ANALYSIS: Jennie Rees breaks down Oaks field, post positions

ANALYSIS: Jennie Rees breaks down Oaks field, post positions

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Here are some take-aways following the Kentucky Oaks post-position draw:

Trainer Wayne Catalano quipped that he'd bet now on his filly Farrell if he could lock into her 5-1 odds. Farrell is training well, and the Golden Rod winner has a huge chance. But the 3-year-old filly whose odds I'd love to lock into right now is Ashland winner Sailor's Valentine at 30-1.

Sailor's Valentine was 22-1 in capturing the Grade 1 Ashland by a half-length over the well-regarded Daddy's Lil Darling. If you look at her speed figures, as odds-maker Mike Battaglia closely does, you'd make her a price. But anybody who has watched her train at Churchill Downs would bet her all day at 30-1. She is the "overlay" of the race, meaning her odds likely will be far higher than they should be. If nothing else, she'll get a lot of support from all the people who bet the gray, as she's a lovely silver shade.

Sailor's Valentine also has run only one poor race, and that came sprinting. The daughter of Mizzen Mast has improved racing around two turns, finishing a close second in a 1 1/16-mile turf allowance at Gulfstream and then winning the Ashland. While she was up close to the pace that day, it was very slow — 49 1/5 seconds for the half-mile — and that was the place to be, as she was able to hold off the late-running Daddys Lil Darling.

"There's plenty of speed in the race, and I think our filly will relax just fine behind the pace, whatever the pace may be, and hopefully come running," trainer Eddie Kenneally said. "She looks great. She loves the track and has really relaxed here at Churchill Downs even though it's really busy on the track and there's a lot of activity. Some fillies will lose it when there's so much activity around them, some just can't handle it. She's thriving on it, just soaking it up and loving it.

"I think 30-1 is a little generous. I don't know that she'll be 30-1, but certainly there are several fillies in there more accomplished than us. But we're improving, which is the key as well. I'd be very happy if we could get 30-1 on race day. She was overlooked by a lot of people and the wagering public (for the Ashland). We were high enough on her because she got a new lease on life when she got back into Kentucky this spring and breezed really, really well over the Keeneland surface. It made us very high on her, and thankful we got it right and she was able to get the job done in a Grade I. She's continued to blossom in Kentucky, and hopefully she'll run another bang-up race."

+ Overlay Part 2: Daddy's Lil Darling

Daddys Lil Darling, 20-1 in the line and scheduled to break from post 12, won Churchill Downs' Pocahontas and was second in the Golden Rod won by Oaks contender Farrell. But she probably has lost some races at the post-position draw, including being No. 14 in Keeneland's Grade 1 Alcibiades last fall, in which she was a late-running second; 11 of 12 in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, having to come very wide and finishing fourth; and 9 with the short run into the first turn of the 1 1/16-mile Golden Rod. When she drew well — post 6 in the Ashland — she was a couple jumps shy of victory.

"She's had way too much bad luck with post positions," trainer Kenny McPeek said. "At least we aren't breaking from the 14 hole."

+ Who also drew well for their running style

Trainer Kelly Breen loved getting post 10 from his speedy 13-length Gazelle winner Miss Sky Warrior, winner of her last five starts after a decent fourth in her debut. Miss Sky Warrior (the Oaks' 9-2 second choice behind 5-2 Paradise Woods) also is the only one in the field to have won at the Oaks' 1 1/8-mile distance, and she's done so twice: in the Gazelle and last fall's Demoiselle. Lockdown, the Gazelle runner-up, is the only other horse in the field to have raced the nine furlongs.

"She's doing well," Breen said. "I really like our post position, drawing outside these other speed horses to see what we are going to do. We are the speed of the race. We've gone our speed 1 1/8 miles already. With our jockey being on the outside, we get to make more of a decision if we want make the lead or not, or rate off of one or two. It's a lot easier to be on the outside."

Farrell, the Golden Rod winner over the Churchill strip, breaks just inside Sailor's Valentine in post 7.

"You can't get her coming in better," said trainer Wayne Catalano, whose son-in-law Channing Hill rides Farrell. "We have a little more experience. She's proven she likes the racetrack, so if that means anything, we might have an advantage. My filly can probably do whatever she wants and she proved that in her last race. She has speed. We'll watch what (Paradise Woods) does and let them break and see what happens."

Paradise Woods, trained by Hall of Famer Richard Mandella, breaks from post 4.

+ And not so much

Salty, winner of the Gulfstream Park Oaks in her third lifetime start, drew the extreme outside in post 14. The only filly who could be outside her is her Mark Casse-trained stablemate Summer Luck, who is on the "also-eligible" list and needs a defection to run.

"If we got that post in the Derby we'd be really happy," Casse, who has favored Classic Empire and State of Honor in the Derby, joked of post 14. "It could've been worse. I don't think our filly has a lot of speed, so the post could've been a little harder on some of the others."

Trainer Steve Asmussen sounds like he'd have preferred the outside to Oaklawn's Fantasy winner Ever So Clever being forced to break on the rail.

"It wouldn't have been our first choice," he said.

Proving the law of averages, Ever So Clever came very wide in the Fantasy after breaking from post 12 in a field of 12, closing over a track where speed has fared well. But with all the speed in the Oaks, jockey Luis Contreras could actually wind up getting a good trip from the inside. They double-load in the Kentucky Oaks, meaning post 1 and post 8 will go into the gate first, followed by 2 and 9 etc. It shouldn't take too long, and Asmussen's horses are notably good in the gate.

+ Close Hatches' sister

Lockdown is a full sister to older filly champion Close Hatches, both being by First Defense and out of the Storm Cat mare Rising Tornado for owner-breeder Juddmonte Farms. Lockdown has never been worse than second in four starts, most recently her (albeit well-beaten) second in the Gazelle. Like Close Hatches, Lockdown is trained by Bill Mott, Churchill Downs' all-time win leader. Close Hatches also won the Gazelle. They're from the female family of 1982 Kentucky Oaks winner Brush With Pride.

Jennie Rees is a longtime turf writer who contributes to during Derby season.

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