The Kentucky Derby may take center stage on the first Saturday in May, but the day before is all about the ladies' in the Kentucky Oaks. Post time for the 2013 Kentucky Oaks is 5:45 pm Eastern, with live television coverage provided by the NBC Sports Network.
This year's Oaks field features a deep and contentious group of ten fillies led by 3/1 morning line favorite Dreaming of Julia. Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Beholder and champion two-year-old filly of 2012, ships out from Southern California looking for her fourth Grade 1 victory.
Let's take a look at the field for this year's Kentucky Oaks:
1-Silsita (20/1): One of four fillies trained by Todd Pletcher in this year's Oaks (to go along with his five horses in Saturday's Derby), Silsita won the G3-Broubonette Oaks by a nose in her most recent start, so at least she comes into this race off of a win. On the other hand, she likes to show speed early and she's drawn inside of some really speedy fillies. She needs to run the race of her life to win this one.
2-Midnight Lucky (9/2): This Bob Baffert trained filly has just two races to her name but they were both very good efforts. She dominated her rivals in the Sunland Park Oaks in late March but there has to be a serious question as to the strength of that race when compared to this Oaks field.
3-Beholder (9/2): A winner of the G1-Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, G1-Las Virgines and G1-Santa Anita Oaks, Beholder has been racing at a high level for quite some time now. She was able to get an easy lead in all three of those Grade 1 victories and there's got to be some concern that she won't get the lead as easily in this race as she did in those previous efforts. She's had two races in her career where she wasn't first after the second call, and she failed to win both times.
4-Unlimited Budget (7/2): Undefeated in four lifetime starts, including three straight graded stakes races since November, Unlimited Budget is one of the more interesting fillies in this field. She's won races by racing on the lead, racing just off the lead and by closing from nine lengths back - that's some serious versatility. She's drawn in the middle of the field which will give jockey Javier Castellano a lot of options after breaking from the starting gate.
5-Seaneen Girl (30/1): Was soundly beaten by Unlimited Budget in the Fair Grounds Oaks back on March 30 but she won the G2-Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs last November. She's not the most likely winner of this race but her prior success over the track might be enough to include her in some trifecta or superfecta tickets.
6-Princess of Sylmar (20/1): Another of Todd Pletcher's Oaks four-pack, Princess of Sylmar finished second behind Close Hatches in the G2-Gazelle at Aqueduct in her last start snapping a four race winning streak.
7-Pure Fun (30/1): One of the few closers in the field, Pure Fun took on the boys in the G1-Blue Grass Stakes back on April 20 but ran poorly and finished seventh in the field of 10. This filly won the G1-Hollywood Starlet in early December but has struggled to regain that form in 2013.
8-Dreaming of Julia (3/1): The morning line favorite comes into the Oaks off of a 21 ¾ length victory in the Gulfstream Park Oaks on March 30. If she duplicates that performance in this race, she's clearly the most likely winner. But the question is: did that performance signal a new baseline for this filly, or was it just a freak performance on a day she was ready to roll?
9-Rose to Gold (15/1): Rose to Gold hasn't unleashed a dominating performance like Dreaming of Julia in her career, but she sure knows how to win races. Five times in seven lifetime starts Rose to Gold has crossed the wire ahead of her rivals. She won the G3-Fantasy in gate-to-wire fashion in her most recent race and the only bad race of her career came in the G1-Alicbaides at Keeneland over the Polytrack. Her best chance in the Oaks is to go to the front and attempt to slow it down but that's going to be tough to do with Beholder to her inside.
10-Flasy Gray (SCRATCH)
11-Close Hatches (6/1): Three races, three victories. Close Hatches rolls into the Oaks off of a very nice win in the G2-Gazelle at the Big A on April 6. She's got a lot of early speed in her arsenal and will likely use it from her outside post position. Jockey Joel Rosario, the hottest jock in the country right now, rides her for trainer Bill Mott.
I'm going to bet against Dreaming of Julia repeating that monster effort from Florida and instead look to the Fair Grounds filly, Unlimited Budget, as my top choice. With many options at Javier Castellano's disposal, Unlimited Budget should be able to negotiate a good trip around the Churchill Downs main track and pounce on the leaders at the top of the stretch.
I like Unlimited Budget to win and an exacta with Unlimited Budget above and below Close Hatches and Dreaming of Julia. I'll also be using Unlimited Budget and Close Hatches in my Oaks/Derby Daily Double with Orb and Itsmyluckyday.