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Post Time: Kentucky Oaks 139 - Run for the Lilies

By Gene Kershner 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - - The 139th Run for the Lilies, also known as the $1 million Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, is the feature race on Friday’s card under the iconic Twin Spires at Churchill Downs. An expected crowd of over 110,000 is expected to crown a new champion in a race for 3-year-old fillies. The race will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network at 5 p.m. post time is 5:45 p.m.  The Oaks has drawn a field of 10 fillies, and is one of the most talented fields in the race's recent past.

Todd Pletcher, who will send five horses to the post in the Derby on Saturday, also has four Oaks hopefuls, including the morning line favorite, Dreaming of Julia (3-1) running for the Lilies. Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez has the mount on the A.P. Indy filly. Pletcher has won the Oaks twice with Ashado (2004) and Rags to Riches (2007).  

Dreaming of Julia comes off a monster performance in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks, where she won by over 21 lengths over a field of six and posted the highest ThoroGraph figure ever achieved since those speed figures were generated. The big question here is will she bounce off that superb effort? If she doesn't she could run away from this field, as she is well-bred to handle the 1 1/8-mile distance and is coming in third off the layoff for Pletcher.  

Pletcher's next best chance to win will be the Street Sense filly Unlimited Budget (7-2) with jockey Javier Castellano in the irons. She also enters third off the layoff for the Toddster, and comes out of a win in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks. She is undefeated in four career races and has progressed nicely in each race. 

Trainer Bob Baffert, who has no entries in the Derby for the first time since 2008, has a bullet to fire in the Oaks. The lightly-raced but very talented Midnight Lucky (7-2), a daughter of two time Breeders' Cup Sprint champion Midnight Lute will try and get Baffert into the Churchill winning circle. She has won her two career races in over 15 combined lengths and will try to duplicate her last effort in the Sunland Park Oaks where she blew away the field. It's a big class jump, but Baffert has Bejarano in the irons and she has been training well over the Churchill track.  

Bill Mott will send out Close Hatches (6-1) who comes off a win in the Grade 2 Gazelle at the Big A, the filly's third consecutive victory in as many starts. Close Hatches also will have the red-hot Joel Rosario aboard who has continued the winning ways in Kentucky where he was the leading jockey at the spring Keeneland meeting. Mott had a second filly entered, Flashy Gray, who he scratched out of the race on Wednesday.  

Mott has Close Hatches in peak condition and isn't worried about the amount of speed in the race. He feels that she'll be there at the end. Her half mile breeze was clocked in 47.40 and Mott did not work her in company. “What you saw is what I expected given her work last week,” Mott said. “We just let her go by herself. She’s aggressive and full of herself so I thought she didn’t need company to breeze with; she’d do enough on her own. I just told [exercise rider] Jo to let her go off smooth, keep it as smooth as possible and to let her have a normal gallop out.” 

One filly to watch is long shot Rose to Gold (15-1) who has the king of Churchill riding in newly elected Hall of Famer Calvin Borel. He worked her four furlongs last Friday thatwas second best of 52 horses at the distance going 47.80. Borel came out of the workout beaming about his filly. “She is awesome. She worked very good, better than last week,” Borel said, referring to the filly’s 48.20 work of last Saturday. “This is just a filly that is getting better all the time.”  

The race has also attracted the 2-year-old filly champion Beholder, who will be racing for the first time east of the Mississippi River. All eight of her career starts have been in California. The Henny Hughes filly may be distance tested, but she has the savvy Garrett Gomez, who won the 2007 Oaks on Rags to Riches, riding her for the ninth consecutive race. 

Post Time Outlook: 1-Dreaming of Julia; 2-Midnight Lucky; 3-Close Hatches

Long shot: Rose to Gold 

The post positions, horse, jockey and morning line odds for the Oaks are as follows: 

PP

Horse

Jockey

Odds

1

Silsita

Stevens

20-1

2

Midnight Lucky

Bejarano

9-2

3

Beholder

Gomez

7-2

4

Unlimited Budget

Castellano

7-2

5

Seaneen Girl

Napravnik

30-1

6

Princess of Sylmar

Smith

20-1

7

Pure Fun

Leparoux

30-1

8

Dreaming of Julia

J Velazquez

3-1

9

Rose to Gold

Borel

15-1

10

Flashy Gray

Alvarado

SCR

11

Close Hatches

Rosario

6-1

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association and tweets @EquiSpace.

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