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2019 Kentucky Oaks betting primer

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The Longines Kentucky Oaks will be the marquee race on Friday, May 3, at Churchill Downs. The 1 1/8-mile race has emerged as the most important North American race restricted to 3-year-old fillies and has been won since the turn of the century by superstars such as Ashado, Rags to Riches, Rachel Alexandra, and Monomoy Girl.

The field for the Kentucky Oaks is limited to 14 and determined by points earned in Road to the Kentucky Oaks scoring races. NBC Sports Network will provide television coverage of the 2019 Kentucky Oaks from noon to 6:30 p.m. ET on May 3.

Read more on the Kentucky Oaks at America’s Best Racing

The winner of the last 20 editions of the Kentucky Oaks has posted an average Equibase Speed Figure of 105.9 with a median of 105.5. Only once during that stretch was the race won with an Equibase Speed Figure less than triple-digits (Lemons Forever, 98 in 2005), with a high of 121 by Rachel Alexandra in 2009.

Get the scoop on the prospective field for the 145th Kentucky Oaks, in post position order and with morning-line odds:

1) Out for a Spin (15-1)

Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.

Trainer: Dallas Stewart

Owner: Commonwealth Stable

Career record: 5 starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $354,903

Earnings per start: $70,981

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 96

Kentucky Oaks points: 100

Pedigree: Hard Spun – My Mammy, by Came Home

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Since disappointing in her debut in a sprint last November, Out for a Spin has posted three wins and a third in four races. Stretching out from a sprint to two-turn races seemed to unlock her potential and in her stakes debut in the Grade 1 Central Bank Ashland Stakes on April 6, she delivered a breakthrough performance when outfinishing Restless Rider by a neck to prevail at 52.10-1 odds. Out for a Spin improved her top Equibase Speed Figure 21 points in the Ashland to a 96, and there is a chance she could react negatively to a tough race that was by far the best of her career. But she picks up 2018 Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. and trainer Dallas Stewart is a master of getting 3-year-olds to outrun their odds on big days as he did with 47.10-1 Lemons Forever in her 2006 Kentucky Oaks win. Out for a Spin is one of two stakes winners produced by the stakes-placed Came Home mare My Mammy, a close sibling to 2005 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes winner Bandini.

2) Chocolate Kisses (20-1)

Jockey: Julien Leparoux

Trainer: Mark Casse

Owner: Debby M. Oxley

Career record: 8 starts – 3 wins – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $237,950

Earnings per start: $29,744

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 96

Kentucky Oaks points: 51

Pedigree: Candy Ride – Brownie Points, by Forest Wildcat

Color: Bay

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Chocolate Kisses made three of her first six starts on grass and enjoyed success on that surface, but her breakthrough win came on a switch back to dirt for the Grade 3 Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn Park in March. She benefited from a blistering pace by closing from far back to win by a length and earn a career-best 96 Equibase Speed Figure. She raced nearer to the pace in her final Oaks prep in the Central Bank Ashland Stakes and it seemed to rob her of her finishing kick in a sixth-place finish. There appears to be an abundance speed in the Kentucky Oaks, which could benefit Chocolate Kisses if she goes back to her deep-closing tactics. She figures to be a live longshot with a chance to pass quite a few horses late. Grade 1-placed graded stakes winner Brownie Points, by Forest Wildcat, is the dam (mother) of Chocolate Kisses as well as five-time graded stakes winner Synchrony.


3) Lady Apple (20-1)

Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Owners: Phoenix Thoroughbred III and KatieRich Stables

Career record: 7 starts – 3 wins – 2 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $452,200

Earnings per start: $64,600

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 95

Kentucky Oaks points: 100

Pedigree: Curlin – Miss Mary Apples, by Clever Trick

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker/Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Lady Apple finished second in a stakes race in her second career start, but it was not until her fifth race in February at Oaklawn Park that she earned her first career win. She then stretched out around two turns and posted a decisive two-length win in March at Oaklawn before extending her winning streak to three with a clear win in the Grade 3 Fantasy Stakes on April 12. The bay filly by two-time Horse of the Year Curlin equaled a career-best 95 Equibase Speed Figure in the Fantasy and, while she would need to improve to win, appears to be getting good at the perfect time. She is one of three stakes winners produced by her dam (mother), Miss Mary Apples, a Grade 2-placed winner by Clever Trick. Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen won the Kentucky Oaks in 2005 with Summerly and in 2014 with Untapable.


