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On Friday, May 6, Churchill Downs will feature seven graded stakes races including the Grade I Kentucky Oaks, which is the premiere race for three-year-old fillies. Get Matthew DeSantis' picks and analysis for each of the seven graded stakes races on Friday's card.
ANALYSIS

2022 Kentucky Oaks Predictions: Free Churchill Downs Picks

On Friday, May 6, Churchill Downs will feature seven graded stakes races including the Grade I Kentucky Oaks, which is the premiere race for three-year-old fillies. The card features dozens of graded stakes winning horse and will have the best of the best going against each other at different distances and on different surfaces. Get Matthew's picks and analysis and free Churchill Downs picks for each of the seven graded stakes races on Friday's card.

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2022 Kentucky Oaks Predictions

Race 5

  • Distance: 1 1/8 miles
  • Name: Modesty Stakes - Grade III
  • Age: 4-year-old and up fillies
  • Surface: Turf

We start out the graded stakes slate with an intriguing turf race...maybe. I say maybe because the forecast in Louisville on Friday looks horrendous with bad thunderstorms scheduled to pummel the track throughout the day. As a result, I would not be shocked if they moved a significant number of the Friday turf races off the grass and ran them on the dirt in hopes of saving the turf for the Saturday stakes races. Now, if there were a turf race, I would tell you to single Chad Brown's Bleeker Street (9-5) who is a perfect 5-5 winning in her young career. She keeps getting faster and despite Brown being cautious with her last time out on a softer turf at Tampa Bay Downs, she won going away at the Grade II Hillsborough Stakes.

However, given the unpredictability of the surface, I would recommend looking at Fluffy Socks (3-1) and Pass the Plate (8-1). Fluffy Socks is the other Chad Brown horse and she delivered a strong third-place effort two back in a Grade I off-turf contest at Santa Anita. The fact she can handle the conditions against elite competitions gives me some confidence. As for Pass the Plate, she's going to give you one huge run at the end but she's won in sloppy dirt conditions before and finished second in a Grade II off-turf contest in 2020. There should be a strong pace set by Mona Stella (30-1) so closers like Pass the Plate and Bleeker Street will have something to run into. Whether they are facing mud or turf kicking back at them will make all the difference.

Race 5 Picks

  • Win: Fluffy Socks (3-1)
  • Place: Pass the Plate (8-1)
  • Show: Bleeker Street (9-5)

Race 6

  • Distance: 1 1/16 miles
  • Name: La Troienne Stakes - Grade I
  • Age: 4-year-old fillies and up
  • Surface: Dirt

In many ways, the La Troienee is a two-horse race between Shedaresthedevil (6-5) and Pauline's Pearl (2-1). While it's boring to have the two favorites up top, their divergent styles means that it's hard to see a scenario in which one of the does not end up in the winner's circle. Shedaresthedevil, trained by Brad Cox, is a front running mare who is a multiple Grade I-winner, which includes being the defending champion of this race. However, last time out at the Grade II Azeri at Oaklawn, she got caught by Breeders' Cup champion Ce Ce and Pauline's Pearl. Now, that was her first race in five months after the grueling 2021 Breeders' Cup Distaff and you would expect for her to take a step forward in her second start off the bench. However, he may get pressured on the lead, which would naturally open things up for Pauline's Pearl to come charging late.

Aside from Shedaresthedevil, I would expect Temper Time (12-1) and Ava's Grace (15-1) to be right the lead from the word go, particularly Ava's Grace. She was outclassed at the previously mentioned Grade II Azeri but came back to wire the field at a lower-level race at Oaklawn a few weeks later. She's breaking from the outside post and should get a nice trip to pressure Shedaresthedevil. All of this is great news for Pauline's Pearl who will sit behind the early speed and launch a bid late. She's a classy filly who had one poor race, the Grade I Kentucky Oaks, and otherwise has been a consistent finisher. If you're looking for some value to add to a chalky ticket, consider using She's All Wolfe (12-1) who has massively outran her odds the last two times out in which she's finished second and fourth at the price of 37-1 and 49-1, respectively. She's a closer and given the potential pace, she should have something to run into. Finally, Jilted Bride is a perfect 16-16 hitting the board in her career, but this might just be too tough of a spot for her to keep that streak alive.

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Race 6 Picks

  • Win: Pauline's Pearl (2-1)
  • Place: Shedaresthedevil (9-5)
  • Show: She's All Wolfe (12-1)

Race 7

  • Distance: 1 1/16 miles
  • Name: The Alysheba Stakes - Grade II
  • Age: 4-year-olds and up
  • Surface: Dirt

After a couple of races with strong favorites, The Alysheba is a wide open affair between some of the best older dirt horses in North America. Olympiad (9-5) is the morning line favorite and likely pacesetter in a field where nobody is intent on going to the lead. While that position might seem advantageous for Olympiad, I am not overwhelmed by the quality of competition he has faced to this point. He's lost to horses like Baby Yoda and Americanrevolution and only regained his winning on the graded stakes circuit after going to Fair Grounds where he dispatched a slightly lesser-caliber of horses. As a result, I am looking elsewhere.

