The road to the Kentucky Oaks will take an exciting turn on Saturday when Fair Grounds hosts the Grade 2, $400,000 Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks, a 1 1/16-mile event awarding 100 Oaks qualifying points to the winner.
Few Kentucky Oaks prep races have been as productive as the Fair Grounds Oaks. Since the turn of the century, Ashado (2004), Summerly (2005), Proud Spell (2008), Rachel Alexandra (2009), Believe You Can (2012), Untapable (2014), and Serengeti Empress (2019) have all used the Fair Grounds Oaks as a springboard to victory in the Kentucky Oaks, with the first six fillies winning both races.
There’s a strong chance this streak of success will continue in 2020. The favorite for the Fair Grounds Oaks is #6 Finite, a four-time stakes winner who sits atop the Road to the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard with 70 points. With the way she’s been progressing, sweeping the lucrative Oaks double could be well within Finite’s capabilities.
Under the care of trainer Steve Asmussen (the conditioner of Summerly and Untapable), Finite has thrived while facing tough competition. The daughter of Munnings finished second in her first two starts, but has since won five straight. She romped in the Rags to Riches Stakes at Churchill Downs, winning by half a dozen lengths. She battled to victory in the Grade 2 Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill, then shipped south to Fair Grounds and scored a similarly gritty win in the Silverbulletday Stakes.
But Finite’s best performance by far came in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra Stakes on Feb. 15 at Fair Grounds. Racing over the same track and distance as the Fair Grounds Oaks, Finite employed pace-tracking tactics in the early going before powering clear in the stretch to win by 4 3/4 lengths.
Finite’s performance was made all the more impressive by the caliber of competition she defeated. The distant runner-up was British Idiom, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2019 after victories in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades Stakes. British Idiom was favored to win, but Finite trounced her with ease.
There’s no reason to think Finite won’t turn in a similar effort on Saturday. She’s trained sharply since the Rachel Alexandra, most notably working five-eighths of a mile in a swift 1:00 flat on Mar. 9, and in the Fair Grounds Oaks she’ll face a small field without much speed. Having drawn the outside post, Finite should have no trouble securing a clean, unencumbered trip under regular rider Ricardo Santana Jr. From there, she’ll be tough to beat.
For exotic wagers like the exacta and trifecta, #5 Stop Shoppin Tammy warrants strong consideration. After finishing fourth in her debut at Saratoga last summer (beaten by future Grade 1 winner Wicked Whisper), Stop Shoppin Tammy went to the sidelines and didn’t run again until Feb. 17, when she claimed a 1 1/16-mile maiden race at Fair Grounds in gate-to-wire fashion.
As a daughter of Tapit out of a Deputy Minister mare, Stop Shoppin Tammy should only improve with maturity, and with a comeback run under her belt, she could take a big step forward in the Fair Grounds Oaks. Stop Shoppin Tammy has been training sharply, blazing five-eighths of a mile in :59.20 on Mar. 13, and she’ll race with Lasix for the first time on Saturday.
The late-running #3 Tempers Rising, who finished third in the Silverbulletday and fourth in the Rachel Alexandra, can once again vie for a spot on the board. The same goes for #4 Bonny South, who rallied to defeat future Grade 3 Honeybee Stakes winners Shedaresthedevil in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Oaklawn last month.
Let’s focus our attention on the trifecta, betting Finite on top while emphasizing Stop Shoppin Tammy for second and third place:
Wagering Strategy on a $20 Budget
$5 trifecta: 6 with 5 with 3,4 ($10)
What to say at the betting window: Fair Grounds, 11th race, $5 trifecta 6 with 5 with 3,4
$5 trifecta: 6 with 3,4 with 5 ($10)
What to say at the betting window: Fair Grounds, 11th race, $5 trifecta 6 with 3,4 with 5
Good luck, and enjoy the race!