4) Bellafina (2-1)

Jockey: Flavien Prat

Trainer: Simon Callaghan

Owner: Kaleem Shah

Career record: 8 starts – 6 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $1,068,000

Earnings per start: $133,500

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 104

Kentucky Oaks points: 132

Pedigree: Quality Road – Akron Moon, by Malibu Moon

Color: Bay

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Bellafina won three of five starts as a 2-year-old, including a pair of Grade 1 races, and won her first three starts of 2019 to establish herself as a strong favorite for the Kentucky Oaks. Bellafina enters the 1 1/8-mile race off a 5 ¼-length romp in the Santa Anita Oaks after a three-quarter-length win in the Grade 2 Las Virgenes Stakes and a runaway win in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez Stakes in her season debut. She’s very consistent with 102-104-103 Equibase Speed Figures in her three 2019 races, but she has only faced nine individual horses in those three starts as they featured fields of four or five, including herself. So, while Bellafina looks incredibly impressive on paper, there is some validity when it comes to questioning the quality of the opposition she has faced this year. Bellafina is a full-sister (same dam, same sire) to multiple Grade 3-placed stakes winner Diamond King, who won the 2018 Federico Tesio Stakes at this 1 1/8-mile distance.


5) Flor de La Mar (20-1)

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Owner: Godolphin

Career record: 3 starts – 1 win – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $114,140

Earnings per start: $38,047

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 97

Kentucky Oaks points: 40

Pedigree: Tiznow – Sacristy, by Pulpit

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Lightly raced Flor de La Mar made just the third start of her career in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks and acquitted herself nicely with a runner-up finish to probable Kentucky Oaks favorite Bellafina. She was beaten by 5 ¼ lengths in that race, but given it was her stakes debut and first try around two turns, Flor de La Mar certainly is eligible to improve. She earned a 95 Equibase Speed Figure for the Santa Anita Oaks, two points off her career best, so it would not take a major jump for her to compete for a top-three finish, and Flor de La Mar has tactical speed that should allow her to find a nice tracking position. Her Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has won this race three times with Silverbulletday (1999), Plum Pretty (2011), and Abel Tasman (2017), and she could be very dangerous coming from off the pace under Joel Rosario with all of the speed in the race. If you are looking for a live longshot, look no further.


6) Positive Spirit (30-1)

Jockey: Manny Franco

Trainer: Rodolphe Brisset

Owner: Michael J. Ryan

Career record: 6 starts – 2 wins – 2 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $268,700

Earnings per start: $44,783

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 90

Kentucky Oaks points: 50

Pedigree: Pioneerof the Nile – Above Perfection, by In Excess

Color: Bay

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: If you draw a line through the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra Stakes, in which Positive Spirit was restless in the starting gate and faded badly late, she has been pretty consistent with two wins, two seconds, and one third in her other five starts. On the other hand, that was probably the deepest, most talented field she has faced in her career and she was beaten by 25 lengths. If you choose the more optimistic approach, Positive Spirit rebounded to run second by 1 ¾ lengths in the Grade 2 Gazelle Stakes and earned a new career-best 90 Equibase Speed Figure. She is bred to excel around two turns — by Pioneerof the Nile (sire of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah) out of graded stakes winner Above Perfection, the dam (mother) of 2017 Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming — and her two best races came at the 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Oaks distance, but she would need to improve her speed figure at least 10 points to challenge for a win here.