Max Player (5-2) is making his 2022 debut after a six month layoff and his trainer, Steve Asmussen, is an astounding 0-73 his last 73 races in Kentucky dating back to last fall at Keeneland. That's just amazing. Therefore, I like the duo of Weyburn (5-1) and Happy Saver (7-2). Weyburn came off the bench last month after a six month layoff to win the Sir Shackleton Stakes at Gulfstream Park and posted a career-best 102 Beyer Speed Figure. He may need to stay a little closer to the expected pedestrian pace in this race than he did last time out but he's got the talent to close. Meanwhile, Happy Saver is a horse I really like and who has battled with the best in the division. He was last seen in late-November at Churchill Downs finishing a strong second to Maxfield at the Grade I Clark and has never finished off the board in his career. He should sit a nice trip behind the early leaders and will make his move late.

Race 7 Picks

  • Win: Happy Saver (7-2)
  • Place: Weyburn (5-1)
  • Show: Olympiad (9-5)

Race 8

  • Distance: 1 1/16 miles
  • Name: The Edgewood Stakes - Grade II
  • Age: 3-year-old fillies
  • Surface: Turf

Another turf race and another instance of trying to dig into horse's past performance and pedigree to determine how they will take to running on a messy dirt surface. If they stay on turf, Chad Brown's Dolce Zel (5-2) is formidable but hardly unbeatable. She's run first and second since making her North American debut and she ran well on softer ground when racing in France. However, if the race is taken to the dirt, all bets are off as her sire and dam have no record of their offspring running on such a surface, which is concerning.

Given the likelihood of the race being run on dirt, Dream Lith (8-1) makes a lot of sense. She's purely a dirt horse who is coming off running at the Grade III Fantasy at Oaklawn Park. Given her outside post position, she should be near or right on the lead, which is advantageous for a dirt race. She will be making her third start back from a layoff and the Churchill Downs dirt is the home of her best-ever performance when she won the Grade II Golden Rod in November. Another horse to consider is New Year's Eve (12-1). She fits the most of a tradition turf runner as she comes from well off the pace, but should like the distance and has worked out okay on dirt. Additionally, her trainer, Brendan Walsh, is winning 22% of turf races taken off the grass, which bodes well.

The final horse I'll mention is McKulick (7-2) who is coming back from an eight-month layoff and has the envious connection of Chad Brown and Flavien Prat. He's bred to perfection but only for the turf. Perhaps he overwhelms the field with glass, but I am not going to be Frankel progeny on dirt anytime soon.

Race 8 Picks

  • Win: Dream Lith (8-1)
  • Place: Dolce Zel (5-2)
  • Show: New Year's Eve (12-1)

Race 9

  • Distance: 7 furlongs
  • Name: 8 Belles Stakes - Grade II
  • Age: 3-year-old fillies
  • Surface: Dirt

The 8 Belles should feature a hot pace led by Pretty Birdie (4-1) but a host of other fillies will be right behind her, including Marissa's Mission (7-2), Gerrymander (8-1), and Matareya (5-2). Of the four, Matareya is emerging with the best form coming off a dominant 8+ length victory at the Grade III Beaumont Stakes at Keeneland last month, however, it's hardly a slam dunk. Marissa's Mission beat Matareya last year at Churchill Downs and while she's been doing her most recent running on the synthetic at Turfway Park, the form from that track has been holding up well at Keeneland and Churchill Downs.

If you're looking for a pedigree to fit the likely sloppy conditions, then consider Gerrymander (8-1) whose sire, Gun Runner, has produced an astounding 35% win rate for his offspring on a wet dirt surface. At 12-1, Ain't Easy provide nice value for a filly who has run in three graded stakes races and never finished off the board. She's shipping east from California, which is always a concern, but she should be sitting just behind an aggressive pace and might have things break her way. Finally, another value play to use in exotics is Awake At Midnyte (15-1) who is finally returning to one-turn sprints and should regain her previous form. Her last two races were Kentucky Oaks preps going over a mile, which is clearly not her preferred distance.

Race 9 Picks

  • Win: Matareya (5-2)
  • Place: Ain't Easy (12-1)
  • Show: Awake At Midnyte (15-1)

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Race 10

  • Distance: 5 1/2 furlongs
  • Name: Twin Spires Turf Sprint Stakes - Grade II
  • Age: 3-year-olds and up
  • Surface: Turf

It's too bad if this turf sprint is run on the dirt, but at least several horses have solid form on dirt and it should result in a nice race. If you had told me two months ago that I would get Just Might at 10-1 on the ML, I'd be thrilled. His last two efforts were rough as he got fatigued down the stretch and lost to Pyron. He followed that up with a forgettable 6th place finish at the Grade II Shakertown Stakes where he made the mistake of dueling with Golden Pal. He draws an outside post and has good dirt sprint form having finished on the board in six of eight career tries and he's never missed the board in wet conditions.

