The Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks is the Kentucky Derby’s sister race. It comes the Friday before the Derby, and it attracts the country’s top 3-year-old fillies every year.
This season has one of the finest groups of 3-year-old distaffers in recent memory. A group of four ultra-talented sophomores headlines the 14-horse Kentucky Oaks field, and your guess is as good as mine with regard to which will go favored.
For this reason, it’s a fantastic betting race. You’ll get a square price on whichever horse you like, and in my case, I have a very strong opinion. Let’s dive in!
Undefeated, but not the Kentucky Oaks favorite
#7 Echo Zulu looked like a superstar as a 2-year-old. She went 4-for-4 in 2021, and she won her races by a total of 22 lengths. If I’d told you she’d be 4-1 on the morning line for the Kentucky Oaks six months after her smashing score in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, you’d have probably told me I was crazy.
That’s where we are, though. She’s run just once since that performance. While she won the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks, it was far from an authoritative score. Having said that, I think she’s set for a significant step forward here.
Everything about the Fair Grounds Oaks screams that Echo Zulu needed the race. Her ears were pricked the whole way around. She waited on runner-up Hidden Connection, and despite that behavior, she still got the money. That was her first start in nearly five months. Some rust was to be expected.
I love how she’s been working coming into the Kentucky Oaks. The pattern of a bullet drill, followed by a maintenance work right before the race, is a classic Steve Asmussen move. I think she’ll be back to her old self in this spot. If she is…look out.
Which heavy hitter do we toss?
Tossing that one is the way to go if you have a strong stance against one of the four favorites. You won’t make money boxing the top four choices in exactas. Take a stand. If you’re right, you’ll be rewarded.
I like #1 Secret Oath and #10 Kathleen O. just fine. The former was third against the boys in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, while the latter is 4-for-4 and could benefit from a race heavy on early speed. I’ll use both of these horses underneath.
The one I don’t like, though, is #4 Nest. I just don’t think she’s beaten much in either of her 2022 outings. The Grade 1 Ashland saw her crush an overmatched group by more than eight lengths. However, Cocktail Moments was the runner-up in that race, and she’ll be one of the longest shots on the board. What does that say about the quality of that field?
Of the big four, Nest is my throw-out. She may be talented enough to win, but I see more in the other three, especially at their likely prices.
Betting strategies for the Kentucky Oaks
If Echo Zulu doesn’t win, I lose. I’ll bet her to win, and I’ll play exactas using her on top of the other two contenders I like.
- $20 win: 7
- $5 exactas: 7 w/1,10