7) Jaywalk (8-1)

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Trainer: John Servis

Owners: D. J. Stable and Cash is King

Career record: 7 starts – 4 wins – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $1,444,000

Earnings per start: $206,286

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 105

Kentucky Oaks points: 55

Pedigree: Cross Traffic – Lady Pewitt, by Orientate

Color: Gray or roan

Running style: Pacesetter

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Jaywalk finished second in her career debut but then reeled off four straight wins, capped by a 5 ½-length runaway in the Tito’s Handmade Vodka Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies that clinched the Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old filly. She has not been as good as a 3-year-old, running fourth at 1-5 odds in the Grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes before an much-better effort when third by two lengths in the Grade 1 Central Bank Ashland Stakes. Jaywalk is eligible to improve in her third start of the year and she was dominant on the Churchill main track in the Breeders’ Cup. Jaywalk is fast enough to win, but it does not look like she will be allowed to set an uncontested pace and the 1 1/8-mile distance is a question as she’s faded late in her two races this season. Trainer John Servis and jockey Javier Castellano teamed to win this race in 2016 with Cathryn Sophia.


8) Motion Emotion (15-1)

Jockey: Mike Smith

Trainer: Thomas Van Berg

Owner: Mark DeDomenico

Career record: 6 starts – 2 wins – 2 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $238,345

Earnings per start: $39,724

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 103

Kentucky Oaks points: 60

Pedigree: Take Charge Indy – Golden Motion, by Smart Strike

Color: Bay

Running style: Pacesetter

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Winless in a pair of sprints as a 2-year-old, Motion Emotion has been a different filly as a 3-year-old with two wins and two seconds in four starts, all at Oaklawn Park. She earned a career-best 103 Equibase Speed Figure when stretching out to 1 1/16 miles for a February allowance win before leading into the stretch and fading to second in both the Grade 3 Honeybee Stakes and Grade 3 Fantasy Stakes. One of several Oaks contenders who prefers to set the pace, Motion Emotion probably will be challenged early. She’s fast enough to be a serious contender, but if she faded late twice at 1 1/16 miles, then stamina is a concern stretching out an extra sixteenth of a mile on May 3. Motion Emotion is out of the unraced Smart Strike mare Golden Motion, a half-sister (same dam, different sire) to graded stakes winners Sapphire n’ Silk and Golden Itiz. Jockey Mike Smith won the Kentucky Oaks in 2013 on Princess of Sylmar and in 2017 on Abel Tasman. Owner Mark DeDomenico was part of the partnership that raced 2010 Kentucky Oaks winner Blind Luck.


9) Liora (20-1)

Jockey: Channing Hill

Trainer: Wayne Catalano

Owner: Coffeepot Stables

Career record: 7 starts – 2 wins – 2 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $302,580

Earnings per start: $43,226

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 88

Kentucky Oaks points: 71

Pedigree: Candy Ride – Giant Mover, by Giant’s Causeway

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Liora showed promise as a 2-year-old when closing her season with back-to-back wins, including a nose victory over Restless Rider in the Grade 2 Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs, where she is 2-for-2 on the main track. She is winless in three starts in stakes races this year with runner-up finishes in both the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra Stakes and the Grade 2 Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks in her two most recent starts. On paper, Liora appears to be a cut below the best 3-year-old fillies with a career-best 88 Equibase Speed Figure. She probably would need to improve significantly to challenge for a victory, but given her previous success at Churchill a top-three finish is not out of the question. Out of the stakes-winning Giant’s Causeway mare Giant Mover, Liora is a half-sister (same dam, different sire) to multiple graded stakes winner Family Tree. 2019 Santa Anita Derby winner and Kentucky Derby hopeful Roadster is from this family.


10) Champagne Anyone (6-1)

Jockey: Chris Landeros

Trainer: Ian Wilkes

Owners: Six Column Stables and Randall L. Bloch

Career record: 7 starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 3 thirds

Career earnings: $267,950

Earnings per start: $38,279

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 97

Kentucky Oaks points: 113

Pedigree: Street Sense – Lucevan, by Ghostzapper

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker/Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Champagne Anyone enters off a career-best effort to win the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oakson March 30. In that race she added blinkers to improve her focus and raced much closer to the pace than she had in six previous starts before edging away late to win by a half-length and post a career-best 97 Equibase Speed Figure. Prior to the Gulfstream Park Oaks, the bay filly had run third in the Grade 3 Forward Gal Stakes and Grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes, both at Gulfstream. While she needs to improve her speed figure to be a win contender, Champagne Anyone has the versatility to drop back and make one run if the pace is especially fast or she could sit just behind the early speed if the tempo is tepid. Champagne Anyone’s dam (mother), Lucevan, by Ghostzapper, is a half-sister (same dam, different sire) to Argentine champion and U.S. Grade 1 winner Miss Loren and multiple graded stakes winner Mr. Light, who in 2005 set a new world record (1:31.41) for one mile on turf.