Beyond Just Might, the previously mentioned Pyron (6-1) still gives you nice value. Similar to Just Might, he's run well on dirt and has wins in sloppy conditions. Additionally, he should get a nice trip as there will be a good amount of frontend speed with Just Might, Caravel (5-1), Johnny Unleashed (12-1), and Arrest Me Red (4-1) pushing the pace. Pyron should sit right behind them and his outside post positions should be that won't catch too much mud in his face. The horse I would absolutely include in all my exotics is Diamond Oops who is super versatile and loves the dirt. Yes, he probably would like to run longer than 5 1/2 furlongs but he's won at this distance before and he's never lost in sloppy conditions. His dirt sprint speed figures are among the best in the field. Finally, Caravel is a hard-trying mare running against the boys but that has not yielded great results in the past and I'll pass on her for another day.

Race 10 Picks

  • Win: Just Might (10-1)
  • Place: Pyron (6-1)
  • Show: Diamond Oops (12-1)

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Kentucky Oaks Prediction: Race 11

  • Distance: 1 1/8 miles
  • Name: Kentucky Oaks - Grade I
  • Age: 3-year-old fillies
  • Surface: Dirt

This is the most excited I have been for a Kentucky Oaks race in years. The top four of Nest (5-2), Kathleen O. (7-2), Echo Zulu (4-1), and Secret Oath (6-1) are as decorated a group as you will find. What makes is all the more intriguing is that none of them have races against each other before as they have all risen to prominence at different times and on different circuits.

The pace will be set by Echo Zulu and Yuugiri (30-1) who won the Grade III Fantasy at Oaklawn last time out. Going back to 2021, Echo Zulu was the dominant filly, but the bloom came off the rose a bit last time out at the Grade II Fair Ground Oaks. Despite winning and holding off Hidden Connection (20-1), she did not look nearly as dominant as she did as a two-year-old and her speed figures took a dip from her career-best effort at the 2021 Breeders' Cup. That said, she should improve in her second race after a long layoff and has been working out splendidly at Churchill Downs. However, she's never had this good of a group chasing her before.

Nest, who won the Grade I Ashland in dominant fashion, was installed at the morning line favorite. I'm of two mind on Nest as her Beyer Speed Figures are just a touch off from some of the best in the field, but she's won at the 9 furlong distance and did so in impressive fashion dueling Venti Valentine (20-1). If her performance at the Ashland is a sign of things to come then she absolutely should be taken seriously. The other thing working in her favor is that of the remaining Big 4, she will be sitting closest to Echo Zulu and will get first jump.

However, my two favorite fillies from this crop are Kathleen O. and Secret Oath. Secret Oath is emerging from the Grade I Arkansas Derby where she ran against the boys and finished third to Cyberknife and Barber Road, two legitimate Kentucky Derby entrants. Some were worried the race could ruin her but she proved to be up to the challenge and has been turning in blistering workouts over the Churchill Downs surface. The biggest challenge for Secret Oath will be her post position. She drew the far inside post and due to her preference of coming from well off the pace, she could find herself pinched against the rail and trailing the field. She has amazing acceleration and can pass horses in the blink of an eye, but she had a rough trip at the Arkansas Derby and flattened out down the stretch. I have a feeling something similar could happen hereafter she makes her big move.

Therefore, my pick for the Kentucky Oaks is Kathleen O. If you've read my previous columns you know I love lightly-raced horses with constantly improving speed figures and that's what Kathleen O. provides. She has the highest Beyer Speed Figure in the field (98) and is undefeated. She, similar to Secret Oath, has an alluring riding style that simply overwhelms the competition. It's rare to see a true "push button" horse but that's what Kathleen O. is. She regularly breaks toward the back of the pack and then slowly starts gaining on the horses in the back before coming right up on the leaders. At that point, her jockey, Javier Castellano, gives her a push on the neck or one tap of the crop, and she's gone. She should love the distance and will have decent pace to run into.

Now, if you're looking to get beyond the Big 4, my suggestion is to play either Hidden Connection or Venti Valentine. Hidden Connection just barely came up short against Echo Zulu and should like the added distance while returning to the track where she scored a 9+ length victory at the Grade III Pocahontas. Meanwhile, Venti Valentine battled Nest back in 2021 while never finishing worse then second and she can do the distance.

Kentucky Oaks Picks: Race 11

  • Win: Kathleen O.
  • Place: Hidden Connection
  • Show: Secret Oath

Come back tomorrow for my picks and analysis for all of the graded stakes races on Saturday's Kentucky Derby card.

Kentucky Oaks Odds

Post PositionHorseKentucky Oaks Odds
1Secret Oath6-1
2Nostalgic15-1
3Hidden Connection20-1
4Nest5-2
5Goddess of Fire15-1
6Yuugiri30-1
7Echo Zulu4-1
8Venti Valentine20-1
9Desert Dawn20-1
10Kathleen O7-2
11Cocktail Moments30-1
12Candy Raid30-1
13Shamama15-1
14Turnerloose20-1

Article Author

Horse Racing

Matthew DeSantis is a horse racing handicapper with a fondness for lightly raced horses with improving speed figures. You can find him at the track playing surface changes and second off the layoff.

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