Kentucky Oaks: Heading Toward Southlawn

Kentucky Oaks: Heading Toward Southlawn

Friday’s $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) is upon us. Trainer Brad Cox seems to hold the strongest hand for the 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-old fillies, however, the selection here is Southlawn. Southlawn, a striking bay filly trained by Norm Casse, is listed as the third choice on the morning line at 8-1.

In most years, there is a standout filly leading the marquee for the Oaks. This year’s bunch seems to have been taking turns beating each other up, and there’s not really a filly, with the exception of Wet Paint, who has consistently made a name for herself.

The South Florida contingent seemed especially weak this year. Affirmative Lady won the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2), but that came in her first start after breaking her maiden in late February. Florida-bred Dorth Vader, from the first crop of Girvin and trained by Michael Yates, won the one-mile Davona Dale Stakes (G2) in early March but was fourth in the Gulfstream Park Oaks. Off her good looks over the Churchill Downs surface the last few days, she’s worthy of some play.

Only one filly made the trip from Southern California, the Peter Miller-trained And Tell Me Nolies. She has a favorable Beyer Speed Figure pattern and has a shot here, but she’s only made two starts this year and came home with a pair of second-place finishes.

The stars of the program are Wet Paint and Cox’s other filly, Botanical.

Wet Paint, a stone-cold closer, has won three in a row at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas and pulled away from her foes strongly in the April 1 Fantasy Stakes (G3). She did the same in late February over sloppy strip in Hot Springs in the Honeybee Stakes (G3).

Botanical has made her last four starts over the synthetic surface at Turfway Park. Rider Chris Landeros has expressed his confidence she’ll make the switch to the dirt, but the fact the Oaks will be her main track debut makes for a tricky proposition.

That leads us to Southlawn.

Based at Fair Grounds, Southlawn made her 3-year-old bow Feb. 17 in an allowance optional claiming race and drew off by eight lengths, earning a high Beyer Speed Figure of 86. She replicated that figure in the March 29 Fair Grounds Oaks (G3) while well clear of fellow Oaks runners Pretty Mischievous and The Alys Look. She’s also been a stout workhorse of late, firing a bullet five-furlong move of :58 4/5 April 20 and a half-mile in :48 4/5 April 27. Based on a standard step forward in a third start off a layoff, she has every right to be locked and loaded for Friday afternoon. As a stalker type, she should get good position and have a clear shot to make her move when ready.

Her young trainer is the son of top conditioner Mark Casse, and young Norm is winning this season at a high 27% clip. His filly, a $290,000 sale yearling in 2021, is a daughter of Pioneerof the Nile (the sire of American Pharoah) out of the Uncle Mo mare Mo d’Amour.

With $100 to play with:

$20 win/place/show on Southlawn (No. 4)

$2 exacta box of Southlawn (No. 4) with Wet Paint (No. 7) and Dorth Vader (No. 12) – that’s $12

$3 exacta key of Southlawn (No. 4) over Wet Paint (no. 7), And Tell Me Nolies (No. 9), and Dorth Vader (No. 12) – that’s $9

$3 Oaks/Derby double, singling Southlawn in the Oaks with Confidence Game (no. 4), Tapit Trice (No. 5), Mage (No. 8), Angel of Empire (No 14), Forte (No. 15), and Rocket Can (No. 18) – that’s $18


It’s not just the Oaks … there is a full day of great racing at Churchill Downs Friday. Here are a few selected races to play.

Race 5: The Alysheba Stakes (G2) for older horses. Louisville businessman Bruce Lunsford would like nothing better than winning a big race under the Twin Spires this weekend. He bred and owns Art Collector, who surprised many while blowing away the field in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) in late January, earning a massive 107 Beyer Speed Figure. As expected, the horse regressed in the New Orleans Classic at Fair Grounds but should “bounce back” in this spot. He won’t be a price, he’s the 5-2 second choice, but a win can be a bankroll builder.

Race 6: The Modesty Stakes (G3T) for older fillies and mares on the turf. International horseman Ignacio Correas IV has been based in Central Kentucky for several years and has a strong pipeline to getting stars from South America to his barn. Didia could be the next in succession. The Argentina-bred was a group 1 winner at home and has been in the U.S. for about a year. She’s three-for-three, climbing the ladder, taking a $100,000 stakes race at Fair Grounds March 25. The water gets much deeper here while facing a pair from Chad Brown, and others, but she is worth a gamble at 5-1 to find out.

Race 7: Eight Belles Stakes (G2), for 3-year-old filles at seven furlongs, two furlongs shorter than the Oaks. The heavy, heavy favorite will be Munnys Gold (No. 9) off her win last time at … 17 ¼ lengths … That was against lesser competition, but she’ll be the one everyone will have an eye on.

Race 9: La Troienne Stakes (G1) for older fillies and mares on the dirt. Steve Asmussen-trained Pauline’s Pearl won this race last year, against a smaller cast. This field is loaded with talent, but she is worth a look at 8-1 on the morning line. She stumbled in her last race, an ill-fated trip to Southern California. Look for her to bounce back now that she’s back home.

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