It's "Ladies First" at Churchill Downs with the running of the 2012 Kentucky Oaks on Friday evening (post time: 5:45 p.m. ET; TV: NBCSN). The Oaks is a $1 million Grade 1 race for three-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on the main track. It is the 11th race on Friday's Churchill Downs card.
With a large and competitive field, this year's Oaks could produce huge payouts at the betting windows. Below is a rundown of the fillies in 2012 Kentucky Oaks.
1 -- On Fire Baby (4/1): Very impressive winning the G3-Honeybee last time out at Oaklawn Park. She's been one of the top three-year-old fillies in the country this spring and suffered her only loss of 2012 when she took on the colts in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn in mid-January. She finished third, 1 1/2 lengths back, in the Smarty Jones.
2 -- Grace Hall (5/2): The morning line favorite blew away the field in the G2-Gulfstream Park Oaks in her last start. She was second to My Miss Aurelia in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs last November in a race where she encountered a lot of traffic issues.
3 -- Summer Applause (15/1): Finished second as the odds-on favorite in the G2-Fair Grounds Oaks in her last start. Like most of the fillies in this race, Summer Applause does her best running if she's able to race near the lead in the early stages.
4 -- Eden's Moon (12/1): This Bob Baffert-trained filly should be eligible for a big improvement after fading a bit down the stretch of the G1-Santa Anita Oaks in her last start. In her first two races of 2012, she won by a combined 14 3/4 lengths, including a 3 1/2 lengths victory in the G1-Las Virgenes. This filly has a lot of stamina in her pedigree and could have a big chance at good odds.
5 -- Hard Not to Like (20/1): This daughter of Hard Spun has never raced over a surface other than synthetic or turf, making her a bit of a mystery heading into Friday's Oaks. Her sire, Hard Spun, was a very good dirt runner, and her dam, Like a Gem, won on both dirt and turf. Still, it's a tough spot to make her dirt debut.
6 -- Broadway's Alibi (4/1): It's hard to win a race more impressively than Broadway's Alibi won the G3-Comely and the G2-Forward Gal. In total, her nearest rivals were a combined 20 lengths behind her at the end of those two races. This filly ran the best race of her career over a wet track; if the skies open up in Louisville on Friday afternoon, don't forget about this gal.
7 -- Sacristy (50/1): This filly won the G3-Old Hat at the start of 2012 but has since gone a bit off form in her last two races. She's never raced beyond seven furlongs, but her off-the-pace running style should make it easier for her to get the distance.
8 -- Jemima's Pearl (10/1): After racing five times in Ireland as a juvenile, Jemima's Pearl shipped to America in early 2012 to run for trainer Bob Baffert. She won her American debut at Santa Anita against optional claimers and was a decent third in the G2-Fantasy at Oaklawn on April 11. This is an intriguing filly that could be sitting on a big race in the Oaks.
9 -- Believe You Can (10/1): A talented filly that has won a couple of graded stakes races, including the G3-Tempted at Belmont over a muddy track last fall. She hasn't fared too well when she's tried to stalk the pace, which could be an issue given all the early speed to her inside and outside.
10 -- And Why Not (15/1): One of the few closers in the Oaks field, And Why Not has won just a single race in her career, a maiden special weight at Saratoga last summer. She did finish second by a head to On Fire Baby in the G2-Pocahontas at Churchill Downs last fall, and she should get an absolutely perfect pace scenario to run at on Friday. A daughter of Street Cry out of an A.P. Indy mare (Alchemist), And Why Not has plenty of stamina in her pedigree.
11 -- Karvlovy Vary (20/1): This filly is bred to run all day long but, unfortunately, she appears to be better suited to race on the grass or over a synthetic surface. Her only try on dirt came in last fall's G2-Golden Rod at Churchill Downs where she finished seventh, beaten by 12 1/2 lengths.
12 -- Colonial Empress (50/1): She's raced three times and hasn't finished closer than 6 lengths behind any of her rivals. If she wins this race, I may have to give up playing the ponies.
13 -- Amie's Dini (10/1): Second in the G2-Fantasy, second in the G2-Honey Bee; Amie's Dini has run some pretty good races this spring and appears to be a filly that is developing nicely. Like almost all the fillies in this field, Amie's Dini likes to run up near the lead in the early stages. If she's to have any shot at winning, she's going to have to avoid going too fast, too early on Friday afternoon.
14 -- Yara (30/1): This filly shocked Grace Hall as a 65/1 longshot in the G2-Davona Dale at Gulfstream Park in late February. She wasn't able to duplicate that effort in her next start, losing by ten lengths in the G2-Gulfstream Park Oaks. Looking at her past performances, you'll notice that Yara has an "every other race" pattern going. She runs a good race, then a bad one, then a good, etc. If the pattern holds true, she's eligible to run one of her "good" races on Friday.
15 -- Oaks Lily (50/1): She just recently broke her maiden at Keeneland. See Colonial Express above.
I'm typically not a longshot kind of player, but all the speed in this year's Oaks has me believing that things could get really messy in the final furlongs. 8 -- Jemima's Pearl has proved she can run a good race when coming from off the pace and she's eligible to improve off of her last start. 10 -- And Why Not hasn't done much winning in her career, but she's the only true stone-cold closer in the field, and she's run big over the Churchill Downs main track in the past.
I'll place win bets on both 8 -- Jemima's Pearl and 10 -- And Why Not, and then play those two fillies in exactas above and below One Fire Baby, Eden's Moon, Grace Hall and Summer Applause.