Weekend Watch: Grade 1s at Keeneland, Oaklawn kick it off

By Ashley Tamulonis
April 13, 2018 05:57pm

As the road to the 2018 Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks ends this weekend, the action begins Friday, featuring Oaklawn's Fantasy Stakes for the fillies, plus a pair of Grade 1 races for older horses. That's all a preview of the weekend's main attraction, the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby.

Get the rundown on it all right here with all given post times in Eastern.


Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks happenings

This weekend’s preps kicks off a day early with the Grade 3
Fantasy Stakes, the final Kentucky Oaks prep, going to post Friday afternoon. The race attracted eight fillies headed by Wonder Gadot, who is the class of the field despite not having found the winner’s circle this year. She will face Honeybee (G3) winner Cosmic Burst and runner-up Amy’s Challenge. Two others in the field exit that race, as well.

This weekend also concludes the Road to the Kentucky Derby and features the final two preps: the Grade 1
Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn and the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. The Arkansas Derby drew a field of nine, including Tampa Bay Derby (G2) winner Quipthe Rebel Stakes' (G2) top three finishers Magnum Moon, Solomini, and Combatant; plus an interesting new-shooter in Tenfold.

Meanwhile, the
Lexington brought together 12 colts vying for a few extra Derby points. Southwest (G3) winner My Boy Jack was made the 5-2 morning line favorite and will break from the outside, something that should not affect him whatsoever as he is a late-running type. Greyvitos will no doubt be the sentimental choice as a survivor of the Sun Luis Rey Downs fire back in November. He has also overcome a bout of colic as well as having bone chips removed following his Springboard Mile victory. This will be his 2018 debut.

Points for both the Fantasy and the Arkansas Derby will be awarded on a 100-40-20-10 basis while the Lexington will offer them on a 20-8-4-2 scale.

Friday

G3 Fantasy 5:34 p.m.

Saturday

G3 Lexington 5:34 p.m.

G1 Arkansas Derby 7:18 p.m.

Two big Friday Grade 1s

Heart to Heart
finally broke through at the highest level in his last start and will attempt to make it two in a row as the 2-1 morning line favorite in the Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile at Keeneland. Among the field is Hogy, who is typically seen sprinting on the turf rather than going a mile. There is plenty of other talent in the field of 10, including Ballagh RocksNext Shares and Om, who has trainer Dan Hendricks in Kentucky for the first time since he conditioned Derby runner Brother Derek.

Champion
Unique Bella returned with a bang back in February in the Santa Maria (G2), romping to the tune of a nine-length victory. She makes her much anticipated second start of the season in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap, which will also be her first foray outside California. Chief among her rivals is Unbridled Mo, who is undefeated in four starts at the Apple Blossom distance of 1 1/16 miles. She was a disappointing fourth in her seasonal debut but should improve off that effort. Local gals Farrell, Streamline, and Tiger Moth all exit the Azeri (G2), the local prep for this race.

G1 Makers 46 Mile 5:30 p.m.

G1 Apple Blossom 6:39 p.m.

Jenny Wiley brings together a strong cast

If you’re looking for a solid betting opportunity on Saturday, the Grade 1
Jenny Wiley Stakes is it. Eleven fillies and mares have assembled to contest the $350,000 event going 1 1/16 miles on the Keeneland turf. Leading the field are group/grade one placed Sistercharlie, Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1) winner La Coronel, Lake Placid (G2) winner Proctor’s Ledge, Hillsborough (G2) winner Fourstar Crook, multiple group/graded stakes winners Dona Bruja and Cambodia, plus Matriarch (G1) winner Off Limits (IRE). Four of the aforementioned ladies exit the Hillsborough (G2) down at Tampa Bay Downs. Sistercharlie has been installed as the 7-2 morning line favorite in the competitive field despite this being her first race since running second in the Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1) in July.

On the undercard,
Lady Aurelia makes her seasonal debut in the Giant’s Causeway Stakes. The Ascot-winning miss has been off since running 10th, albeit beaten by only three lengths, in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) in November. Last year the filly used this same race as a prep for the Kings Stand (Group 1, Ascot). Morticia and Triple Chelsea could be a threat, but if Lady Aurelia runs her typical race, she will become the first repeat winner of the Giant’s Causeway.

The Grade 3
Ben Ali Stakes attracted just seven. Chip Leader is the anticipated favorite despite not having a win on dirt. Rafting is an attractive option and has been a while different runner since returning off a nearly two year hiatus with an important, anatomical equipment change. Hollywood Handsome has also been racing well this year and is the co-second choice along with Rafting.

G3 Ben Ali 4:24 p.m.

Giant’s Causeway 4:57 p.m.

G1 Jenny Wiley 6:12 p.m.

Oaklawn Handicap caps Arkansas Derby undercard

Three colts who contested the Rebel (G2) are back on Arkansas Derby day but will be racing in the
Northern Spur Stakes rather than the million-dollar main event. Title Ready, fourth in the Rebel, heads the contingent and will break from the rail as the 3-2 morning line favorite. Higher Power and High North are the other two out of the Rebel and will meet recent maiden winner Ego Trip, who is out of a half-sister to multiple grade one winner Frosted.

The Grade 3
Count Fleet Sprint Handicap drew a short but competitive field of six. Four of the top five finishers in the Hot Springs return to knock heads once again with that race’s winner Whitmore installed as the 7-5 morning line favorite. Smart Spree is also a legitimate contender off a three race win streak to begin 2018 despite the step up in class.

Accelerate
travels outside California for the first time since 2016 to take a stab at the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap. Traveling with him from California is dual Grade 1-winning sprinter City of Light, who will be trying two turns and a route distance for the first time. Those two are favored over Essex Handicap winner Hedge Fund and all the local runners.

Northern Spur 5:33 p.m.

G3 Count Fleet 6:09 p.m.

G2 Oaklawn Handicap 6:40 p.m.

 

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Meet Ashley Tamulonis

Despite growing up in a non-horse racing state, Ashley has been a fan of the sport since a young age. Her love for horse racing was fostered through the kids’ book series Thoroughbred by Joanna Campbell, which led her to educate herself on the ins and outs of the sport. Since becoming actively involved in the industry just a few years ago, Ashley has had the opportunity to meet many important players in the industry, attend the Eclipse Awards, see personal favorite Mucho Macho Man race twice in person, and befriend many of the fantastic fans and horsemen involved in the sport.

Ashley began her time with Horse Racing Nation covering racing in South Florida but also blogged about nationwide racing, industry issues and, from time to time, offered her opinion on how various changes could be beneficial to the industry. A move North to New Hampshire began both a new chapter in both Ashley's personal life and professional life. She currently pens the From Coast to Coast blog for HRN. Ashley also participates as a voter in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Polls.

An alumni of Macon State College, Ashley is from Central Georgia but is currently living in New Hampshire with her husband, Chris, and their two sons Charlie and Michael. A stay-at-home mom, Ashley juggles parenting with blogging and her other passions. Aside from horse racing, Ashley is a fervent football fan, enjoys reading and studying history, and hopes to someday author a historical work covering the Tudor period as well as biographies of horse racing’s stars, equine and human alike.

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