11) Jeltrin (15-1)

Jockey: Luis Saez

Trainer: Alexis Delgado

Owner: ADR Racing Stable

Career record: 6 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $158,588

Earnings per start: $26,431

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 98

Kentucky Oaks points: 51

Pedigree: Tapizar – Song to the Moon, by Successful Appeal

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: It’s not uncommon to see a 3-year-old racehorse take a huge step forward in the spring or summer, and for Jeltrin that leap came when she won the Grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes by a head on March 20. She improved her Equibase Speed Figure by 19 points from a previous top of 79 to a 98 for the Davona Dale, her final prep race for the Kentucky Oaks. She’s fairly versatile having led from start to finish in a sprint in her second start and won from off the pace. Even though her pedigree does not scream stamina, it was a positive sign that she made such a big improvement when stretching out to a mile for the first time. Trainer Alexis Delgado earned his first graded stakes win when Jeltrin prevailed in the Davona Dale.


12) Street Band (15-1)

Jockey: Sophie Doyle

Trainer: Larry Jones

Owners: Larry Jones, Cindy Jones, and Ray Francis

Career record: 8 starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $310,325

Earnings per start: $38,791

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 92

Kentucky Oaks points: 105

Pedigree: Istan – Street Minstrel, by Street Cry

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Street Band won two of her first six races, the last of which was a nose victory in a one-mile and 70-yard allowance race in her 2019 debut that led her connections to test her in a graded stakes. She faded late to finish fourth in the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra Stakes at Fair Grounds in February but showed significant improvement in March when she surged well clear late to win the Grade 2 Twinspires.com Fair Ground Oaks by 3 ¾ lengths. Street Band earned a career-top 92 Equibase Speed Figure for her first stakes win and took a huge step forward in victory, however, she will need to continue to improve — probably by at least 10 points — to have a chance to win the Kentucky Oaks. Trainer Larry Jones has won the Kentucky Oaks three times with Proud Spell (2008), Believe You Can (2012), and Lovely Maria (2015).


Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

Trainer: Tom Amoss

Owner: Joel Politi

Career record: 7 starts – 4 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $331,870

Earnings per start: $47,410

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 97

Kentucky Oaks points: 60

Pedigree: Alternation – Havisham, by Bernardini

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Pacesetter

Notable achievements and interesting facts: When she is at her best Serengeti Empress can be absolutely brilliant — she won the Ellis Park Debutante by 13 ½ lengths last August and the Grade 2 Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs by 19 ½ lengths in September at Churchill Downs — but she’s also been a bit inconsistent. She came up empty when seventh in the 2018 Tito’s Handmade Vodka Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies but dazzled in her 3-year-old debut, a front-running 4 ½-length romp in the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra Stakes. Trainer Tom Amoss said she bled in her final prep for the Kentucky Oaks, which explains why she stopped in the Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaksbut also makes her a complete wild card in this race.


14) Restless Rider (6-1)

Jockey: Brian Joseph Hernandez Jr.

