An old Kentucky favorite returns home on Friday, when Shedaresthedevil – unbeaten in five starts at Churchill Downs – bids for back-to-back wins in the G1 La Troienne Stakes, the main supporting feature on a stakes-heavy Kentucky Oaks card. Many of the usual suspects are rounded up for the G2 Twin Spires Turf Sprint including 2020 winner Diamond Oops, who goes head to head with old rivals Gear Jockey, The Lir Jet and Just Might in one of the most competitive contests of the whole weekend.
La Troienne Stakes
Grade 1, $750,000, 1m 1/2f, 4yo+ fillies/mares
Horses for courses we know, but horses for days? For the last two years Shedaresthedevil has brought her best to Churchill Downs on the first Friday in May, and now she bids to bring up the hat-trick in the La Troienne, the highlight of the Kentucky Oaks undercard.
Two years ago Shedaresthedevil caused an upset when winning the Oaks itself, and last year she justified favouritism in the La Troienne. Twelve months on she finds herself in the same position, top choice on the morning-line, but this time there’s a difference. Last year she arrived off the back of victory in the G2 Azeri at Oaklawn Park over a mile-sixteenth, but this year she was beaten in that contest by her main rival today.
Shedaresthedevil set out to make all as usual but was caught and passed in mid-stretch, finishing third behind champion sprint mare Ce Ce and Pauline’s Pearl, who was giving her 5lb and beat her by a length. Today Shedaresthedevil and Pauline’s Pearl meet on level terms, which might swing the balance towards the latter, who has excelled at second-division tracks such as Sam Houston and Zia Park in recent months.
It might not, though. That was Shedaresthedevil’s first run for four months whereas Pauline’s Pearl had the benefit of a recent run, and swinging the balance back the other way is the favourite’s perfect record at Churchill Downs, five-for-five under the twin spires, and her clear class edge, with three G1s to her name compared to Pauline’s Pearl’s two G3s.
Behind these two in the Azeri were longshots She’s All Wolfe, fourth beaten a further two and three-quarter lengths, and Ava’s Grace , just under nine lengths and one place further back, and neither has yet shown they have what it takes to figure at this level, which also applies to Keeneland allowance optional claimer winner Temper Time.
Rob Atras knows how to upset the big guns, having sent out Maracuja to foil champion filly Malathaat in last year’s G1 Coaching Club American Oaks, and he tries the same trick with Battle Bling, who has finished first or second in stakes races at Aqueduct on all three starts since being claimed by Atras and makes her Graded-stakes debut today.
Ahead of her in that respect is Pauline’s Pearl’s barnmate Jilted Bride, who has a remarkable record of hitting the board in every one of her 16 races, including when third in the G3 Turnback The Alarm at Belmont Park and the G3 Bayakoa at Oaklawn. Her consistency demands much respect and she could well maintain her streak.
|Horse||Jockey||Horse Racing Odds courtesy of JazzSports|
|Jilted Bride||Luis Saez||+600|
|Temper Time||Tyler Gaffalione||+1200|
|Battle Bling||Irad Ortiz, Jr.||+600|
|She’s All Wolfe||Mike E. Smith||+1200|
|Pauline’s Pearl||Joel Rosario||+200|
|Ava’s Grace||David Cohen||+1500|
La Troienne Stakes Betting Prediction
Cometh the day, cometh the mare. With a class edge and a recent run under her belt, SHEDARESTHEDEVIL is an obvious choice to win a G1 on Kentucky Oaks day for the third year running.
Twin Spires Turf Sprint Stakes
Grade 2, $500,000, 5 1/2f turf, 3yo+
The absence of the exceptional Golden Pal – who has business overseas – certainly makes things a lot easier for the five horses who took him on last time and who renew rivalry in a very competitive Twin Spires Turf Sprint.
Golden Pal ran this quintet out of town in the G2 Shakertown at Keeneland last month, they didn’t even see which way he went, but there wasn’t much between them as they filled out second place to sixth place – boxcar longshot Johnny Unleashed three-quarters of a length ahead of Gear Jockey, who was a neck ahead of Diamond Oops, who was three-quarters of a length ahead of The Lir Jet , who was a nose ahead of Just Might.
Diamond Oops won this race in 2020 and is usually in the mix in Graded sprints, but this type of race is often won turn and turn about by whoever is on his A-game on a particular day. He might be best of that Shakertown quintet, with Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint sixth Gear Jockey also a candidate for that position.
Golden Pal’s trainer Wesley Ward sends Arrest Me Red to pinch-hit in this one, after he finished his race off strongly to take third spot in a stakes over five furlongs at Gulfstream Park in March. He led all the way to win the G3 Turf Sprint Invitational at Belmont Park over six furlongs in October, and this intermediate distance could be ideal.
Pyron found his way back to the winner’s circle for the first time since October 2020 when beating Just Might by a half-length in a stakes over today’s distance at the Fair Grounds in February, with Cowan sixth, beaten three and three-quarter lengths. He appears in the form of his life at present, although he is zero-for-four at Churchill Downs.
West-coast speedsters Gregorian Chant and Bran filled out the exacta in an allowance optional claimer at Santa Anita over six and a half in March, separated by a length and a quarter. That marked something of an uptick for Gregorian Chant off a near six-month break and Bran franked the form nicely when winning a stakes over the same course and distance last month, although there’s a chance things might happen too fast for this pair now they cut back a furlong.
That doesn’t apply to Caravel, who won the G3 Caress at Saratoga over today’s distance and then hit a dry patch, before bouncing back after a break to claim a six-furlong stakes on the synthetic surface at Turfway Park. She could move up again now she’s back on the weeds.
|Horse||Jockey||Horse Racing Odds courtesy of JazzSports|
|Gregorian Chant (GB)||Joel Rosario||+1000|
|The Lir Jet (IRE)||Umberto Rispoli||+1200|
|Chasing Artie||Jose L. Ortiz||+2000|
|Bran (FR)||Vincent Cheminaud||+1000|
|Diamond Oops||Florent Geroux||+1200|
|Gear Jockey||Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr.||+500|
|Arrest Me Red||Irad Ortiz, Jr.||+400|
|Just Might||Rafael Bejarano||+1000|
|Johnny Unleashed||Gerardo Corrales||+1200|
|Whatmakessammyrun||John R. Velazquez||+2000|
Twin Spires Turf Sprint Stakes Betting Pick
A big field of inconsistent sprinters means stakes should be kept small. DIAMOND OOPS won this in 2020 and could repeat after looking like he might be on the way back to his best last time out.
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