchill Downs surface. It’s concerning that she’s won only at Oaklawn Park, but she loved the slop and would move up on an off track. Just a head behind Chocolate Martini in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks and second to Monomoy Girl in the Grade 1 Ashland, she belongs in the group, but likely needs a cloudburst on Friday to challenge.
14. Monomoy Girl (2-1) – WINNER – The Grade 1 Ashland winner has responded to every test with aplomb. She mastered turf early in her career, then transitioned splendidly to dirt with a romp in the Rags to Riches Stakes over the Churchill Downs surface. The Brad Cox trainee is a bit quirky and has displayed some erratic behavior in races, including lugging out in the stretch of her lone loss, the Grade 2 Golden Rod. She also ducked out sharply late in her Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra win. She’ll need a focused approach against this top-notch field. One note in her favor is that she’s faced many of these foes before and bested them, including Wonder Gadot, Eskimo Kisses, Patrona Margarita and Class Act. The main question is her placement in the race; will jockey Florent Geroux engage the early speed, or poise for a late run? This will be the key to her chances.