One day before he saddles four 2021 Kentucky Derby starters, trainer Todd Pletcher will send forward an undefeated Grade 1 winner Friday afternoon in the Kentucky Oaks.
Malathaat looks to improve to 5-for-5 lifetime as 5-2 morning-line favorite for the 2021 Kentucky Oaks. She and 12 other 3-year-old fillies will go 1 1/8 miles at 5:51 p.m. EDT, with NBCSN to air the Grade 1, $1.25 million event.
Shadwell Stable purchased the Curlin filly Malathaat for $1.05 million as a yearling in 2019. She began her career with three victories at 2, including in Aqueduct’s Demoiselle Stakes (G2).
Malathaat did not start her 2021 campaign until April 3 at Keeneland in the Ashland Stakes (G1). She needed every step of 1 1/16 miles to get past Pass the Champagne at the wire and remain undefeated.
Pletcher seeks his fourth Kentucky Oaks triumph after winning the race with Ashado (2004), Rags to Riches (’07) and Princess of Sylmar (’13). Jockey John Velazquez, whose lone Oaks win came aboard Ashado for Pletcher, gets the call Friday on Malathaat.
The 3-1 co-second choices on the morning line are Gazelle Stakes (G3) winner Search Results for trainer Chad Brown and Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) heroine Travel Column for Bad Cox’s barn.
Other fillies of note include Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2) victor Clairiere (5-1), Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) winner Crazy Beautiful (15-1) and Pass the Champagne (15-1), who nearly upset Malathaat in the Ashland.
Here is a look at the 2021 Kentucky Oaks field (trainer and jockey in parentheses) with morning-line odds:
1. Pauline’s Pearl (Steve Asmussen, Ricardo Santana Jr.), 20-1
2. Maracuja (Rob Atras, Kendrick Carmouche), 20-1
3. Clairiere (Steve Asmussen, Tyler Gaffalione), 5-1
4. Crazy Beautiful (Kenny McPeek, Jose Ortiz), 15-1
5. Pass the Champagne (George Weaver, Javier Castellano), 15-1
6. Travel Column (Brad Cox, Florent Geroux), 3-1
7. Ava’s Grace (Robertino Diodoro, David Cohen), SCR
8. Moraz (Michael McCarthy, Flavien Prat), 30-1
9. Coach (Brad Cox, Luis Saez), 50-1
10. Malathaat (Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez), 5-2
11. Will’s Secret (Dallas Stewart, Jon Court), 30-1
12. Search Results (Chad Brown, Irad Ortiz Jr.), 3-1
13. Competitive Speed (Javier Gonzalez, Chris Landeros), 50-1
14. Millefeuille (Bill Mott, Joel Rosario), 20-1
TimeformUS’ pace projections show long shot Ava’s Grace taking the early lead, but that long shot scratched Wednesday with an injury. With her out of the picture, perhaps jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. sends Search Results to the front.
Favorite Malathaat is projected to settle on the outside around mid-pack, while a hot pace up front could help Clairiere as the field’s deepest closer.
Kentucky Oaks links
HRN’s team of writers, editors and contributors make their expert picks for the 2021 Kentucky Oaks.
Churchill Downs’ notes team spoke to the connections of Kentucky Oaks hopefuls Thursday to get their thoughts on final tuneups for the race.
Reinier Macatangay runs through the entire Kentucky Oaks field, separating win contenders and live long shots from fillies to toss. He also offers advice on how to bet the Kentucky Oaks/Kentucky Derby double.
Matt Shifman and Brian Zipse make picks for both the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby on HorseCenter.
Zipse reveals his favorite bets of the weekend, including a two-day Pick 3 covering the Kentucky Oaks, Turf Classic and Kentucky Derby. See the duo he likes in the Oaks.
Laura Pugh offers five bold predictions for Kentucky Derby weekend, including a trio for Friday’s Kentucky Oaks card.
And Ashley Tamulonis thinks Travel Column looms large in this race. See her full-field analysis here.
Friday’s Churchill Downs card features six graded stakes, including the Kentucky Oaks. Earlier this week, NBC handicapper Eddie Olczyk offered his favorite value pick for the day’s action.
Kentucky Oaks card
Here is a look at the other graded stakes taking place Friday afternoon at Churchill Downs. All times are EDT, and all races can be seen on NBCSN.
1:26 p.m. – Race 6: $400,000 Alysheba Stakes (G2), 4-and-up, 1 1/16 miles, dirt
After taking the first loss of his six-race career in March’s Santa Anita Handicap (G1), Maxfield returns as 4-5 morning-line favorite for the Alysheba. The 4-year-old Street Sense colt is 2-for-2 at Churchill Downs, including a Matt Winn Stakes (G3) victory last May. Jockey Jose Ortiz rides for trainer Brendan Walsh. The 9-2 second choice is Roadster, a 2019 Kentucky Derby starter who has returned to Bob Baffert’s barn after running fourth last month in Fair Grounds’ New Orleans Classic Stakes (G2) for trainer Mike Stidham.
2:09 p.m. – Race 7: $300,000 Edgewood Stakes (G2), 3-year-old fillies, 1 1/16 miles, turf
Aunt Pearl was perfect over three starts in 2020, capping the year with an authoritative Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf win. The Lope de Vega filly makes the first start of her 3-year-old season in the Edgewood, where she is 4-5 morning-line favorite for trainer Brad Cox. Jockey Florent Geroux has the mount. Gift Box (7-2) made her U.S. debut earlier this month for trainer Brian Lynch and was second at Keeneland in the Appalachian Stakes (G2).
