Spot Plays for the Dueling Grounds Derby and Oaks

September 1st, 2023

A pair of seven-figure stakes races for sophomores on the green will highlight a big afternoon of racing at Kentucky Downs on Sunday.

Race 10 – Dueling Grounds Oaks

The $1 million affair for three-year-old fillies will be contested at 1 5/16 miles and attracted an overflow field of 13. #5 Mrs. Astor (5-1), one of two in the field for conditioner Jonathan Thomas, possesses a fine turn of foot and seems poised for a big run against this cast with Florent Geroux in the silks. The Augustin Stable homebred had a nice prep when an allowance second at Del Mar in her most recent effort, and I expect her to show big improvement in her second start off the shelf, combined with the stretch-out in distance, on this occasion.

I’ll use recent stakes heroine #2 Soft Talk (30-1), Pucker Up S. (G3) queen #4 Safeen (7-2), Shug McGaughey’s #7 Allamericanbeauty (10-1), and Honeymoon S. (G3) victress #12 Selenaia (6-1) with the top pick.


$15 win and place: #5 Mrs. Astor ($30)

$3 exacta key box: 5 with 2,4,7,12 ($24)

$.50-cent trifecta: key 5 with 2,4,7,12 ($6)

Race 11 – Dueling Grounds Derby (G3)

The boys will go 1 5/16 miles in the co-feature, with 12 signed on for the contest. I will base my plays around a trio of horses in the competitive field, including #4 Lion of War (20-1). The Roaring Lion colt didn’t handle the yielding going in the Saratoga Derby (G1) most recently when he took a good amount of money in his U. S. debut, but he will take a major step forward on this day. Jamie Spencer will pilot the Brendan Walsh charge.

#9 Far Bridge (8-5), winner of the Belmont Derby (G1) two back, finished third in the Saratoga Derby most recently and has never run a bad one for Todd Pletcher. The talented English Channel colt would be of no surprise with Jose Ortiz taking the reins.

Brian Lynch’s #7 Highway Robber (6-1) has impressed me since moving to the weeds two back and will be tough with even slight improvement. The chestnut son of Hard Spun put in a huge late rally to just miss in a prep for this at Ellis Park, and the added ground on Sunday will only aid the Kentucky-bred.


$4 exacta box: 4,7,9 ($24)

$.50-cent trifecta: 4,9 with 4,7,9 with all ($20)

$.50-cent superfecta: 4,9 with 4,9 with 7 with all ($9)

$.50-cent superfecta: 4,9 with 4,9 with all with 7 ($9)