Expert Analysis of Kentucky Oaks Day at Churchill Downs (5/6/22)

TVG's Experts give their opinions and analysis on the biggest stakes races for the day.

Here's our TVG Experts' preview and analysis of the stakes race at Churchill Downs on Friday, May 6th. Head over to on race day to place your wagers!

New players, get your first win-type wager on a single horse in any race at any track risk-free up to $200 with TVG: Bet the Derby!

Kurt Hoover - Modesty - Race 5, 12:43 PM ET

The Grade 3 Modesty Stakes brings together a very competitive field of nine older fillies and mares. From a pace standpoint, there appears to be very little, true early speed. The two morning line favorites, Bleecker Street and Fluffy Socks, are both deep closers. I think that Curly Ruth, 6-1 on the morning line, should get an ideal trip. Stand Tall and Mona Stella, two longshots drawn towards the inside both have some speed. Curly Ruth should be able to track those two and then take over when the real racing begins. She comes off a solid win in an allowance prep at Keeneland, and with her pedigree, the added distance should be right up her alley. She Can't Sing, 8-1 on the morning line, comes off two impressive stakes wins at the Fairgrounds, both at big odds. She appears to be a mare on the way up, who's found her best game going long on the turf. She also has enough tactical speed to be fairly close early. No knocks on the undefeated morning line favorite Bleecker Street. She has yet to be in a photo, and her numbers keep improving. A steady work tab since her last and Flavien Prat takes over. I just think she might be vulnerable because of the race shape. A very good race for some nice fillies and mares.

Top Picks:
7: Curly Ruth
4: She Can't Sing
8: Bleecker Street

Money Back Special: #7 Curly Ruth

Bet Race 5 with TVG now!

Rich Perloff - La Troienne - Race 6, 1:26 PM ET

It’s very difficult to get away from the favorites in this year’s La Troienne S. (G1) at Churchill Downs.

PAULINE’S PEARL, the second choice on the morning line at 2/1, exits the same race -- the Grade 2 Azeri S. at Oaklawn Park -- as morning line favorite and defending champion SHEDARESTHEDEVIL. ‘PAULINE closed for 2nd behind Eclipse Award winner CE CE in the Oaklawn race, and she gets a 5-pound pull in the weights relative to SHEDARESTHEDEVIL. ‘PAULINE didn’t make much of an impact in last year’s Kentucky Oaks in her only prior try at Churchill, but she appears to have improved considerably since for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.

SHEDARESTHEDEVIL, the defending champion in the La Troienne (and already a three-time Grade 1 winner), is following the same blueprint she did in 2021, using the Azeri S. (G2) at Oaklawn as a stepping stone to the La Troienne. She won the Azeri in 2021 and had to settle for third this year, but it was a solid seasonal debut, and she looms as the horse to beat for the always-potent trainer-jockey combo of Brad Cox and Florent Geroux.

After the obvious top two, the pickings get pretty slim. If you’re looking for an underneath horse for vertical exotics, maybe it’s the mare on the rail, JILTED BRIDE. You certainly can’t fault her consistency: she’s never been off the board in 16 career starts. But she’s never beaten anything like the favorites in here, and she has never managed better than a 3rd place finish in her tries versus stakes competition.

Top Picks:
6: Pauline's Pearl
2: Shedaresthedevil
1: Jilted Bride

Money Back Special: #1 Jilted Bride

Bet Race 6 with TVG now!

Joaquin Jaime - Alysheba - Race 7, 2:09 PM ET

The Alysheba Stakes is race 7 on Oaks Day and begins an All-Stakes Pick 5. A field of eight has entered with Olympiad, one of the up and comers in the handicap division, installed as the 9/5 ML favorite. Two others in the field won the same Grade One race the last two years, but both horses come in off layoffs.

Max Player won the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) last year and makes his 5-year-old debut for Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen. Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher will saddle the 2020 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) winner, Happy Saver.