3:03 p.m. – Race 8: $500,000 La Troienne Stakes (G1), 4-and-up fillies and mares, 1 1/16 miles, dirt
One year after Shedaresthedevil upset Gamine and Swiss Skydiver in the 2020 Kentucky Oaks, she returns on the 2021 Oaks card as the 8-5 morning-line favorite for the La Troienne. In her first start of 2021, the 4-year-old Daredevil filly edged Letruska last month at Oaklawn Park in the Azeri Stakes (G2). Shedaresthedevil’s jockey, Geroux, and trainer, Cox, seek another La Troienne victory after taking the race’s 2020 edition with Monomoy Girl. Dunbar Road (5-2) won her only prior Churchill start for trainer Chad Brown last May in the Shawnee Stakes and makes her 5-year-old bow here.
4:04 p.m. – Race 9: $300,000 Eight Belles Stakes (G2), 3-year-old fillies, seven furlongs, dirt
2020 Frizette Stakes (G1) heroine Dayoutoftheoffice races for the first time as a 3-year-old in the Eight Belles for trainer Timothy Hamm. The Into Mischief filly breezed a bullet five furlongs at Keeneland in 58 seconds April 23 and is the 3-1 morning-line favorite. Jockey Gerardo Corrales will pilot last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies runner-up. Kalypso (5-1) won Santa Anita’s Santa Ynez Stakes (G2) in January for Baffert and returns to that seven-furlong distance after trying a pair of two-turn events.
4:55 p.m. – Race 10: $250,000 Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G2), 3-and-up, 5 1/2 furlongs, turf
Trainer Joe Sharp saddles 7-2 morning-line favorite Fast Boat, winner of January’s Pulse Power Turf Sprint Stakes at Sam Houston in his last start. The 6-year-old City Zip gelding is 2-for-3 at Churchill Downs with a pair of allowance optional claiming wins. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. picks up the mount. Two-time stakes winner Fiya and two-time Grade 3 hero Sombeyay are the 4-1 co-second choices for trainers Thomas Albertrani and Peter Miller, respectively.
Kentucky Oaks preview
From Churchill Downs’ communications department:
Shadwell Stable’s undefeated Malathaat has been installed as the 5-2 morning line favorite in a field of 14 3-year-old fillies entered Monday for the 147th running of the Grade 1, $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks to be run at 1 1/8 miles Friday afternoon.
The centerpiece of Friday’s 13-race program, which features six graded stakes, the Kentucky Oaks will go as the 11th race with a 5:51 p.m. (all times EDT) post time. First post Friday is 10:30 a.m.
Live coverage of the Kentucky Oaks, which will reward the winner with a check of $767,250, will be provided by NBCSN’s telecast from noon to 6 p.m.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, a three-time Kentucky Oaks winner, Malathaat comes into Friday’s race off a victory in the Ashland Stakes (G1) at Keeneland on April 3 that served as her 2021 debut. John Velazquez, who won the 2004 Oaks for Pletcher on Ashado, has the mount and will break from post 10.
Co-second choice on the line at 3-1 are Klaravich Stables’ Search Results and OXO Equine’s Travel Column.
Trained by Chad Brown, Search Results is perfect in three starts with her most recent coming in Gazelle Stakes (G3) on April 3 at the Oaks distance of 1 1/8 miles. Irad Ortiz Jr., who has been aboard for two of those three victories, has the mount Friday and will break from post 12.
Travel Column could give the trainer-jockey combination of Brad Cox and Florent Geroux a third Oaks victory and second in a row.
Cox and Geroux teamed to win the 2020 Oaks with Shedaresthedevil and in 2018 won with the champion Monomoy Girl. Geroux has been aboard Travel Column for all five of her starts with the most recent being a victory in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2). Travel Column will break from post six.
Cox will have one other starter in the race in Kueber Racing’s Coach (50-1). Third in the Fantasy Stakes (G3) in her most recent start, Coach will be ridden by Luis Saez and break from post nine.
Fourth choice on the line at 5-1 is Clairiere, one of two entrants for Stonestreet Stables and trainer Steve Asmussen, who is seeking his third victory in the race.
Clairiere, who has faced Travel Column in her past three starts with a victory in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2) and runner-up finishes in the Golden Rod Stakes (G2) and Fair Grounds Oaks, will be ridden for the first time Friday by Tyler Gaffalione and break from post three.
Pauline’s Pearl (20-1), winner of the Fantasy in her most recent start, will be ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr., and break from post one.
In addition to Velazquez and Geroux, two other riders will be seeking another Oaks victory.
Jose Ortiz, who won the 2019 running on Serengeti Empress, will be aboard Phoenix Thoroughbred III’s Crazy Beautiful (15-1) for trainer Kenny McPeek. Winner of the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) in her most recent start, Crazy Beautiful will break from post four.
Javier Castellano, who guided Cathryn Sophia to victory in the 2016 Oaks, has the call on Pass the Champagne (15-1) for trainer George Weaver. Owned by the partnership of R. A. Hill Stable, Black Type Thoroughbreds, BlackRidge Stables and James Brown, Pass the Champagne was second to Malathaat in the Ashland in her most recent start. She will break from post five.
Going for a second training win in the Oaks is Dallas Stewart, who saddled Lemons Forever to victory in the 2006 renewal. Stewart trains Willis Horton Racing’s Will’s Secret, (30-1) winner of the Martha Washington Stakes and Honeybee Stakes (G3) prior to running third in the Ashland. Jon Court has the mount and will exit post 11.