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Weekly Bankroll Builder: Handicapping the Kentucky Oaks Pick 4

by Brian Nadeau

May 1, 2019

With racing’s biggest weekend upon us, and all eyes on Louisville and the Kentucky Derby, let’s take a one-week hiatus from the Stronach 5 and give a look to the big Pk4 (R8-11) that’s on-tap Friday, ending with the Kentucky Oaks. The sequence looks like a juicy one, and a multi-million dollar pool is all but assured, so let’s have at it.

*** Please take note that this analysis is done upwards of 48 hours in advance, so obviously weather, track conditions and especially late scratches can and will have an effect. Please check back around 1pm Friday for an update, as well as on Twitter. ***

R8 (2:53 EST): The GI La Troienne – 3upfm at 1 1/16 miles

A very evenly matched group lines up here, and several want to be involved early, so this could be a spot for a stalker/closer to make a late dent. With that in mind, I’m trying for the upset with #5 MOPOTISM (15-1), who has knocked heads with some nice gals out west and held her own and now adds blinkers, which is big 26% move for O’Neill. She also gets Prat today, who is 33% riding for this barn, so expect this miss to be in the 8-1 range, not this vastly overpriced 15-1. The horse to beat, and certainly the “now” horse, is #9 SECRET SPICE (5-2), as she enters off a sharp GI win at Santa Anita in the Beholder Mile, though she has to run a bit farther here, is wide, and wants to be on the chase, so there’s a chance she comes unglued late, which is why I think she’s a bit vulnerable. The house horse is #2 BLUE PRIZE (3-1), who is 6-3-2-0 at CD, so you have to use her in some way, shape, or form, but she also hasn’t run since November and basically runs the same race every time, which gives her zero margin for error over this field, even if she is fully cranked.

Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 5,9,2

Contention runs deep here, and you’ll get a big price on #7 TERSA Z (15-1), who had no chance sprinting last time but will love the return to two turns, and if the pace gets hot, she’s the one who will benefit, though this is the class test, to be sure. I’m going to also include #1 SHE’S A JULIE (7-2) and #3 DIVINE MISS GREY (7-2), since they clearly have the credentials to win this, but they also want to be on or just off the early lead, which is a style that I’m playing against here, so they’re only fringe contenders at underlaid odds to me.

Pk5 B horses: 7,1,3

R9: 3up Optional Claimer at 7 furlongs

The stakes action is broken up by a good AOC, and the comebacking #2 RUGYMAN (6-1) seems primed off the layoff for Motion, as this newly minted gelding hinted at big things last year but never quite put it together, which means the ultimate equipment change could be what puts him over the top. Dropping out of a GII will make #7 SOLID WAGER (5-2) the one to beat, and he’s clearly best on paper, but his lack of early speed is a worry, especially since this is a track that can cater to speed Derby Weekend, so he’s second-best here, though a must-use A. The wildcard is #1 AMERICAN TATTOO (4-1), a GI winner in his native Argentina who now makes his stateside debut and first start for Pletcher off a September layoff, so what you get is a real guess, but he does add Lasix here, and he won his two back home easily.

Pk5 A horses: 2,7,1

You have to dig a bit, but #8 HOME BASE (15-1) has a huge win here last May, the last time he sprinted too, and it’s probably not a coincidence Tomlinson chooses this day as his first start back, and note this is a barn that is 3-for-15 off this elongated break, so there’s reason to think this colt fires a big shot—at a big price.

