Kentucky Oaks Picks: A winning trip awaits Travel Column

Brad Cox's Travel Column could give the Kentucky horseman his second straight Oaks victory
Brad Cox's Travel Column could give the Kentucky horseman his second straight Oaks victory

The Grade I Kentucky Oaks Stakes is Race 11 on the card and the sixth and final race as part of the Derby City-6 on Oaks Day this Friday at Churchill Downs. Plenty of potential winners but where is our in-house handicapper going to put his money?

He previews the race below along with his full slate of selections for the card under the Twin Spires. For picks from across the US this Friday then check out our Picks page (linked to below) which is updated overnight with a full slate of selections from the team...

Free Horse Racing Picks

What once looked like a weak and uninspiring division has actually come together nicely in this edition of the G1 Kentucky Oaks, but I won’t beat around the bush here, I think Travel Column (#6) is the class of this field. I was so high on this filly heading into the year based on a deceptively strong win in the G2 Golden Rod at Churchill Downs to close out her juvenile campaign, and although it took her a start to validate my confidence in her, she showed last out in the G2 Fair Grounds Oaks that she’s at the very top of this division. I’m not a big horse-for-course guy, but I do appreciate that she ran so well in the Golden Rod over this track, and I trust her trainer Brad Cox to have her primed for a career-best effort in her third start of the year. She’s a very likely winner of this race and may not even go off favored, which is an alluring combination.

The filly that may indeed inherit favoritism is Malathaat (#10), who I admit is a legitimate threat to my top pick. I was a bit skeptical of her heading into the G1 Ashland, which was her first and only start of 2021 to date, but boy did I come away impressed. Her margin of victory in the Ashland was just a head, yet she turned in easily one of the best performances by a 3-year-old filly this year as she finished off that race like it was on turf, closing into a sub 30-second final 2 ½ furlongs to get up to win. In some ways such a lights-out effort was predictable given the way her trainer Todd Pletcher’s runners performed at the Keeneland Spring Meet (they almost all ran out of their skin), however I’m not going to hold that against her as she’s undefeated in her career and still has mouth-watering upside as she makes her second start of the year.

That said, from a value perspective I actually prefer the filly who finished just behind Malathaat in the Ashland, Pass the Champagne (#5). Like Malathaat, I was pleasantly surprised by her performance in the Ashland. Admittedly, I was skeptical of her in that race as she entered fresh off a maiden win at Gulfstream Park and was making her first start around two turns, but she addressed those concerns emphatically with a strong runner-up effort. She did get a better trip than the winner, however that could very well happen again given her superior tactical speed and she put a lot of distance between her and the third-place finisher Will’s Secret, who is no slouch. At this point I’m not sure she’s quite on Travel Column’s level, but it wouldn’t be shocking if she jumped up with another improved performance in her fourth career start, which is an attractive proposition considering her 15-1 morning-line odds.

One short-priced filly I won’t be using is the Chad Brown-trained Search Results (#12). She really couldn’t have gotten much easier trips in her two stakes wins at Aqueduct Racetrack this year, though I suppose that’s going to happen when you have the kind of tactical speed she does. I’ll be honest, she’s not the easiest of reads for me. On one hand she’s just paired up 92 Beyer Speed Figures, which make her a formidable presence in this spot, however on the other she’s coming off a win over Maracuja (#2), who’s nobody’s idea of a top 3-year-old filly. I think you have to view Search Results as a contender given the dearth of quality in this field, but I suspect she’s going to be a significant underlay and as such have no use for her.


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