by Chris Baughman
LouisvilleKY.com handicapping expert
The field for the 2013 Kentucky Oaks appears to be one of the deepest and most talented in recent years. Most interestingly, almost all of the horses entered like to get an early lead. As a result, the winner will most likely be the filly who can relax behind what is expected to be a very hot early pace and make a late run to secure the victory.
Perhaps the speediest horse in the race is Beholder. She has made the early lead in five of her last six races, including a wire to wire score in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies last November. But her pedigree suggests she would be at her best sprinting, and the Santa Anita track was particularly kind to frontrunners last Fall. As a result, many handicappers are downgrading her chances in the Kentucky Oaks.
Rose to Gold has won her last two starts at Oaklawn Park in wire to wire to fashion, and she seems to run her best races when loose on the lead. It is hard to picture that scenario in the Oaks. Close Hatches won her last two starts at Gulfstream Park from the lead and has made only three starts in her young career. However, she closed very well in her first start to win that race, and will be ridden by Joel Rosario. Mr. Rosario is on an unparalleled hot streak at present, breaking the record for all time wins in a Spring Meet at Keeneland last month with 37 wins, and he has continued his winning ways at Churchill Downs so far this meet. One has to believe that if anybody can get Close Hatches to relax, it will be Joel Rosario.
Trainer Bob Baffert sends Midnight Lucky to the post for her third start. While she has run just twice in her career, she won both of her races quite easily in very fast times. Additionally, she has really impressed the local clockers with her morning workouts at Churchill Downs. If she can rate early, she certainly has a big chance in the Oaks.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who will send five horses to the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, sends four horses to the post for the Kentucky Oaks, two of whom seem to have an excellent chance to win. Unlimited Budget comes into the race with a perfect four for four record, and she has shown an ability to come from behind and circle the field in one of her wins. This race certainly seems to set up well for her. But perhaps the most talented horse in the race is Dreaming of Julia, who won the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park by over 21 lengths in her last race. She looks to be a very deserving favorite in the Kentucky Oaks.
Finally, if one is looking for a live longshot, a case can certainly be made for the deep closer Pure Fun. She came from dead last to win the Hollywood Starlet Stakes and a fast early pace certainly will help set up her late run.
1. Dreaming of Julia
2. Unlimited Budget
3. Midnight Lucky
4. Pure Fun
Good luck to all in what appears to be a memorable 2013 Kentucky Oaks.