Kentucky Oaks Day Recap

The Kentucky Oaks victory of Pretty Mischievous grabbed the headlines at Churchill Downs on Friday, but there was plenty going on elsewhere. Played Hard claimed her first victory at G1 level in the La Troienne, the main supporting feature, while Heavenly Sunday made her stakes breakthrough in the G2 Edgewood and the prolific Didia gained her first US Graded win in the G3 Modesty. There was a welcome return to form for Smile Happy in the G2 Alysheba, and Red Carpet Ready maintained her unbeaten record at the track when taking the G2 Eight Belles. Here the 2023 Kentucky Oaks Day Recap.

La Troienne Stakes

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

Played Hard plays to win

There was added significance to the result of the La Troienne, the highlight of the undercard at Churchill Downs on Friday, as Played Hard posted her first success at the highest level when coming out on top in a thrilling three-horse war with Secret Oath and Search Results. It was also trainer Phil Bauer’s first G1 win.

The daughter of Into Mischief – also sire of Oaks heroine Pretty Mischievous – was making her first start of 2023 and was game-day ready, and stuck like glue to the front-running Society until putting her nose into the wind at the quarter-pole.

2023 La Troienne Stakes Race Video


Played Hard takes home the G1 2023 La Troienne #Horseracingtips #Horseracing #Sports #FYP #Horses #Horse #Horrsesoftiktok

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The 8-1 fifth-choice was soon challenged by the favoured Secret Oath on her outside and by Search Results on her inner, but she put them both away under a strong John Velazquez drive and made it home by a neck, with a half-length separating the place and show horses.

“We always thought she’d get better with distance and age,” said Bauer, a Louisville native. “Horse racing can be like climbing Mount Everest and today it feels like we’ve made it to the top.”

The victory embellished Played Hard’s resume to six-for-15, including two G3 wins at Churchill Downs in her last four starts, and her share of the purse made her a millionaire. This breakthrough success establishes her among the leaders of this division, and her next target may be the G1 Ogden Phipps over a mile-sixteenth at Belmont Park on June 10.

La Troienne Stakes Payouts

1. Played Hard19.867.024.24
2. Secret Oath 3.902.64
3. Search Results  3.54

Winning time: 1m 42.48s

Alysheba Stakes

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

Another happy day for Smile

A year ago, Smile Happy was just another also-ran in the Kentucky Derby. Twelve months on he had his name in lights under the twin spires when producing a career-best to win the Alysheba, beating Art Collector and West Will Power with a degree of comfort.

Smile Happy likes to do things his own way – trainer Kenny McPeek described him as “an alpha-male” – but the 7-1 fourth-choice allowed odds-on favourite West Will Power to cut out the early fractions before putting his stamp on proceedings at the top of the lane. He dug deep through the final furlong to turn back the rallying Art Collector and was two lengths clear and going away again at the line, with three-quarters of a length back to the game West Will Power. The time was just one-fifth of a second outside the track record.

2023 Alysheba Stakes Race Video


Smile Happy wins the 2023 Alysheba Stakes #Horseracingtips #Horseracing #Sports #FYP #Horses #Horse #Horrsesoftiktok

♬ original sound – horseracingtote – horseracingtote

Last year’s shock Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike was a major disappointment on his return to Churchill Downs, never in the race at any stage before trailing in a well-beaten fifth. His big day seems a long way away now.

“He put himself in a great spot and I was pretty confident,” said winning jockey Brian Hernandez. “He had his ears pricked, flipping back and forth, and we were cruising the whole way.”

Smile Happy’s only previous Graded-stakes win also came at Churchill, the 2021 G2 Kentucky Jockey Club, and he is now four-for-eight with more than a million dollars in his bankroll.

Alysheba Stakes Payouts

1. Smile Happy17.486.743.18
2. Art Collector 4.882.66
3. West Will Power  2.22

Winning time: 1m 41.29s

Eight Belles Stakes

G2, $500,000, 7f dirt, 3yo fillies

Red means go this time

Proven class outdrew sky-high potential in the Eight Belles, as Red Carpet Ready lowered the colours of the unbeaten Munnys Gold in a desperate dash to the wire, getting home by a head with Accede filling out the board.

The odds-on Munnys Gold had won her three starts by an aggregate of 38 lengths, and when she adopted her preferred front-running stance it looked as though it would be business as usual. But Red Carpet Ready had other ideas, the 5-1 second-choice going to the lead at the top of the lane and opening up daylight.

