Hanson: 2023 Kentucky Oaks Day spot plays

May 5th, 2023

A terrific two days of racing at Churchill Downs, encompassing 27 races, kicks off Friday with the Kentucky Oaks Day program that begins at 10:30 a.m. ET.

The following horses strike my fancy as win bet propositions on the Oaks undercard.

Race 2

I'm willing to give #2 Padma (9-2) a pass for her no-show in the Sweetest Chant (G3) at Gulfstream Park in early February, given the the Tapit filly was facing more experienced grass performers in her turf debut. Previously first or second in each of her first three runs around one turn on dirt, Padma figures to be a much stronger fit for this 6 1/2-furlong allowance optional claimer. The Godolphin homebred trained by Bill Mott adds Lasix and might get a nice pace to run into as plenty of speed has signed up for this.

Race 3

This allowance optional claimer for older horses over one mile on the turf looks like a good spot for #1 Smokin' T (6-1). He fared well in two starts over this course last season when fourth in the American Turf (G2) and a head second in the Audubon S., though he was subsequently disqualified from the latter due to a medication overage. The Shug McGaughey trainee has been knocking heads with much tougher rivals of late, including Grade 1 scorer Annapolis, multiple stakes winner Wolfie's Dynaghost, and the Grade 1-placed Up to the Mark. The latter two are entered in Saturday's Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic (G1).

Race 10

The one stakes play on this list is #9 Papilio (7-2) in the Edgewood (G2) for three-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Papilio was purposely ridden "European style" by Javier Castellano in last month's Appalachian (G2) at Keeneland, rating near the back before producing a strong late kick to win. Although the margin was only a neck, it arguably could have been more if she had been less erratic in the stretch. In that respect, Papilio remains a work in progress, but she's likeable again if she can work out a similar trip.

Race 13

#10 Huntress for Hire (8-1) was second-best in her early January debut at Fair Grounds to next-out winner Topsy, but had no luck in her Feb. 18 follow-up when off slowly and a no-threat sixth behind Merlazza, who has since gone on to become a stakes winner at Oaklawn Park. With a better start, Huntress for Hire can bounce back to stronger form while getting extra ground to work with in this seven-furlong maiden special weight for fillies and mares.

Find expert analysis and overviews of all the contenders for the Kentucky Derby on our News & Notes page here on TwinSpires.com!