Pk5 B horses: 8

R10: 3up GII Twin Spire Turf Sprint at 5  furlongs (turf)

Here’s where I probably lose you, and I’ll understand, since I’m trying for a big upset with #5 CHAOS THEORY (12-1), even though #6 WORLD OF TROUBLE (1-1) and #1 BOUND FOR NOWHERE (3-1) are two of the three best turf sprinters in the country. But hear me out before jumping ship, as there are a few good reasons to think just maybe the latter pair get upset. Most notably, the pace here figures to be supersonic, as ‘Nowhere will have to go from the rail, while ‘Trouble will be dueling with him from the outside the entire way. And sure, there’s a very good chance they take their battle all the way to the line, since they are eons the best here, but with expected give in the ground, there’s also a chance they get a little wobbly in the lane, which is where ‘Theory comes in. There’s no doubt he’s stepping way up, but that troubled 4th last time in the GII Shakertown at Keeneland was very promising, and he was just 2 lengths behind ‘Nowhere, and has a ton of upside off just seven starts, so add in the hellacious pace he’ll get, and just maybe he mows both of the down.

Pk5 A horses: 5,6,1

Yes #7 Angaston (15-1) split ‘Nowhere and ‘Theory in the Shakertown, and #8 Undrafted (8-1) likes the course (5-3-2-0) and is another who will close late, but I’m not using any more here, as there’s a very good chance one of the two heavy favorites win, which would further negate the value of your ticket, should you go that much deeper.

Pk5 B horses: NONE

R11: 3yo GI Kentucky Oaks at 1 1/8 miles

It’s rare that you handicap a race and, within two seconds, know how you think it’s going to play out, but that’s the case with the Oaks, as there is a ton of speed, and several who are very suspect going this far, which means a total collapse in deep stretch is in the cards. And that’s exactly how I’ll play it; quite simply, if you want to run on or near the lead, you won’t be on any of my tickets. And that includes you #4 Bellafina (2-1), who will be a stiff favorite off a trio of easy wins at Santa Anita, but bombed shipping here last year for the BC Juvenile Fillies, doesn’t look like a 9F horse to me, and figures to get fried chasing. I’m going to try and blow this up with #2 CHOCOLATE KISSES (20-1), who closed stoutly in winning the GIII Honeybee at Oaklawn Park two-back then was way too close to a hot pace in the GI Ashland at Keeneland last time, but, with Leparoux riding, will undoubtedly be well back in here. The more likely winner from off the pace is #14 RESTLESS RIDER (6-1), who lost an impossible photo in the Ashland in her first start of the year and should be midpack here, though this post isn’t ideal. I’m also using #12 STREET BAND (15-1), since she impressed settling and running off late in winning the GII Fair Grounds Oaks, and #10 CHAMPAGNE ANYONE (6-1), who looked like a new horse going two turns last time, and is another who should settle a bit and get first run on my top-2.

Pk5 A horses: 2,14,12,10

I can’t imagine #3 LADY APPLE (20-1) gets a clean run up the rail again, but she did come from off the pace when winning the GIII Fantasy at OP last time, so she needs to be taken seriously, while #11 JELTRIN (15-1) has never tried two turns but is bred for it, and can close, so may she can double up on her 51-1 win in the GII Davona Dale at Gulfstream Park when last seen in March.

Pk5 B horses: 3,11

The tickets ($0.50):

Main Ticket: 5,9,2 with 2,7,1 with 5,6,1 with 2,14,12,10 = $54
Leg 1 B Backup: 7,1,3 with 2,7,1 with 5,6,1 with 2,14,12,10 = $54
Leg 2 B Backup: 5,9,2 with 8 with 5,6,1 with 2,14,12,10 = $18
Leg 3 B Backup: 5,9,2 with 2,7,1 with 5,6,1 with 3,11 = $27

UPDATED tickets:

Main: 5,9,2 w 15,7,1 w 6 w 2,14,12,10 = $36

Leg 1 Backup: 7,1,3 w 15,7,1 w 6 w 2,14,12,10 = $36
Leg 2 Backup: 5,9,2 w 8 w 6 w 2,14,12,10 = $6
Leg 3 Backup: 5,9,2 w 15,7,1 w 5 w 2,14,12,10 = $36
Leg 4 Backup: 5,9,2 w 15,7,1 w 6 w 3,11 = $18