By Jim Freer
Friday May 1 --Four horses that have raced in Florida this year are among the 14 entrants in a strong field for today’s $1 million Kentucky Oaks (Grade 1).
Birdatthewire, winner of this year’s 1 1/16 mile Gulfstream Park Oaks (Grade 2) on March 28, heads the list of 3-year-old fillies that ran either at Gulfstream Park or at Tampa Bay Downs this winter. At Gulfstream, she also won the seven-furlong Forward Gal (Grade 2) on Jan. 24 and finished second by a neck to Ekati’s Phaeton in the one mile Davona Dale (Grade 2) on Feb. 21.
Birdatthewire has a late-running style, similar to her sire Summer Bird who won the 2009 Belmont Stakes.
Ekati’s Phaeton will be among the favorites today in the seven-furlong Eight Belles (Grade 2). It is the tenth at Churchill Downs, one race before the Oaks.
Include Betty, Eskenformoney and Puca also raced in Florida. All will be 10-1 or higher in the Oaks and all (especially Include Betty) could have decent shots to finish at least third or fourth depending on how the race develops.
All 14 Oaks entrants are Kentucky breds.
The Oaks, at 1 1/8 miles, is today’s 11th race at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., and will be televised on the NBC Sports cable channel.
It is just over three hours to scheduled post of 5:49 p.m. Eastern
Handicapping the Oaks
Horses that take the early lead have generally not fared well at Churchill Downs yesterday or today.
That’s a main reason we are picking Birdatthewire to win, followed by Stellar Wind the 7-2 favorite who also races from off the pace.
Stellar Wind won two stakes at Santa Anita including the Santa Anita Oaks (Grade 1).
Birdatthewire is fifth, at 6-1 in the morning line set by Mike Battaglia.
Other favorites are Condo Commando (4-1), winner of three stakes this year at Aqueduct, and I’m a Chatterbox (4-1), winner of three stakes at Fair Grounds. Lovely Maria, at 5-1, won the Ashland at Keeneland.
All three have won most of their races gate to wire. A maximum of one horse can do that in today’s Oaks.
Background on the Florida horses, with morning line odds:
* Birdatthewire (6-1) - trained by Dale Romans and will be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr, who had the mount in the Gulfstream Park Oaks and the Forward Gal; broke her maiden last Nov. 29 at Churchill, at 1 1/16 miles in an 11-horse field.
* Include Betty (20-1) -- leaped into prominence April 4 when she rallied from 11th and last place after a half mile to win the 1 1/16 mile Fantasy (Grade 3) at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark.; She won by a neck over Oceanwave, who also is in the Oaks; Tom Proctor trains Include Betty, who will be ridden by Rosemary Homeister Jr. Homeister rode Include Betty in the Fantasy and to a win in the Seacoast at Tampa Bay Downs on Jan. 31.
* Eskenformoney -- trained by Todd Pletcher and will be ridden by regular jockey Javier Csastellano; finished second, 1 ¼ lengths behind Birdatthewire in the Gulfstream Park Oaks and third by a neck to that rival in the Davona Dale; so, if you love Birdatthewire today, you might like Eskenformoney’s chances to hit the board; but she races near the front and is stretching out to 1 1/8 miles in a race with a lot of speed.
* Puca -- came in fourth by 6 1/4 lengths in the Davona Dale, and second by 2 ½ lengths to Condo Commando in the 1 1/8 mile Gazelle (Grade 2) at Aqueduct on April 4; trained by Bill Mott and will be ridden by Junior Alvarado.
Kentucky Oaks --Predicted order of finish:
1 - Birdatthewire
2 - Stellar Wind
3 - Lovely Maria
4 - Include Betty
5 - Condo Commando
We have a suggested $72 in bets, including $12 in Oaks-Derby doubles.
We are using a hedge strategy--expecting a speed duel that could compromise the chances of several low-odds horses while helping several double-digit horses that also are closers--most notably Include Betty.
Horses we are using;
3 -- Include Betty
5 -- Condo Commando
7 -- Lovely Maria
10 -- Oceanwave
12 -- Stellar Wind
13 -- Birdatthewire
$1 exacta box 5 7 12 13 $12 bet
$1 exacta box 3 7 12 13 $12 bet
$3 win and show 12 and 13 $12 bet'
$2 show 3 and 10 $4 bet
50 cent tri box 3 7 12 13 $12 bet
50 cent tri part wheel $8 bet
first 12 13
second 5 12 13
third 3 5 7 10 12 13
$1 Oaks/Derby double $12 bet
Oaks 3 Include Betty
12 Stellar Wind