Olympiad #5: This lightly raced 4-year-old has been brought along slowly by Hall of Famer Bill Mott. Since returning off a year layoff last September, Olympiad has had six races. Three were versus allowance company and the other three he faced graded stakes company. He’s finally starting to step up his game rattling off three straight wins and nearly equalling the track record at the Fair Grounds in the New Orleans Classic (G2). He’s sharp, has the pace advantage, is 2-for-2 at the distance, and has the fitness edge on the other Grade One winners.

Weyburn #2: He came back with a very nice performance off a six-month layoff at Gulfstream Park going seven furlongs. The distance is short of his best but considering it had been a long time since he raced, I really thought he put forth a solid effort. He closed out his 3-year-old season facing the top horses in the division at the time, so I’m not going to be too hard on his form last summer. He took a massive step forward from age three to four and this big striding colt will relish any added ground he gets.

Happy Saver #7: This chestnut horse is a lightly raced 5-year-old that was only a half length behind the talented and now retired Maxfield in his only race at Churchill Downs. He does come in here off a lengthy layoff but that doesn’t concern me for two reasons. One, it's Todd Pletcher, and two, he won at Belmont off a seven-month layoff in the past. He’s been training consistently for this return and will be sitting in a good spot on the outside just off the pace.

Happy Oaks and Derby Day!! Good luck to everyone this weekend!!

Top Picks
5: Olympiad
2: Weyburn
7: Happy Saver

Money Back Special: #5 Olympiad

Bet Race 7 with TVG now!

Dave Weaver - Edgewood - Race 8, 3:03 PM ET

Of all the Graded Stakes races on the turf that trainer Chad Brown has conquered in his storied career, the Grade 3 Edgewood Stakes on Friday at Churchill Downs has eluded him. This year, the odds are in his favor, as he will be sending out the three morning-line favorites. At 1 1/16 miles on the turf, it goes as race eight on a 13-race program highlighted by the Grade-1 Longines Kentucky Oaks. Of the three Chad Brown fillies, I am most interested in #3 McKulick. As a two-year-old, she won her career debut in scintillating style, sweeping past the field on the outside with a furious rush. In her next start, in the Grade 2 Ms. Grillo, she drew an unfortunate outside post position and had a wide trip from the beginning. She ran on to be a belated third as the heavy favorite and was rested for the remainder of the season. This is her first start as a three-year-old and I can envision a better and stronger filly this time around. She gets Flavien Prat in the irons today, and he may be able to take advantage of a paceless bunch and put her on or near the lead. #5 Dolce Zel is another Chad Brown entrant who has sky-is-the-limit ability. She won the Grade 3 Florida Oaks in her U.S. debut before finishing a solid second in her most recent start at Keeneland behind the heavy 3/5 favorite Spendarella in the Appalachian Stakes. The true X-Factor in this race is #10 Dream Lith. She is a Grade 2 winner on the dirt, taking the Golden Rod at this distance last year on the main track here at Churchill Downs. If she handles the turf today, she could be the surprise package of this bunch.

Good Luck and make it a great day!

Top Picks:
3: McKulick
5: Dolce Zel
10: Dream Lith

Money Back Special: #3: McKulick

Bet Race 8 with TVG now!

Scott Hazelton - Eight Belles - Race 9, 4:04 PM ET

The Grade 2 Eight Belles Stakes is a race for straight three-year-old fillies that always brings together a strong group of runners on Kentucky Oaks day. You've got a good blend of invaders from all over the country, including horses that have recently run at Keeneland, on the West Coast at Santa Anita, and also a filly that comes in off of a career-best performance down at Oaklawn Park. 7 Furlongs makes it a bit more of a challenge for these runners, but there's plenty of seasoning for most of them minus one runner who comes into this race off of just one run which was an impressive victory down at Oaklawn.

