$1,250,000 Kentucky Oaks (G1)

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By Tom Quigley

$1,250,000 Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs

Race 12 (Friday, September 4, 2020: 5:45 p.m./ET; 2:45 p.m./PT)
One mile and an eighth on the main track (three-year-old fillies)

It’s the showdown we’ve all been waiting for: Grade I winner SWISS SKYDIVER vs. superstar GAMINE, who makes her career debut at a mile-and-an-eighth. Which filly wins? While the connections of the seven other fillies are saying, what about us? Let’s dig into the past performances for some answers:

#1 SWISS SKYDIVER has won four of her last five races, with her lone loss in that cycle coming against males when finishing second to the highly talented ART COLLECTOR in the Bluegrass (G2) at Keeneland. Her best performance came in her most recent start on August 15, when she put up a career high 102 Beyer Speed Figure and won the 10-furlong Alabama (G2) by a large margin. But she draws inside of #4 GAMINE, so she may have to run hard every step of the way to keep up with that foe. This will be her hardest test yet. 

#2 TEMPERS RISING will need to significantly improve to hit the board. She was nowhere close to winning her only two career tries against graded stakes company over the winter and comes off a second-place finish in an allowance race at Ellis Park. Would be a huge surprise, but trainer Dallas Stewart is always dangerous at huge odds.

#3 DONNA VELOCE has always been well regarded. After breaking her maiden sprinting, she went off as the odds-on favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and ran second. Since then, she has run twice, finishing second to Grade I winner BAST and, most recently on March 8, scoring a runaway win against #4 SPEECH in the Santa Ysabel (G3) at Santa Anita. Simon Callaghan wins at a 16% clip with his trainees making their first start off a layoff between 61-180 days.

#4 SPEECH has lost to several of these rivals in the past, finishing four lengths behind #3 DONNA VELOCE in the Santa Ysabel (G3) in March and also as the runner up to both #1 SWISS SKYDIVER and #5 GAMINE earlier in the year. She put up a breakout performance in her last start, a three length win in the Ashland (G1) over VENETIAN HARBOR, who came back to lose by seven lengths to #5 GAMINE in the Test (G1) at Saratoga.

#5 GAMINE is an undefeated daughter (disqualified from one of her victories for a medication violation) of INTO MISCHIEF who was purchased at a two-year-old in training sale for a whopping $1,800,000. Her three one-turn races were sensational, breaking her maiden at first asking before winning the Acorn (G1) by 18 lengths, followed by a seven length romp in the Test (G1). But her only career two-turn effort resulted in just a neck win over #4 SPEECH, so the question is, can she be as effective going two turns at a mile-and-an-eighth? Maybe she doesn’t need to be, but #4 SPEECH didn’t lose by much when they met over the winter and #1 SWISS SKYDIVER is no slouch.

#6 BAYERNESS won her first two career races as a two-year-old filly in 2019 (including defeating #1 SWISS SKYDIVER in November) but has lost three consecutive races since turning three. Most recently, she finished six-and-three-quarter lengths behind #6 SHEDARESTHEDEVIL in the Indiana Oaks (G3).

#7 SHEDARESTHEDEVIL is trending in the right direction at the right time for trainer Brad Cox. After a 13 length loss to #1 SWISS SKYDIVER in the Fantasy (G3) at Oaklawn, this daughter of DAREDEVIL has won two races in a row by a combined 11 lengths. Although she sports terrific recent form and is undefeated over this main track surface, she has to go up against a lot better company.

#8 HOPEFUL GROWTH stalked and pounced in the Monmouth Oaks (G3), drawing off while scoring a comfortable four length victory that day. She’ll need to run even faster to keep up with the best fillies entered in this spot. Won’t be an easy task.

#9 DREAM MARIE finished fourth in the Monmouth Oaks (G3), but never seriously threatened. In March, this gal finished double digit lengths behind #1 SWISS SKYDIVER. Another one that should be tabbed as a longshot.

SELECTIONS

1. #1 SWISS SKYDIVER - Has proven Grade I two-turn form.

2. #5 GAMINE - May be at her best traveling one turn. 3. #4 SPEECH - Coming into this race sharp.

LONGSHOT VALUE PLAY - #2 DONNA VELOCE – Lightly raced daughter of Uncle Mo.

WAGERING STRATEGY

I’ll key my top pick over my other selections in trifectas and play a $2 saver exacta with my third choice and longshot value play.

BANKROLL PLAY ($50 Budget)

$8 Trifecta: #1 SWISS SKYDIVER over #2 DONNA VELOCE and #4 SPEECH and #5 GAMINE ($48)

$2 Exacta: #4 SPEECH over #2 DONNA VELOCE

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