Kentucky Oaks Betting Odds: If there’s anything that can be said about 3-year-old fillies in the spring it’s that they can be flighty, and often unpredictable.
After this past weekend’s three stakes races offering Kentucky Oaks qualifying points, the Busher Invitational at Aqueduct, the Honeybee (G3) at Oaklawn, and the Santa Ysabel (G3) at Santa Anita, the old adage proved true as pretenders were separated from contenders.
With less than eight weeks to go before the Kentucky Oaks (G1) on May 1 and the preps still to come surely to be tough, here’s a look at who’s hot, and who’s not:
Donna Veloce, whose name in Italian means Lady Fast, was brilliant Sunday in winning the Santa Ysabel as the 1-5 favorite. The 3-year-old earned 50 points and raised her position to second on the leaderboard with 62 points overall.
While making her first start after a layoff of six months she romped to a 4 ½-length win, but it was the way in which she did it that so impressed. After stumbling badly out of the gate, she found herself in an uncharacteristic spot — last place — but was able to overcome that disadvantage while proving to her connections that she can rate. That is a most valuable asset as she moves forward with a projected start in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) on April 4 with 100-40-20-10 points to the first four finishers.
“I thought it was a perfect race,” trainer Simon Callaghan said. “We didn’t plan to take back like that. I thought she would be the fastest filly, Flavien (Prat) went to Plan B, letting them go when she didn’t break good. She got a good schooling, got around them and I think that is going to serve her to good effect in the future.”
Owner Kaleen Shah parted with $800,000 for the daughter of Uncle Mo a year ago at a 2-year-olds in training sale, and this year the Coolmore connections bought in.
Incidentally, Donna Veloce added her name to the to the roster of past Santa Ysabel winners that include multiple Grade 1 winners Midnight Bisou, Unique Bella, Songbird and Stellar Wind in the previous four years – perhaps an omen of great things to come.
Gamine doesn’t have any points yet, and in fact she made her first start in a maiden special weight on Saturday at Santa Anita … but what a coming out party it was.
Michael Lund Petersen’s daughter of Into Mischief whistled her way around the 6 ½ furlongs on the front end for a 6 ¼-length score without once even being asked to run, signaling she is one to watch and eliciting rare accolades from Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
He called her a “superstar in the making”, and that speaks volumes because that is certainly not a statement Baffert makes often or casually.
The sky seems to be the limit for Gamine, who is certain to try stakes company in her next start. Nonetheless, there’s a lot of ground she must cover to make it to Louisville.
Venetian Harbor stayed safely tucked in her stall this weekend, and sits in 14th place with 11 points for one of the 14 spots in the starting gate, but anticipation is building for her return to action after she took the Las Virgenes (G2) at Santa Anita on Feb. 8. Trainer Richie Baltas is high on his filly as well, saying she may be the best horse he’s ever trained.
Should Donna Veloce, Gamine and Venetian Harbor match up in the Santa Anita Oaks on April 4, it will be, arguably, the most exciting and most definitive of the Oaks prep races this year.
In the Honeybee, Shedaresthedevil, who was jumping way up in class, took herself from a first-level allowance filly to a legitimate Oaks contender by staging a mild upset for trainer Brad Cox. Her victory by three-quarters of a length allows her to make her first appearance on the leaderboard and she’s a comfortable sixth with 50 points.
“This is what we kind of anticipated the horse could be,” said co-owner Autry Lowry, who bought the former Callaghan trainee at last November’s Keeneland sale for $280,000 and had a horse in a graded stakes for the first time. “We thought she could be a special horse. We didn’t know where we would end up, but she seems to be getting better every day.”
Cox said Shedaresthedevil will likely make her final start before the Oaks in the Fantasy Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn on April 10. The race offers 100-40-20-10 points to the first four finishers.
Also picking up points for the Oaks was the Steve Asmussen-trained Alta’s Award, who received 20 points for finishing second and is ranked right behind Shedaresthedevil in seventh on the leaderboard with 20 points. Third-place Motu picked up 10 points for a total of 16, slipping to 10th on the list so she’ll have to turn things around next time out.
In New York, the outings for 4-5 favorite Lake Avenue and 3-1 second pick Madean had to be disappointments to their connections as each blew their shot to pick up major points and climb the ladder.
It wasn’t just that Lake Avenue, the Godolphin homebred trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, finished fourth as the 4-5 favorite, it was that she didn’t put up much of a fight after being in a sweet spot at the top of the lane.
When confronted by Kansas Kis, who put her away at that point in the race, Lake Avenue put up no resistance.
Then Water White came with a devastating late kick and ran down Kansas Kis in the final strides, pulling off a 17-1 upset as the two long shots hit the wire together.
Water White’s stunning victory boosted her points to 54 and vaulted her to fourth in the standings.
Rudy Rodriguez, who trains Water White, said, “She wants to run all day. The pace helped us. The two top horses didn’t run their race and that helped us. She’s a grinder and she kept coming and coming.”
The Gazelle (G2) on April 4 awards 100-40-20-10 points and it looks like that will be the rematch of Water White and Kansas Kis at this stage. As for Lake Avenue, it’s wait and see.
“She came back fine, it just wasn’t her day,” said Leanna Willaford, Mott’s assistant. “She came back well, ate up Saturday night and she’ll be back again. She’s going to go back to Florida and I can imagine she’ll show up either at Keeneland or back here.”
As for Madean, who went into the race with four points, she earned no more and has fallen to 26th on the list.
Here’s the most recent top 14 list, followed by points:
- 1. Finite, 70
- 2. Donna Veloce, 62
- 3. Tonalist’s Shape, 60
- 4. Water White, 54
- 5. British Idiom, 50
- 6. Shedaresthedevil, 50
- 7. Alta’s Award, 20
- 8. Spice is Nice, 20
- 9. Speech, 20
- 10. Motu, 16
- 11. Lake Avenue, 15
- 12. Wicked Whisper, 10
- 13. Serein, 10
- 14. Venetian Harbor, 10
Lynne Snierson, a former director of communications at Arlington Park and Rockingham Park, currently is a freelance writer and racing publicist. She covered thoroughbred racing as an award-winning sportswriter for newspapers In Boston, Miami, and St. Louis. She lives in New Hampshire with Mavis, her retired AKC champion Shetland Sheepdog. Secretariat remains her all-time favorite horse.