#8 Matareya is my top selection and will likely be the favorite for this race. She has run two giant races this season, including a victory in late February at the Fair Grounds where she ran 3/4 of a mile in a blazing 1:08 4/5. She followed that up with a dominant performance at Keeneland a month ago in the Grade 3 Beaumont Stakes, winning the race by 8 1/2 lengths. Show maintained position close to the pace and draw off from this group, I think she's a clear standout in this race. This filly looks like she could be one of the best female sprinters in the country, and this is just another step towards that affirmation.

#3 Marissa’s Lady has won five of her six races and has the pedigree to handle this distance. She comes off of successful a campaign on the synthetic track at Turfway Park. But the speed figures suggest she's even better on a dirt surface which she will get today. That's gonna have to be the key to her being better than the favorite in this race, but you cannot ignore this runner’s consistency. And don't be surprised or worried if she's a bigger price.

#2 Pretty Birdie took a big step forward with her most recent performance down at Oaklawn park against stakes company. She ran 6 furlongs in 1:09 and will try to utilize her early speed to run away from this field would be my guess because all of her races that she has won have come in gate to wire fashion. The seven furlongs will be a question, but don’t be surprised if she has the lead midway down the stretch and holds on for a piece of it in the top three. Also if she's able to break sharp as she does when she's at her best, perhaps she can get over to the rail, which has been so live at Churchill Downs this week. She needs a golden rail to ride to victory.

If you're looking for a longshot possibility, watch out for the number 10 horse Sweet Dani Girl. The cut back and distance for her should be a plus, and she'll be trying to chase him late and she comes out of a very tough race down at Gulfstream Park two months ago.

Top Picks:
8: Matareya
3: Marissa’s Lady
2: Pretty Birdie

Money Back Special: #3 Marissa’s Lady

Bet Race 9 with TVG now!

Ken Rudulph - Turf Sprint - Race 10, 4:51 PM ET

I love turf racing. There is more strategy involved with the riders, more finesse in the early stages, and then manic and methodical energy in the stretch. No matter where they are, I always feel like my horse has a chance in a turf race. The Kentucky Oaks Friday card with the Twin Spires Turf Sprint is ripe for a price. The race has been run here for decades starting in 1995 at a distance of 5 furlongs. Extended to 5.5 furlongs in 2019, with winner World of Trouble controlling a slow pace while cruising to a front-end victory as the favorite. In 2020, when it was moved to September due to the pandemic, Diamond Oops came from the back of the pack to win. The 2021 edition also featured a deep closer with a winning move as Fast Boat jetted past 8 horses in the stretch to score.

13 runners are set to sprint the 5.5 furlongs on the Churchill turf this year, including 2020 winner Diamond Oops. Pace will be contested throughout with Arrest Me Red and Just Might breaking together for the lead. Chasing Artie will also be quick from the gate with Johnny Unleashed, who at 70-1 ran a monster race by chasing Golden Pal around in vain in the G2 Shakertown at Keeneland, pressing right behind the leading pack. Caraval will be right next to Johnny Unleashed with the rest of the field trailing behind. This should ensure a decent pace to set it up for the presser and closers.

This is where things get really dicey because your proven closers like Diamond Oops and Gear Jockey will be far back. The Lir Jet, who ran down Golden Pal at Royal Ascot 2 years ago, has not won a turf sprint since. His recent victory at 6.5 on the undulating turf at Kentucky Downs is closer to a mile on turf than this 5.5 sprint. I don’t have much excitement for Gregorian Chant or Pyron in here even though they are both proven deep closers that will be a huge price.

So, I will be going with the horse that can get position early without needing the lead and can kick home in the stretch. I will be going with CHASING ARTIE from off of the pace. There should be something to run at here. CHASING ARTIE is versatile in every way. If they go slow, he can be right there pressing, and if they run too fast, he can settle and make the run to the wire. 20-1 on the ML is perfect for me. He has raced and won on firm, yielding, and good turf courses, proving that he can handle any footing. He will probably take some action, but we will still get 15-1 post time on this runner. Even with plenty of rain in the forecast on Oaks Friday to soften up the turf, I still think CHASING ARTIE is in a good spot. Let’s get nuts!! I’ve got $25 to win.