2023 Eight Belles Stakes Race Video


Red Carpet Ready upsets 14 favorite Munnys Gold to win the 2023 Eight Belles #Horseracingtips #Horseracing #Sports #FYP #Horses #Horse #Horrsesoftiktok

♬ original sound – horseracingtote – horseracingtote

There’s no quit in Munnys Gold, though, and she was coming back at Red Carpet Ready along the fence all the way through the last sixteenth, but the photo-finish camera clicked too soon for her. Accede came along late for third, a length and three-quarters further back.

“When she was alone on the front, she kinda got a little lost,” said winning jockey Luis Saez. “When she felt the other one coming back at her, she took off again.”

As Munnys Gold gave up one perfect record, Red Carpet Ready retained another, and the daughter of Oscar Performance, who was an early Oaks contender before stamina concerns led to a change of direction, is now unbeaten in three at Churchill Downs. Trainer Rusty Arnold now has the seven-furlong G1 Test at Saratoga on August 5 as a long-term target for his four-for-five filly.

Eight Belles Stakes Payouts

1. Red Carpet Ready13.443.942.74
2. Munnys Gold 2.462.10
3. Accede  3.22

Winning time: 1m 22.28s

Edgewood Stakes

G2, $500,000, 1m 1/16 turf, 3yo fillies

Sunday starts the weekend right

There was much to be said for being forwardly placed at Churchill on Friday, and Heavenly Sunday took the advice to its logical conclusion when rolling gate-to-wire to beat Revalita and Mission Of Joy in the Edgewood, her breakthrough at stakes level.

It was a fine demonstration of tactical shrewdness by jockey Florent Geroux, who took the 9-1 seventh-choice through no more than boilerplate fractions before revving her up at the top of the stretch.

2023 Edgewood Stakes Race Video


Heavenly Sunday wins the G2 Edgewood Stakes #Horseracingtips #Horseracing #Sports #FYP #Horses #Horse #Horrsesoftiktok

♬ original sound – horseracingtote – horseracingtote

The posse gathered at her heels but Heavenly Sunday was always pulling out a little more and she made it home without being seriously challenged, turning back Revalita by three-quarters of a length. The rallying Mission Of Joy was only a neck further back in third, but the favoured Preliminary – on an absolutely shocking afternoon for chalk players, with all the favourites in the six stakes races beaten – never got out of the rear division and trailed in last of the 11 runners.

“She has improved a tremendous amount over the spring,” said trainer Brad Cox. “That was a big performance, she dug in really well late on.”

Heavenly Sunday is now three-for-five, and was getting her head in front at stakes level after finishing third in the G3 Sweetest Chant at Gulfstream Park and the G2 Appalachian at Keeneland. Her next target is likely to be the G3 Regret back under the twin spires over a mile-eighth on June 3.

Edgewood Stakes Payouts

1. Heavenly Sunday21.369.726.78
2. Revalita 10.487.94
3. Mission Of Joy  5.86

Winning time: 1m 42.40s

Modesty Stakes

G3, $300,000, 1m 1f turf, 4yo+ females

It’s seventh heaven for Didia

There was a dash of the exotic on a warm sunny day in Kentucky when the Argentinian-bred mare Didia stretched her winning streak to seven in the Modesty, making a tough job look simple as she sauntered away from Sweet Dani Girl and New Year’s Eve.

Three of those seven wins came in her native Argentina, including two G1s, and Didia is now four-for-four in the US after jockey Vincent Cheminaud found her a good trip behind the even pace laid down by Sweet Dani Girl.

2023 Modesty Stakes Race Video


Didia takes the Modesty Stakes 2023 #Horseracingtips #Horseracing #Sports #FYP #Horses #Horse #Horrsesoftiktok

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The 5-2 second-choice ran down the persistent front-runner at the eighth-pole and kept on strongly to win by a length and a half, with New Year’s Eve coming from the back of the field for third, a half-length away. The slight favourite Shantisara could never get competitive and was nearest at the finish in fourth.

“As soon as she settled I was confident,” said trainer Ignacio Correas, whose finest hour in the US came when Blue Prize won the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Distaff. “It was just a question of whether she would produce her kick – I don’t know how she does it, but she always makes it look easy.”

With her first Graded-stakes triumph in America under her belt, the priority is to make Didia a G1 winner in both hemispheres, and now that she has learned to relax in her races – she was a front-runner down south – Correas has plenty of options to choose from.

Modesty Stakes Payouts

1. Didia7.184.423.48
2. Sweet Dani Girl 9.326.20
3. New Year’s Eve  4.54

Winning time: 1m 47.46s

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