As Kentucky Oaks day gets underway, Tim Holland provides his North American racing picks for Churchill Downs, Saratoga, Monmouth Park, and Prairie Meadows.
Trainer Robertino Diodoro wins with 26% of his runners that won last time out, a good sign for #8 Strike That (3-1), who led throughout over 7 furlongs at Saratoga last month in his second start after a short break. Gelding has won four of seven career starts and Diodoro is winning with 23% of his starters this year. Biondetti 4-year-old figures to be the one to catch again with David Cohen remaining aboard.
#8 Sicilia (4-1) ships from California off an even fifth-place finish at Del Mar in late July, her first North American start for Neil Drysdale. Daughter of excellent young sire Kingman finished third in the Prix du Calvados (G2) at Deauville as a juvenile, and Drysdale wins with 18% of runners making their second start for his barn. Filly is out of a full-sister to Footstepsinthesand, who won the 2000 Guineas (G1), and can be along from off the pace with Paco Lopez taking the mount.
#3 Donna Veloce (15-1) has not raced since impressively rallying from off the pace to win the Santa Ysabel (G3) at Santa Anita in early March. Filly finished a game second after making an early move for the lead in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) last year and has been working well for trainer Simon Callaghan, who has won with 24% of his runners this year. Daughter of Uncle Mo can get a good trip stalking what should be a fast pace with Ricardo Santana in the saddle.
A competitive field for the Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G2) includes #13 Tiger Blood (6-1), who was unlucky when closing to finish second in the Preview Turf Sprint S. at Ellis Park last month, his second start after being claimed by Mike Maker. Chestnut has a record of 12-9-1-0 sprinting on grass and Maker does well with his recent claims. Gelding may run from just off a fast early pace under Santana, who has won with two of his last four rides for the barn.
A couple of newcomers catch the eye including #4 Moonshine Maker (12-1), who debuts for 17% first-out trainer Kelly Breen. Son of Discreet Cat is out of a mare by Smoke Glacken and has been working well for Breen, who is winning with 19% of his starters this year. Meanwhile, trainer Jorge Abreu wins with 23% of his first-time starters and saddles #11 Judge Alexander (8-1), who should have some precocity being out of a mare by City Zip. Gelding has posted some good works and gets Jose Ortiz in the irons.
#7 Declared (5-1) finished well when second over this distance at Delaware Park in his first start since February. Son of Hard Spun is out of Garden City Breeders’ Cup (G1) winner Magnificent Song and makes his second outing for trainer Richard Hendriks, who wins with 23% of his runners second off a layoff. Bay can be along from off the pace with Nik Juarez riding.
Trainer Kevin Eikleberry has been winning with 33% of his first-time starters and saddles #3 Willtobelucky (8-1), a debuting son of 13% first-out sire Lookin At Lucky. Gelding has been working forwardly for Eikleberry, who wins with 26% of his runners overall in maiden claiming events, so the bay should be ready for a good first outing.