Good luck and enjoy!!

Top Pick:
4: Chasing Artie

Money Back Special: #4: Chasing Artie

Bet Race 10 with TVG now!

Christina Blacker - Kentucky Oaks - Race 11, 5:51 PM ET

Without a doubt, this is one of the most exciting Oaks fields we have had in recent memory. We have the Eclipse Award winning two-year-old champion, three undefeated fillies, and a filly that nearly beat the boys in Arkansas all as part of a full gate of 14.

I wish I could tell you I was picking against the favorite, but #4 Nest is just too good. She is nearly undefeated, already proven at the distance, and displayed her versatility in her last race at Keeneland. Nest was special from the beginning, having won at the mile and a sixteenth distance in her career debut at Belmont Park. Her connections were forced to cut back in distance for her subsequent start, which is very unorthodox and most likely contributed to her only defeat. The full sister to G1 winner Idol then took the Demoiselle at the Oaks distance of a mile and an eight to round out her two-year-old season. Nest has improved at the age of three, and this improvement is most clearly noted by her victory in the Ashland at Keeneland last on April eighth. She was closer to the pace given the short stretch configuration and ultra-responsive to jockey Irad Ortiz’s commands. She also produced a turf-like acceleration in the stretch, which is something you rarely see on the dirt. She earned her fastest Thorograph speed figure for the performance, and overall, that number is one of the fastest of the field. Nest should create a good trip for herself from just off the pace and will be able to get the jump turning for home on some of her rivals. The daughter of Curlin has the chance to contribute to her sires 23% win rate in dirt graded stakes at this distance with female offspring. Nest will be my top selection.

The undefeated #10 Kathleen O is also a formidable opponent and in fact holds the best Thorograph figure of the field. She took a significant step forward in her first race around two turns, which is consistent with the offspring of Airdrie stallion Upstart’s progeny, who continues to impress as the distances progress. Kathleen O may find herself very far back off the pace, however, so for that reason, I will use her underneath in my wagers.

I also give a big chance to #1 Secret Oath. Secret Oath exits two very poor trips and receives a significant rider upgrade with the presence of Luis Saez for the Oaks. Unfortunately, she drew the rail, so he will have his work cut out for him. Secret Oath was boxed in and race ridden for about a quarter of a mile in the Honeybee before boldly diving to the rail and drawing clear to win by nearly eight lengths. She was the victim of an even worse trip in the Arkansas Derby against males and still fought valiantly to finish third. She has had five weeks rest to recover from those races and hopefully can produce another top effort. However, she has quite a bit of time between her recent morning workouts, and the combination of that factor and the rail draw is what led me to go elsewhere for the top selection.

I will be playing against #7 Echo Zulu. While she was a brilliant two-year-old and her campaign resulted in a Breeders Cup win and a championship, I don’t think she has improved at the age of three. In fact, all her numbers were the same throughout her two-year-old season, and the Thorograph figure she earned in her three-year-old return to the races was actually slower than her 2021 numbers. Echo Zulu was a precocious youngster, but the class seems to have caught up with her now. Additionally, the Oaks distance is a bit of a concern for the more compactly build daughter of Gun Runner. She will most likely be on the lead, and fortunately for her, there doesn’t figure to be a fast pace in the Oaks, but I’m still not confident that she can hold off the likes of Nest and Kathleen O even if she does set slow early fractions.

Lastly, #13 Shahama is worth a mention as a live longshot. She has been extremely impressive in her local training this week at Churchill Downs and is also undefeated. A closer look at her pedigree reveals that she is a half-sister to Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky, and her dam produces 26% dirt route winners overall. She runs for the first time under the tutelage of trainer Todd Pletcher and stands to move forward in his program.

Good luck in the 148th Kentucky Oaks!

Top Picks:
4: Nest
10: Kathleen O.
1: Secret Oath
13: Shahama

Money Back Special: #1 Secret Oath

Bet the Kentucky Oaks with TVG now!