| Fri 05/05/2017 - 07:30 EDT

      2017 Kentucky Oaks Predictions

      2017 Kentucky Oaks Predictions

      Kentucky Oaks 2017 Odds

      For all of the possible handicapping approaches, one might apply to this renewal of the Oaks, any discussion of the race must begin with 5/2 morning line favorite Paradise Woods. The Richard Mandella trainee has won two of three career starts and was nothing less than spectacular in her last race, winning the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks by over 11 lengths and positing a mind-boggling 107 Beyer Speed Figure. For those wondering just how good that is, it easily bests the highest number earned by any colt running in the KY Derby. 

      That freakish effort by Paradise Woods was the filly's first start around two turns which technically means there's room for improvement. If that's the case, the rest of this field will be running for second, but it's fair to question how Paradise Woods will handle the ship to Kentucky while facing a much deeper field. From a pace standpoint, it looks like Paradise Woods is far from a one-trick filly. While her Santa Anita Oaks domination came while running largely uncontested on the front end, she showed the ability to win from off the pace in her previous win - a 5.5 furlong sprint against maidens. Jockey Flavien Prat has been aboard for each of this filly's three starts and should have plenty of options at his disposal while breaking from post 4.

      Miss Sky Warrior (9/2) has won her last five starts and suffered the only loss of her career in her debut last September at Belmont Park. She's the only filly in the field that has won at the mile and one-eighth distance and she's done it twice at the graded stakes level, winning the Grade 2 Demoisel and Grade 2 Gazelle Stakes -both at Aqueduct.

      In a race where the distance presents a unique hurdle for most contenders, bettors will certainly find this runner appealing. She will find herself on or near the early lead as usual. Abel Tasman (5/1) and Salty (6/1) drew the 13 and 14-hole respectively, but each should figure prominently from off the pace. Abel Tasman was soundly defeated by Paradise Woods in the Santa Anita Oaks but adds blinkers for this start and has shown the ability to run better against elite competition, finishing just 2 1/4 lengths the very highly-regarded Unique Bella in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabl.  

      Kentucky Oaks 2017 Picks

      1st: Paradise Woods

      2nd: Salty

      3rd: Miss Sky Warrior

      4th: Abel Tasman 

      There are few, if any justifiable reasons to pick against Paradise Woods so we won't try to be clever and beat her for the top spot. If her 107 Beyer Speed Figure is anywhere close to true, she can regress and still easily defeat this field despite its depth and quality.

      Trainer Richard Mandella is a Hall of Famer for a reason and knows exactly what to do when he has a superstar filly in the barn as he proved with three-time Breeders' Cup winner Beholder. 

      It will be interesting to see exactly how the early pace unfolds in this race as Paradise Woods, Miss Sky Warrior, Lockdown, and Farrell have all won races in gate-to-wire fashion.

        One would think that Flavien Pratt will be cautious about going to the early lead with Paradise Woods so as not to get hooked by a lesser caliber runner, but the lead will certainly be there for the taking. Distance is little concern for Paradise Woods as her sire, Union Rags, won the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes. The Churchill Downs dirt has proven to be a difficult surface to handle for some runners, but there's really no reason to assume Paradise Woods won't adjust nicely to it. 

        Players looking for longer-priced selections to complete the bottom rungs of trifecta and superfecta wagers may find value in the late-closing Ever So Clever (20/1) and Daddy's Lil Darling (20/1). 

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