Celebrate Good Times: Oaks Day is Here!

Kentucky Oaks

LOUISVILLE, KY (MAY 5, 2017) – Do you like rain?  How about a wet seat?  Have you practiced how to put on a poncho? If you haven’t, please go to this web address to get an instructional video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5EZIxQTGUW0).

Now, you are ready for a wonderful day at the Downs.  Don’t cuss the rain.  It is the reason we have May flowers and the reason that the turf course grows.  Don’t cuss the guy who owns the mud pit where you parked your car.  You can have a fun time in that a little later.  And, don’t cuss the horses today.  Some of them will love the track and the rain.  And, some of them will not.  The key is finding the former and eliminating the latter.

So, here we go for the Kentucky Oaks.  The world’s greatest race for 3-year-old fillies.  While trainer Jerry Hollendorfer stayed in California last year with the great Songbird (virus) and again deciding to sit on the sidelines this year with Unique Bella (sore shins), don’t fret.  This year’s version of the Run for the Lilies may be one of the deepest, most talented fields in the history of the 11/18-mile race.

This field of fillies is deep and wide.  Kind of like the wet track today.

“I’m very happy with her (Paradise Woods),” said trainer Richard Mandella just a couple of days ago.  “She looks like she’s getting better.  But I’ve been here before and left with my tail between my legs.  This race isn’t easy.”

As you slosh your way to your seat, you will probably hear talk about Paradise Woods, who won the Santa Anita Derby in her last start by over 11 lengths.  Possibly,  you will hear her name mentioned all day long. But no matter what you hear, from the fan next door to the morning show pundits, all extolling the virtues of Paradise Woods, listen to Mandella – one of the finest trainers of all time.

This race will not be easy.  a few points to consider….


  • First, Abel Tasman, who finished over 11 lengths behind Paradise Woods in the Santa Anita Oaks in their last encounter.  That was first time out for this filly wearing the Baffert badge, with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith in the irons. Horse, rider and trainer learned a lot in that outing.


  • Next, there is the speed factor, as in there is a BUNCH of speed in this race. Speed from every chute could compromise Paradise Woods, who prefers to be on or close to the lead throughout the race.


  • Consider the size of the field. Fourteen horses in this race , the largest by 4 that paradise has ever seen. She broke her maiden in a field of 10,  and faced only six others in the Santa Anita Oaks.  Crowded fields make for crowded races.


  • The experience factor. Most of the horses in this race have more experience, more races under foot. And Paradise Woods has run in the afternoon hours only three times.


The rest of this talented field includes Farrell, undefeated this year,  going for her third stakes win today.  She has run four times at Churchill Downs already, winning twice – including the Grade II Golden Rod here last November.

Ever So Clever, winner of the Grade III Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn in her last, has run three times at Churchill Downs and has never been off the board.  She nearly won the Grade II Pocahontas Stakes her in the slop last September.

And, finally, my longshot play of The Oaks… Daddy’s Lil Darling, who ran a huge second in the Grade I Ashland in her last and only start this year.  She has raced three times at Churchill with one win and one second.  Plus, she LOVES the mud.

Paradise Woods may be good enough to overcome all of that.  She may be the best filly to run in years.  She will have to prove it today against a world-class field.

Other horses of note include Salty, another highly touted filly trained by Mark Casse.  There is Miss Sky Warrior, who has won five of six lifetime starts including the Grade II Gazelle in her last, by a margin even larger than Paradise Wood’s win.  Miss Sky Warrior won by 13.

So, what do you do?

Have fun.  Visit our web site www.thepressboxlts.com for race picks up and down the card today. My picks are listed there as well.

And as a thank you for joining us at The Pressbox, I offer these weekend Oaks/Derby double dipper delectables:

I’ll have (13) Abel Tasman + (7) Farrell + (12) Daddys Lil Darling + (4) Paradise Woods + (14) Salty + (1) Ever So Clever with/ Derby contender McCracken.

Also , I’ll double down on this ticket… (13) Abel Tasman + (7) Farrell +(12) Daddy’s Lil Darling w/ Derby contenders McCracken, Thunder Snow, Gunnevera, J Boys Echo, Tapwrit.

Lastly, consider a single play with (13) Abel Tasman and Derby contender McCracken.

Good luck today.  And if needed, visit ol’ C-pop at his poncho stand.

Have a great Oaks!


All the Best/Gene

(Well Defined) has a ton of natural talent and I was going to take advantage of that today,” Morales explained. “I wasn’t too worried about where I was going to be because we were really lucky with the draw position on the outside, so I figured I was going to ride a cool race.

“The horse is naturally fast and has a super-long stride, so I was going to come out running, but if somebody wanted to take the lead, I was OK with that,” Morales said. No one did, and he stretched the lead to three lengths from Knicks Go up the backstretch.

“All I wanted to do was ride a cool and collected race and keep my horse running,” Morales said. “I didn’t feel like I was going that fast at all, and my horse was going as comfortable as he possible could.

“I knew he was doing it relaxed and very much on his own. I had a lot of horse going into the second turn, so I figured I was going to ask him a little more and not wait for them to get me. If they were going to catch me, they were really going to have to come running.”

  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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