Martini Glass wins the Azeri Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park (c) Oaklawn Park/Coady Photography
Five stakes help make up the undercard of the 144th running of the Kentucky Oaks (G1) on Friday at Churchill Downs, and the races offer the perfect chance to pad your bankroll with some longshots.
Race 5 – EIGHT BELLES STAKES (G2)
Kicking off the stakes action on Kentucky Oaks Friday is a seven-filly field in the Eight Belles. Previous Kentucky Oaks contender Amy’s Challenge is the co-second choice with Mia Mischief at 5-2 while Gas Station Sushi heads the field at 2-1 on the morning line.
For some reason, TALK VEUVE TO ME (#5) was assigned 6-1 opening odds despite an 11-length romp to break her maiden last out at Fair Grounds. That came in the Rodolphe Brisset pupil’s first start of the year and she wired that 10-horse field to earn a 99 BRIS Speed rating. That is surpassed only by the 105 figure Amy’s Challenge earned as a juvenile and ties with the 99 rating Mia Mischeif garnered for her 8 1/4-length romp in the Purple Martin Stakes last out. Talk Veuve to Me makes her stakes bow in this spot and has the talent to score under Shaun Bridgmohan.
Race 6 – LA TROIENNE STAKES (G1)
The La Troienne features a crackerjack field of distaffers, including last year’s Kentucky Oaks winner and eventual champion three-year-old filly Abel Tasman. It won’t be easy to overcome the talent in this bunch, but let’s try anyway with MARTINI GLASS (#8). The Keith Nations charge brings a two-race win streak into the La Troienne after taking the Royal Delta Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park in February and the Azeri Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park in mid-March. The Kitalpha five-year-old mare earned a 102 BRIS Speed rating for her Royal Delta score and was an easy three-length winner of the Azeri over others in this field. Martini Glass will be making her Churchill bow in this spot under Paco Lopez and was assigned 6-1 morning-line odds.
Race 7 – TWIN SPIRES TURF SPRINT (G3)
British-bred DELECTATION (#1) could surprise in this one at 6-1 on the morning line against the boys in just her second stateside start. The four-year-old daughter of Delegator is a multiple Group 3 winner overseas, including at short distances, and could really take to the Churchill turf if expected rain moves through the area and softens it up a bit. Now trained by Wesley Ward, she was rank in her U.S. debut most recently in the First Lady Stakes (G1) while going a mile at Keeneland last October, but has had time to settle into her surroundings and also gets first-time Lasix. John Velazquez has the call.
Race 8 – ALYSHEBA STAKES (G2)
Everyone is going to be paying attention to 2017 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Always Dreaming in the Alysheba, which leaves lots of price horses to pick from.
The best shot of an upset could come from AWESOME SLEW (#8), who hasn’t scored since taking the Ack Ack Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs last September but has thrown up some huge numbers in his past pair. The Mark Casse-trained five-year-old closed out 2017 with a third-placing in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) and opened 2018 with a rallying runner-up effort in the Carter Handicap (G1) at Del Mar and Aqueduct, respectively. For those efforts he earned 100 and 103 BRIS Speed ratings, which are on par if not better than others in the Alysheba. The well-traveled son of Awesome Again ran on Kentucky Derby Day last year, just missing by a head in the Churchill Downs Stakes (G2), and is listed at 5-1 on the morning line under Jose Ortiz for this one.
Race 10 – EDGEWOOD STAKES (G3)
There should be plenty of longshots to choose from with undefeated Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) heroine Rushing Fall in here, though it may prove fruitless in the end because, well, Rushing Fall is in here. Let’s take a stab at it anyway.
In all honesty, just based on numbers, Rushing Fall doesn’t look that much better than others in this field. One who could derail her perfect record is FIGARELLA’S QUEEN (#4), a bay daughter of Medaglia d’Oro who makes her debut for new trainer Brad Cox in this spot. The Kentucky-bred lass easily broke her maiden over Gulfstream’s turf and then wired the Sanibel Island Stakes by a nose. She’s yet to finish worse than second on the green, gets John Velazquez in the irons and is listed at 12-1 on the morning line.
Cox has another shot at the upset with BEYOND BLAME (#2), who is listed at even longer odds of 20-1 on the morning line. A daughter of, as you might have guessed, Blame, the bay miss broke her maiden by nine length over the 1 1/16-mile distance of the Edgewood. That contest also occurred over good turf, and with rain in the forecast on Friday that can only help Beyond Blame’s chances. The homebred lass also exits a four-length victory over allowance/optional claiming rivals and keeps Florent Geroux aboard.