Homeracing

2019 Kentucky Oaks: Main Track Should Be Fast and Fair

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

May 3rd, 2019

Overnight and early morning rainfall threatened to leave Churchill Downs wet and soggy for Kentucky Oaks Day, but after watching the first seven races on the card, it seems evident the rain will have no meaningful impact on the Oaks itself.

Churchill Downs' main track has a reputation for drying out quickly, and with the temperature climbing past 70 degrees, the main track has steadily improved from “sloppy” to “muddy” to “good" to “fast." Regardless of official labels, we’ve seen some fast times today. The 3-year-old filly Break Even won the seven-furlong Eight Belle Stakes (G3) in 1:22.13 after posting fractions of :22.08, :44.14 and 1:08.88, while the grade 1-winning older male McKinzie blazing 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.10 to win the Alysheba Stakes (G2) by daylight.

The turf course might take longer to dry out, but it’s technically been upgraded from “good” to “firm" already. The lone grass race so far today was the 1 1/16-mile Edgewood Stakes (G2) for 3-year-old fillies, and while the winning time of 1:43.34 posted by Concrete Rose wasn’t blazing, neither was it the 1:45-plus we would have expected from a truly rain-soaked “yielding” or “soft” course. Pending an unexpected rainstorm, the course should be drier still for the $250,000 Twin Spires Turf Sprint Stakes (G2) at 5:04 p.m. ET.

Despite the early rain and drying-out conditions, the main track seems to be playing fairly today, without offering an advantage to particular running styles or racing lanes. You can argue early speed might be an asset—the last five winners raced on or close to the lead—but late runners have been rallying to finish second and third all day long. No jockeys have been particularly dominant either, with seven different riders winning the first seven races.
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