It's Derby time again - that annual celebration in the city of Louisville where we blow off work for a couple days, drink way more than we should, and end up dirt-poor and severely hungover. In short, it's the best time of year to be a Louisvillian.
The actual running of the Derby isn't until tomorrow, but that won't stop more than 100,000 fans from filing into Churchill Downs today. Today is the running of the 134th Kentucky Oaks, a Grade 1 stakes race and the premier race for 3-year old fillies (girl horses, for those of you who need track-speak translation).
EIGHT BELLES (5/2 ML odds) is the favorite in the Oaks. She was slated to run in the Kentucky Derby as late as yesterday, but a late gambit by her training team has allowed her to squeeze in against a slightly smaller 12 horse field. BELLES has won her last four races, including two graded stakes entries. She is running from the far outside in the 12 spot, so she'll have a longer trip than the rest of the field.
PROUD SPELL has garnered a lot of local and national attention was the favorite until EIGHT BELLES came into the picture. PROUD SPELL enters the morning as a slight underdog (7/2) to BELLES, but not by much. In seven races in her lifetime, PROUD SPELL has never missed the money. She will contend today.
Running from the 6th position, COUNTRY STAR (4-1) should not be written off. She ran poorly in her last race out the Ashland G1 stakes at Keeneland, where she finished 7th against a field that will include 3 of her fellow competitors today. However, that race was run over Keeneland's notoriously-difficult-to-handicap polytrack surface, over which many good horses have run poorly in recent months. Just remember, COUNTRY STAR has won twice at the G1 level, proving she can run against the best competition.
If you're looking for a bomber to fill out a trifecta or superfecta, GOLDEN DOC A (12-1) out of the 1 shoot may be the horse to ring the cash register. Ridden by Kent Desormeaux, who is enjoying a career renaissance of sorts this year, GOLDEN DOC A has a history as a slow stalker and a fast closer. In a crowded bunch down the backstretch, GOLDEN DOC A has a good chance to crash the board.
PICKS: EIGHT BELLES (WIN); PROUD SPELL (PLACE); GOLDEN DOC A (SHOW); COUNTRY STAR.