2016 Kentucky Oaks Day stakes picks

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How about a six-pack of stakes to get the weekend off to a flying start? That’s what’s on tap Friday at Churchill Downs, the day headlined of course by a strong renewal of the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks.

This year’s Oaks doesn’t feature unbeaten champion Songbird – she was ruled out last month after a minor ailment – but it does bring together an extremely strong group of 3-year-old fillies. A few who chased her out West – Fair Grounds Oaks winner Land Over Sea and Santa Anita Oaks runner-up Mokat – will try to carry the banner for California. The East Coast is well represented, too, with Rachel’s Valentina, Lewis Bay and Cathryn Sophia leading the way while a strong group from Kentucky is led by once-beaten Fantasy winner Terra Promessa and Ashland winner Weep No More.

The day gets rolling with big showdown of older fillies and mares in the La Troienne and the card also features stakes on the grass and going short and long on the main track.

Our handicapping team of Tom, Joe and Sean are back this year and will make picks for the Friday-Saturday cards at each of the stops on the Triple Crown. Good luck.

La Troienne (G1). $300,000, 4-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, 1 1/16 miles. 1:26 p.m. ET.
What a start to the stakes action with showdown between Curalina and Sheer Drama, third and fourth, respectively, in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff. The former makes her 2016 debut while the latter exits impressive victory over Distaff winner Stopchargingmaria in Grade 1 Madison going 7 furlongs April 9 at Keeneland. Penwith got freshening after fourth in Grade 1 Santa Margarita in mid-March at Santa Anita Park.

Tom: Curalina, Sheer Drama, Penwith.
Joe: Sheer Drama, Penwith, Curalina.
Sean: Curalina, Sheer Drama, Penwith.

Eight Belles (G2). $200,000, 3-year-olds, fillies, 7 furlongs. 2:08 p.m.
Carina Mia was very keen running on the lead in sophomore debut last time in Grade 1 Ashland and cuts back to one-turn trip for second start of 2016. Nickname ran a winning race last time in Grade 2 Beaumont at Keeneland but couldn’t hold off Acorn Stakes-bound Lightstream in game runner-up effort.

Tom: Nickname, Carina Mia, Blip n’ Th Bye.
Joe: Carina Mia, Summer Reading, Nickname.
Sean: Summer Reading, Nickname, Carina Mia. 

Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G3). $150,000, 3-year-olds, 5 furlongs, turf. 3:02 p.m.
Big question is can we dismiss the dismal eighth last time by Power Alert in Grade 3 Shakertown and back him to defend title in race he won last year over Undrafted and Something Extra. Several others from the Shakertown are back, along with Something Extra. Doug O’Neill might get weekend off to banner start with Guns Loaded in from the West Coast.

Tom: Hootenanny, Guns Loaded, Power Alert.
Joe: Guns Loaded, Hootenanny, Something Extra.
Sean: Power Alert, Hootenanny, Weast Hill.

Alysheba (G2). $400,000, 4-year-olds and up, 1 1/16 miles. 4:02 p.m.

Eagle and Noble Bird were one-two in strong edition of Grade 3 Ben Ali less than three weeks ago at Keeneland, while Top Billing also exits victory in allowance-optional exactly three weeks ago in Lexington. Cat Burgler shows up in a lot of spots like this and exits win in Santana Mile in early April at Santa Anita Park for Bob Baffert.

Tom: Top Billing, Cat Burgler, Eagle.
Joe: Top Billing, Noble Bird, Cat Burglar.
Sean: Eagle, Noble Bird, Top Billing. 

Edgewood (G3). $150,000, 3-year-olds, fillies, 1 1/16 miles, turf. 4:52.
Catch A Glimpse, Ava’s Kitten and Outsider Art, the first three from Grade 3 Appalachian at Keeneland are back for another try. Catch A Glimpse rides five-race win streak as she bids for third straight graded stakes win to open sophomore campaign. Harmonize tried her in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf but couldn’t finish better than seventh after a trouble start and wide trip. She prepped for this with win in small stakes in late March at Gulfstream after training at Payson Park all winter for Bill Mott. Adore was under consideration for Kentucky Oaks and has never run on grass. Pedigree says she’ll handle it.

Tom: Adore, Catch A Glimpse, Harmonize.
Joe: Outsider Art, Catch A Glimpse, Enjoy Yourself.
Sean: Catch A Glimpse, Outsider Art, Harmonize. 

Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1). $1 million, 3-year-olds, fillies, 1 1/18 miles.
Featured event looked like a near walkover for champion Songbird a month ago but she’s out after battling a fever recently at Santa Anita Park. Her absence makes for a competitive renewal of signature race, with the likes of Rachel’s Valentina, Terra Promessa, Lewis Bay and Land Over Sea in the mix. Cathryn Sophia tries to rebound after her first loss in Grade 1 Ashland, won with a monster closing effort by fellow Oaks entrant Weep No More.
Tom: Cathryn Sophia, Rachel’s Valentina, Land Over Sea.
Joe: Cathryn Sophia, Rachel’s Valentina, Weep No More.
Sean: Weep No More, Cathryn Sophia, Rachel’s Valentina.