2023 La Troienne Stakes, Alysheba Stakes & Eight Belles Stakes Odds

The undercard of Friday’s Kentucky Oaks fixture at Churchill Downs is full of big names – last year’s Oaks winner Secret Oath is back for more in the 2023 La Troienne Stakes against fellow G1 winners Society, A Mo Reay and Pauline’s Pearl, shock 2022 Derby winner Rich Strike takes on West Will Power and Art Collector in the G2 Alysheba, and the immensely exciting unbeaten speedball Munnys Gold steps up in class for the G2 Eight Belles.

La Troienne Stakes

G1, $750,000, 1m 1/16 dirt, 4yo+ females, 4.04pm ET

The Kentucky Oaks is the obvious highlight at Churchill Downs on Friday but the La Troienne is not far behind, packed tight with big names on the distaff scene including last year’s winner and last year’s Oaks winner.

That Kentucky Oaks score was the end of something for Secret Oath (3-1), not the beginning, as she had five starts – all in G1s – through the rest of the campaign without getting her head in front. She snapped that streak when putting away Clairiere by two and three-quarter lengths in the G2 Azeri at Oaklawn Park in March, and lost little apart from the bare result when nailed on the line and beaten a neck by the same mare in the mile-sixteenth G1 Apple Blossom at the same circuit three weeks ago.

This is a quick turnaround after a hard race, but Secret Oath’s ability is still there and that rock-solid G1 form is as good as it gets in this division.

Twelve months ago Pauline’s Pearl (8-1) ground out a hard-won success in a weaker edition of this race and hasn’t reproduced that level of performance since, with her victory in the mile-sixteenth G3 Houston Ladies Classic at Sam Houston – Sixtythreecaliber (30-1) a well-beaten last of six – not in the same league. 

Her barnmate Society (4-1) is arguably a better choice given that she’ll appreciate stretching back out after being set a stiff task in the seven-furlong G1 Madison at Keeneland when she found champion distaff sprinter Goodnight Olive far too speedy. Her earlier gate-to-wire romp in the G1 Cotillion over a mile-sixteenth at Parx – Secret Oath third – fits in well in this company.

A change of barn has worked wonders for A Mo Reay (5-1), who is unbeaten in three since switching from Todd Pletcher to Brad Cox, completing her hat-trick with a hard-fought head success in the G1 Beholder Mile at Santa Anita. There may be more to come and she can confirm the placings with the hard-to-win-with Desert Dawn (20-1), beaten three and a half lengths into fourth – Pauline’s Pearl was a no-show seventh of eight.

Pletcher opposes with Classy Edition (8-1), who had a long spell on the sidelines after falling off the Oaks trail and posted a career-best when taking the G3 Royal Delta at Gulfstream Park – boxcar longshot Soul Of An Angel (50-1) a well-beaten fifth – over a mile-sixteenth. She needs plenty more now but is going the right way.

The 2021 Kentucky Oaks runner-up Search Results (4-1) ran the worst race of her life when sixth in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Keeneland and hasn’t been seen since. She’s a risk, coming off that clunker, but before that was runner-up in the mile-eighth G1 Personal Ensign at Saratoga behind champion Malathaat and would be a threat if in the same mood.

Another coming off a long layoff is Played Hard (9-2), who rolled coast-to-coast to take the G3 Falls City here over a mile-eighth in late November, and has been out of the first two at this track just once in eight starts. This is a tough ask on her comeback.

2023 La Troienne Stakes Odds & Prediction

HorseJockeyOdds by Jazzsports
Played HardJohn R. Velazquez+450
Search ResultsFlavien Prat+400
SixtythreecaliberEdgar Morales+3000
Secret OathTyler Gaffalione+300
Soul of an AngelJesus Lopez Castanon+5000
Classy EditionIrad Ortiz, Jr.+800
SocietyJose L. Ortiz+400
Desert DawnUmberto Rispoli+2000
Pauline’s PearlJoel Rosario+800
A Mo ReayFlorent Geroux+500

Prediction  A blowout over an inadequate distance against top opposition will have put an edge on progressive G1 winner SOCIETY, who can move up again now stretching back out.

Kentucky Oaks Odds

Alysheba Stakes

G2, $600,000, 1m 1/16 dirt, 4yo+, 12.43pm ET

Not only is last year’s Kentucky Oaks winner back for more but so is last year’s Kentucky Derby hero, the unforgettable 80-1 shocker Rich Strike (7-2), who returns in the Alysheba still on a mission to prove that his career highlight wasn’t a freak fluke.

That stunning success is still Rich Strike’s only win outside maiden company and he is now riding a five-race losing streak, although fourth place in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland and a narrow, controversial defeat in the G2 Lukas Classic here over a mile-eighth – with Art Collector (5-2) six and a half lengths back in fifth – indicate that he may not be just a one-hit wonder. Both his wins have come at this track, too, so that may be an important factor.