Trainer: Ken McPeek

Owners: Fern Circle Stables and Three Chimneys Farm

Career record: 7 starts – 3 wins – 4 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $880,160

Earnings per start: $125,737

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 97

Kentucky Oaks points: 62

Pedigree: Distorted Humor – Silky Serenade, by Unbridled’s Song

Color: Gray or roan

Running style: Stalker/Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Restless Rider posted three dominant wins and three seconds from six starts as a 2-year-old. She won the Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades at Keeneland and the runner-up finishes all came in Grade 1 or Grade 2 races, including a second to Jaywalk in the Tito’s Handmade Vodka Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. She made her 3-year-old debut off a 4 ½-month break in the Grade 1 Central Bank Ashland Stakes at Keeneland on April 6 and hung a bit late when second by a neck to Out for a Spin. She earned a 96 Equibase Speed Figure for the Ashland, just a point off her previous best, and she probably needed a race off the long layoff. There is a very good chance she moves forward off that race, which should help build stamina. She has two wins and two seconds on the main track at Churchill, which also bodes well, and she’s been so consistent in seven races that she must be considered a serious threat even if she would need to improve to win on May 3. Restless Rider is out of the winning Unbridled’s Song mare Silky Serenade, a half-sister (same dam, different sire) to multiple graded stakes winner and sire Private Vow.


15) Dunbar Road (also-eligible, 5-1)

Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Trainer: Chad Brown

Owners: Peter Brant

Career record: 2 starts – 1 win – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $75,300

Earnings per start: $37,650

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 96

Kentucky Oaks points: 40

Pedigree: Quality Road – Gift List, by Bernardini

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Dunbar Road is one of the more interesting Kentucky Oaks contenders, but as it stands she would need one defection for a spot in the starting gate. The Quality Road filly has only raced twice in her career, romping by 8 ¾ lengths in her March 3 debut at Gulfstream Park and then finishing second by a half-length in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks in a serious class test in her second race. With a 91 Equibase Speed Figure in her debut and a 96 in the Gulfstream Park Oaks, it is clear there is star potential in Dunbar Road but she might not have a chance to show it at Churchill Downs on May 3. Tactically, she has enough speed to track just off the pace and could be very dangerous in a race that looks to have an abundance of speed. Dunbar Road is from the family of 2000 Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Status, the dam of 2009 Belmont Stakes runner-up Dunkirk, and her pedigree suggests 1 1/8 miles should be right in her wheelhouse. If she sneaks into the Kentucky Oaks, do not ignore Dunbar Road.


16) Point of Honor (also-eligible, 20-1)

Jockey: John Velazquez

Trainer: George Weaver

Owners: Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Stetson Racing

Career record: 3 starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $96,375

Earnings per start: $32,125

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 94

Kentucky Oaks points: 20

Pedigree: Curlin – Zayanna, by Bernardini

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Stalker/Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: After winning her first two career starts by open lengths, including a 2 ¾-length victory in the Suncoast Stakes on Feb. 9 at Tampa Bay Downs, Point of Honor made her graded stakes debut in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks on March 30. She made up a couple of lengths late but never really threatened while fourth, beaten by two lengths as the 9-5 second betting choice. Point of Honor was up against it in that race as the Gulfstream Park main track was favoring speed, and she did earn a new career-best 94 Equibase Speed Figure and 87 Beyer Speed Figure. The chestnut filly would need two defections to get into the Kentucky Oaks, but she would be a very live longshot if she did with plenty of pace to set up her closing rally and what figures to be a fair main track. By two-time Horse of the Year Curlin out of the multiple stakes producer Zayanna, by 2006 Preakness winner Bernardini, Point of Honor is bred for distance. Zayanna is a half-sibling to four stakes winners. Jockey John Velazquez won the Kentucky Oaks in 2004 with Ashado.

Mr. Money is the horse to beat in the 2019 Pennsylvania Derby

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Six three-year-olds are expected to line up in the gate for this year’s Grade 1, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing and there are no shortage of opinions among fans on who should emerge victorious. Improbable, winner of the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity last year, will probably be the public betting choice now that Maximum Security will not run, though Improbable was winless in four races this year until victorious in the Shared Belief Stakes last month in California. Considering his trainer Bob Baffert has won the last two editions of this race with West Coast and McKinzie, Improbable likely deserves that amount of respect. Mr. Money has reeled off four straight graded stakes wins including the Grade 3 Indiana Derby and Grade 3 West Virginia Derby and also is a strong contender. Spun to Run is the local hero as he won the Grade 3 Smarty Jones Stakes 19 days ago at Parx, while Grade 1 Preakness Stakes winner War of Will hopes to rebound off ninth and fifth place efforts in his two most recent races. Math Wizard has finished third and sixth, respectively, behind Mr. Money, in his two most recent starts although he was the runner-up in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby prior to that. Shanghai Superfly rounds out the field.

