Kentucky Oaks Day stakes picks

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Here we go, time to lead off another Triple Crown season and unofficial official This Is Horse Racing handicapping challenge. Back to normal somewhat with Kentucky Oaks Day back in the lead-off role and six stakes for our bulked-up handicapping team to decipher.

Regulars Joe Clancy, Sean Clancy and Tom Law are back and they’re joined by The Saratoga Special’s leading handicapper John Shapazian along with familiar pickers Charles Bedard and Rob Whitlock.

Two new faces but surely familiar names join the team in Jessica Paquette, who will come on board The Special’s handicapping page “The Power Grid” later this summer, and frequent contributor Paul Halloran.

A 13-race card is on tap for Friday with first post set for 10:30 a.m. The first of six straight stakes – the $400,000 Alysheba for older horses – goes as the sixth at 1:26 with the Kentucky Oaks set for 5:51. The Oaks attracted its usual strong cast and a full field of 14 3-year-old fillies led by a pair of unbeatens and oddly only one runner from the West Coast.

Here are the picks from the team. Be safe, stay healthy and good luck.

Alysheba Stakes presented by Sentient Jet (G2). $400,000, 4-year-olds and up, 1 1/16 miles. Post time 1:26 p.m.

Maxfield always looked destined for the first Saturday in May. He didn’t make it last year after an injury derailed his spring campaign and the Derby was moved to September. Didn’t make it this year, either, with the Alysheba starting off the stakes on the last day of April. Regardless he’s the one to beat here coming off lone defeat – a third by 2 lengths in the Big ‘Cap last time – against just five foes.

John: Maxfield, Roadster, Chess Chief.
Jessica: Maxfield, Sonneman, Visitant
Joe: Chess Chief, Maxfield, Roadster.
Tom: Maxfield, Roadster, Chess Chief.
Paul: Maxfield, Sonneman, Roadster.
Charles: Chess Chief, Sonneman, Maxfield.
Rob: Roadster, Maxfield, Chess Chief.
Sean: Maxfield, Roadster, Chess Chief.

Edgewood Stakes presented by Newport Racing & Gaming (G2). $300,000, fillies, 3-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles, turf. Post time 2:09 p.m.

Thursday’s rain figures to leave plenty of cut in the ground but it probably won’t stop unbeaten Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Aunt Pearl. She broke her maiden on the course last September and makes her belated sophomore debut here against six others.

John: Aunt Pearl, Zaajel, Postnup.
Jessica: Postnut, Aunt Pearl, Zaajel.
Joe: Aunt Pearl, Gift List, Zajeel.
Tom: Aunt Pearl, Gift List, Zaajel.
Paul: Gift List, Aunt Pearl, Zaajel.
Charles: Line Dancing, Aunt Pearl, Postnup.
Rob: Aunt Pearl, Gift List, Postnup.
Sean: Aunt Pearl, Gift List, Postnup.

La Troienne Stakes presented by (G1). $500,000, fillies and mares, 4-year-olds and up, 1 1/16 miles. Post time 3:03 p.m.

Louisville lovers unite with five of the main players – Envoutante, Shedaresthedevil, Dunbar Road, Paris Lights and Finite – bringing a combined 11-for-11 record at Churchill to the table. No doubt the Grade 1 Apple Blossom two weeks ago took some of the starch out of his traditional Oaks Day fixture but a strong cast lines up with last year’s Kentucky Oaks winner Shedaresthedevil, 2019 Alabama winner Dunbar Road, 2020 Coaching Club American Oaks winner Paris Lights and graded stakes winners Finite, Sanenus and Envoutante in the field.

John: Dunbar Road, Shedaresthedevil, Sanenus.
Jessica: Shedaresthedevil, Dunbar Road, Finite.
Joe: Sanenus, Shedaresthedevil, Paris Lights.
Tom: Dunbar Road, Paris Lights, Shedaresthedevil.
Paul: Dunbar Road, Sanenus, Shedaresthedevil.
Charles: Shedaresthedevil, Dunbar Road, Envoutante.
Rob: Shedaresthedevil, Dunbar Road, Envoutante.
Sean: Shedaresthedevil, Paris Lights, Dunbar Road.

Eight Belles Stakes presented by Smithfield (G2). $300,000, fillies, 3-year-olds, 7 furlongs. Post time 4:04 p.m.

Often a tale of a few stories in here with former Oaks hopefuls shortening up, some starting out and others looking for more sprint success. Dayoutoftheoffice, winner of the Grade 1 Frizette and runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies last year, falls into the middle category in her first start of the year. Daughter of Into Mischief prepped for her return at Tampa Bay Downs and Keeneland and will be tough on her day.

John: Dayoutoftheoffice, Slumber Party, Obligatory.
Jessica: Cantata, Souper Sensational, Dayoutoftheoffice.
Joe: Dayoutoftheoffice, Caramel Swirl, Slumber Party.
Tom: Souper Sensational, Dayoutoftheoffice, Obligatory.
Paul: Souper Sensational, Kalypso, Obligatory.
Charles: Slumber Party, Dayoutoftheoffice, Euphoric.
Rob: Obligatory, Dayoutoftheoffice, Kalypso.
Sean: Windmill,  Dayoutoftheoffice, Abrogate.

Twin Spires Turf Sprint Stakes presented by Sysco (G2). $250,000, 3-year-olds and up, 5 1/2 furlongs, turf. Post time 4:55 p.m.

Don’t look now but perhaps this is the start of Fiya’s march toward the top of the American turf sprint division. He’s won three in a row since Rob Masiello paid $400,000 for the Maryland-bred Friesan Fire gelding via an internet auction. Overall he’s won five in a row and takes step into graded company here against a somewhat suspect group. Diamond Oops and Fast Boat are deserving favorites with respectable and sometimes winning runs in graded stakes.

John: Fiya, Fast Boat, Sombeyay.
Jessica: Diamond Oops, Fast Boat, Fiya.
Joe: Fiya, Fast Boat, Carotari.
Tom: Fiya, Just Might, Somebeyay.
Paul: Sombeyay, Fast Boat, Fiya.
Charles: Fast Boat, Sombeyay, Fiya.
Rob: Fast Boat, Guildsman, Sombeyay.
Sean: Fiya, Carotari, Fast Boat.

Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1). $1,250,000, fillies, 3-year-olds. 1 1/8 miles. Post time 5:51 p.m.

The main event and a full field of 14 led by the unbeaten duo of Malathaat for Todd Pletcher and Search Results for Chad Brown. The former came off four-month freshening to win the Grade 1 Central Bank Ashland in her 2020 debut April 3 at Keeneland and already owns a win at the 9-furlong trip. Same for the latter, who won the Grade 3 Gazelle on the Wood Memorial undercard after a victory in the 1-mile Busher in early March. They’re not alone on credentials though, with Fair Grounds Oaks winner Travel Column, Rachel Alexandra winner Clairiere, Fantasy winner Pauline’s Pearl and Gulfstream Park Oaks winner Crazy Beautiful in the field.

John: Travel Column, Malathaat, Maracuja.
Jessica: Malathaat , Search Results, Clairiere.
Joe: Clairiere, Travel Column, Malathaat.
Tom: Travel Column, Malathaat, Passs The Champagne.
Paul: Search Results, Millefeuille, Malathaat.
Charles: Travel Column, Clairiere, Malathaat.
Rob: Pass The Champagne, Malathaat, Search Results.
Sean: Pass The Champagne, Travel Column, Malathaat.