LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Gamine is the even-money morning-line favorite for the Kentucky Oaks after drawing the No. 5 post position Monday in the marquee race for 3-year-old fillies.
Swiss Skydiver will start from the No. 1 post as the 8-5 second choice at Churchill Downs, with Speech at 5-1 from the No. 4 post. Nine fillies are officially entered in Friday’s $1.25 million race to be run over 1 1/8 miles.
Jockey John Velazquez will ride the Bob Baffert-trained Gamine, who enters the Oaks with consecutive Grade 1 victories by nearly 26 lengths combined and won three of four career starts this year.
Gamine ran to a seven-length victory in the seven-furlong Longines Test Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 8, nearly six weeks after she dominated the Longines Acorn Stakes at Belmont by 18 3/4 lengths. She was disqualified from an allowance optional claiming race victory at Oaklawn Park on May 2 due to an excessive amount of the legal medication lidocaine.
As for the Oaks, Baffert is happy with Gamine’s starting spot.
”Being in the middle is always good,” the Hall of Famer said of the filly, who was scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs on Monday. ”It depends on how she breaks. But she’s really quick. … We’re just focused on getting there, getting settled in, handling everything well. We still have a long way to go.”
Swiss Skydiver enters as the runaway leader in Kentucky Oaks points and has won four of her last five starts. That includes a 3 1/2-length victory over 1 1/4 miles in the Grade 1 Alabama at Saratoga with Tyler Gaffalione aboard.
Her only loss in that stretch was second in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland to Art Collector, considered a strong contender for Saturday’s 146th Kentucky Derby. She also has a third in seven starts this year and has won five of nine career starts.
Trainer Kenneth McPeek isn’t concerned about Swiss Skydiver being hemmed in on the rail.
”Well, it’s the shortest trip around there in the 1,” he said. ”I’d rather be the 1 than the 9, I suppose. We’re in good shape. Tyler’s a great jock and we’ll probably let him do his thing.”
Speech has two wins and three seconds this year, including last month’s Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland, and has finished third or higher in seven career starts.
Trainer Mike McCarthy said Speech’s mission in the Oaks is clear.
”We’ve got speed outside of us, speed down inside of us,” he said. ”I think those two (Gamine and Swiss Skydiver) will probably keep each other company. Hopefully, we can tuck in right behind and have a nice trip.”
The Kentucky Oaks field with odds from the rail out: Swiss Skydiver, 8-5; Tempers Rising, 50-1; Donna Veloce, 15-1; Speech, 5-1; Gamine, even; Bayerness, 50-1; Shesharesthedevil, 20-1; Hopeful Growth, 30-1; Dream Marie, 50-1.