Mr. Money just wasn’t ready for the 3-year-old classics earlier this year but has become one of the leaders in the division and will be formidable in this year’s Pennsylvania Derby. Considering he finished seventh then fifth in his first two starts as a 3-year-old, both around two turns, it was with much confidence trainer Bret Calhoun entered Mr. Money in the Grade 3 Pat Day Mile Stakes Presented by LG and E and KU on Kentucky Derby day. That one-turn mile trip suited Mr. Money perfectly as he dominated to win by five and one-quarter lengths to earn a then career-best 104 Equibase Speed Figure. Stretching out to two-turns in the Matt Winn Stakes in June, Mr. Money was equally impressive when coasting home by six lengths, improving to a 106 figure. Showing even more improvement one month later with a 114 figure, Mr. Money won the Indiana Derby by two and one-half lengths then returned three weeks later to win the West Virginia Derby by six lengths. If this was May and this race was the Kentucky Derby rather than the Pennsylvania Derby, based on those efforts Mr. Money would be among my top contenders because he has shown tremendous acceleration with a quarter mile to run in his last four races. Most notably, in the West Virginia Derby, Mr. Money went from a head in front at the quarter pole to five lengths in front at the eighth pole. The way jockey Gabriel Saez is able to get Mr. Money to change gears at that critical stage of the race is the reason I believe Mr. Money will win the Pennsylvania Derby to earn his fifth straight graded stakes victory.

Spun to Run is the “under the radar” horse in this talented field. Among the field, he is the most familiar with the dirt track at Parx, having won three of five races here, and he comes off a career best effort and is on a pattern to improve upon it. After finishing fourth in a sprint to start his 3-year-old campaign, Spun to Run stretched out to two turns and won as he pleased in January. Returning in March, Spun to Run ran even better when drawing off by seven lengths and earning a then career-best 99 figure. Although third behind Maximum Security in the Grade 1 TVG.com Haskell Invitational Stakes at Monmouth Park with a 96 figure in his next start, when returning to his home base for the Smarty Jones Stakes on September 2, Spun to Run ran the best race of his career. The 113 figure earned is also the best last race figure in the field, although not the best earned by any horse as that belongs to Mr. Money’s 114 figure in the Indiana Derby. Nevertheless, Spun to Run was exceptionally game in the blinkers he was wearing for only the second time in the Smarty Jones as he battled head-and-head down the entire length of the stretch before asserting himself by a head on the wire. That kind of competitive spirit may serve Spun to Run nicely in the Pennsylvania Derby and as such I think he has a slight chance to upset and a big chance to be part of the exacta.

Improbable added blinkers for the Shared Belief Stakes last month in California and apparently that did the trick in getting him to win for the first time since last December. Blinkers were tried once before, in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, and it’s debatable whether they did anything to motivate the colt as he was one length behind winner Omaha Beach for the entire length of the stretch. However, after non-threatening efforts in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, the equipment change seemed to help as Improbable earned a career-best 112 figure while retaining a strong three length lead in the last eighth of a mile. Making his second start off a layoff, Improbable can take another step forward to win the Pennsylvania Derby but in my opinion he’s no more probable to win than either Mr. Money or Spun to Run and will be the much lower odds of the trio.

The rest of the Pennsylvania Derby field with their best representative figures: Math Wizard (113), War of Will (107) and Shanghai Superfly (88)

Win Contenders:

Mr. Money

Spun to Run

Improbable

The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series continues on NBC Sports with the Cotillion Stakes from Parx Racing on September 21. Coverage begins at 5 p.m. ET on NBC.

Betting an off-the-pace longshot in the Cotillion Stakes

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Win and you’re in. It sounds simple in theory. But the winning part will be easier said than done for the 11 fillies set to square off in Saturday’s $1 million, Grade 1 Cotillion Stakes at Parx Racing.