The in-form West Will Power (2-1) has thrived since moving to Brad Cox – first or second in his last six starts – and he posted arguably a career-best last time when rolling his rivals flat in the G2 New Orleans Classic over a mile-eighth at the Fair Grounds. He drew four and three-quarter lengths clear of runner-up Art Collector, who was coming off his own personal best, a similarly dominant victory in the G1 Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park.

There’s every likelihood that West Will Power hasn’t finished upgrading, and his preference for being near the speed could count for plenty.

Oaklawn Park specialist Last Samurai (4-1) doesn’t have that Hot Springs air to fuel him this time and comes back off a mighty quick 13-day turnaround since his latest valiant effort, beaten a head in the G2 Oaklawn Handicap over a mile-eighth, a tough race that could still be in his legs given the scheduling.

Before that, he had beaten West Will Power by a length and a half in the G3 Razorback at Oaklawn, but he isn’t the same horse elsewhere and finished some way behind Art Collector in the Pegasus World Cup and behind West Will Power in the G1 Clark here over a mile-eighth in November.

Smile Happy (8-1) ran eighth behind Rich Strike in the Kentucky Derby and that was 2022 over for him, on the bench until returning with victory in a mile-eighth allowance at Oaklawn in mid-March. He failed to build on that when third in the G3 Oaklawn Mile and although he’s no back number this could be too much too soon.

Both Giant Game (30-1), who has lost six straight since his maiden win in October 2021, and Milliken (10-1), who has been found a very tough spot to make his stakes debut, look outclassed in this company.

2023 Alysheba Stakes Odds & Prediction

HorseJockeyOdds by Jazzsports
Art CollectorJunior Alvarado+250
Last SamuraiLuis Saez+400
Rich StrikeSonny Leon+350
West Will PowerFlavien Prat+200
Smile HappyBrian Joseph Hernandez, Jr.+800
MillikenJulien R. Leparoux+1000
Giant GameTyler Gaffalione+3000

Prediction  It’s a very competitive heat but WEST WILL POWER produced a career-best last time and could move up again, with his front-running tactics likely to be a telling factor.

Eight Belles Stakes

G2, $500,000, 7f dirt, 3yo fillies, 2.09pm ET

Life has been very easy for the unbeaten Munnys Gold (6-5) so far and it’s about to get more difficult as she moves into Graded territory in the Eight Belles, but the class hike may not be enough to halt her electrifying progress.

Take a look at her resume: a five-furlong maiden at Monmouth Park by 14 and a half lengths, a six-furlong allowance at Gulfstream Park by six and a quarter, and a seven-furlong stakes at Tampa Bay Downs by a barely believable 17 and a quarter lengths, all gained from the front end with a blitzing, bewitching display of raw speed.

This is obviously her stiffest test so far, but it’s hard to argue with that formline and this could very easily be more of the same.

Her main rival in the book is Red Carpet Ready (3-1), who was a convincing winner of the seven-furlong G3 Forward Gal at Gulfstream – Positano Sunset (10-1) a distant fourth – before finding the mile of the G2 Davona Dale at the same track a step too far, fading into third. The cutback will suit and she puts class on the table.

This is a reunion for the alumni of the G3 Fantasy at Oaklawn Park over a mile-sixteenth and the G3 Honeybee over the same course and distance, with Olivia Twist (12-1) finishing eighth and third behind Kentucky Oaks favorite Wet Paint in those two races, Condensation (10-1) second and fourth, and Grand Love (15-1) third and fifth, while Effortlesslyelgant (12-1) came home tenth in the Honeybee.

It’s plain to see that it’s either a class issue, as these four fillies are a combined one-for-13 in stakes, and that ‘one’ came at lowly Remington Park, or a distance problem, so it’s possible that reverting to sprints may help one or more of them to move up a little. They are not an inspiring quartet, though.

Likewise, Sabra Tuff (20-1) has yet to crack it at stakes level, going zero-for-five after winning here on debut. She outran her 62-1 odds when fourth in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Keeneland (Grand Love sixth), rallying strongly late on, and perhaps coming back to sprinting isn’t the right move.

The least experienced in the field is stakes debutante Accede (5-1), who got it right first time over six furlongs at Gulfstream, scooting in by a length and a half. She hails from a powerful barn but this is a big class hike and lack of experience could tell against her.

2023 Eight Bells Stakes Odds & Prediction

HorseJockeyOdds by Jazzsports
CondensationLuan Machado+1000
Sabra TuffTyler Gaffalione+2000
Olivia TwistFlorent Geroux+1200
EffortlesslyelgantRicardo Santana, Jr.+1200
Grand LoveJoel Rosario+1500
Red Carpet ReadyLuis Saez+300
Positano SunsetJulien R. Leparoux+1000
AccedeFlavien Prat+500
Munnys GoldIrad Ortiz, Jr.+120

Prediction  It’s hard to look away from the blisteringly fast MUNNYS GOLD and she’s impossible to oppose – despite the class hike – as she bids to stretch her unbeaten run to four.

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