The 1 1/16-mile race has been gaining prestige in recent years and now offers a “Win and You’re In” qualifying berth to the Grade 1 Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park. With this bonus prize added to the rich purse, the Cotillion has attracted some of the most talented and accomplished three-year-old fillies in North America.

The 9-5 morning line favorite is understandably #8 Guarana. Conditioned by the three-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown, Guarana is undefeated in three starts and showcased her budding brilliance with victories in the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes and the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks during the spring and summer.

But could there be a crack in Guarana’s armor? She raced a bit greenly in the homestretch of the Coaching Club American Oaks, ducking out late in the race while leading clearly. And while she’s shown some versatility in terms of running style, winning the Acorn Stakes from a few lengths off a fast pace, two of her victories have come in gate-to-wire fashion.

Guarana’s front-running tendency could prove problematic in the Cotillion, a race that’s absolutely packed with speed horses. The Grade 1 Longines Kentucky Oaks winner #1 Serengeti Empress knows of only one way to run – fast and furious right from the start – and the same goes for #11 Jaywalk, gate-to-wire winner of the 2018 Grade 1 Tito’s Handmade Vodka Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. The speedy six-time graded stakes winner #10 Bellafina also tends to set or press the pace, while the longshots #5 Collegeville Girl#6 Horologist, and #9 Sweet Sami D have also shown a fondness for front-running tactics.

So who can take advantage of this presumably fast and contested pace? How about #3 Street Band? This daughter of Istan might not be a winning machine, but she’s quietly compiled an admirable record this year, highlight by blowout victories in the Grade 2 Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks and the Grade 3 Indiana Oaks.

Street Band’s Indiana Oaks triumph was eye-catching, since she exuded power and looked like a winner from start to finish, but I was just as impressed by her third-place finish in the 1 ¼-mile Grade 1 Alabama Stakes on Aug. 17 at Saratoga. Racing over a sloppy, sealed track, Street Band did not receive the cleanest trip. Instead of enjoying a wide, unencumbered rally, she found herself racing between and behind horses for most of the race, a tricky position that forced her to wait in traffic on the far turn.

However, at the top of the stretch, Street Band gamely split horses and seized a brief lead. She remained thoroughly in contention until the eighth pole, after which she weakened slightly to finish third, but under the circumstances I thought Street Band ran a great race.

Street Band will be cutting back significantly in distance for the Cotillion, which should sharpen her finishing speed, and I’m also optimistic she’ll receive a perfect setup rallying into a fast pace. The best part? She’s 8-1 on the morning line, so if she wins, the payoff will be lucrative.

As a result, I don’t see any reason to get too complicated with wagering strategies. If you’re playing on a small budget, just bet Street Band to win and place. But if you have a little extra cash to spend and want to seek a truly memorable payoff, try keying her in the exacta and trifecta with Guarana, Serengeti Empress, Jaywalk, and the improving Horologist, a 15-1 shot with four consecutive victories to her credit.

Wagering Strategy on a $10 Budget

$5 to win on #3 Street Band

What to say at the betting window: Parx Racing, 10th race, $5 to win on #3 Street Band

$5 to place on #3 Street Band

What to say at the betting window: Parx Racing, 10th race, $5 to place on #3 Street Band

Wagering Strategy on a $30 Budget

$10 to win on #3 Street Band

What to say at the betting window: Parx Racing, 10th race, $10 to win on #3 Street Band

$4 exacta box: 3,8 ($8)

What to say at the betting window: Parx Racing, 10th race, $5 exacta box 3,8

$1 trifecta: 3,8 with 3,8 with 1,6,11 ($6)

What to say at the betting window: Parx Racing, 10th race, $1 trifecta 3,8 with 3,8 with 1,6,11

$1 trifecta: 3,8 with 1,6,11 with 3,8 ($6)

What to say at the betting window: Parx Racing, 10th race, $1 trifecta 3,8 with 1,6,11 with 3,8

The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series continues on NBC Sports with the Cotillion Stakes from Parx Racing on September 21. Coverage begins at 5 p.m. ET on NBC.