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    A full field of 14 will break from the gates to contest the 141st running of the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) on Friday going 1 1/8 miles on the main track at Churchill Downs.

    John Sadler’s Stellar Wind, who’ll break from post 12 under the guidance of jockey Victor Espinoza, has been installed as the morning-line favorite at odds of 7-2. A daughter of Curlin, Stellar Wind has only raced four times, but has won three times including the Santa Anita Oaks (G1). Her 5 ¼ length victory in the Santa Anita Oaks was quite impressive considering she started the race last by 5 ½ lengths, was still last by the first call, but had cut the margin between her and the horse in front of her down to three lengths. She kept slowly moving forward and was clearly gobbling up her rivals as the field turned for home. At the top of the stretch she’d caught the front-running Luminance and then romped home to a 5 ¼ length victory.

    Condo Commando has been listed as the co-second choice on the morning line at odds of 4-1. She’s a slender filly by Tiz Wonderful that has won five of her six career starts. Although she may prefer the lead, she doesn’t have to fight for it. She can sit nicely just off the leader as she did for the early part of the Gazelle (G2) before easily overtaking a tiring Puca. Condo Commando can turn on the power when she wants and has such a long stride that she just glides over the track. She is trained by Rudy Rodriguez, who ran Vyjack in the Kentucky Derby a few years back, and she’ll be ridden by jockey Joel Rosario.

    Larry Jones’s I’m a Chatterbox is the other 4-1 co-second choice on the morning line. She comes into the race on a three-win streak that includes the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) and the Rachel Alexandra (G3). In her Rachel Alexandra win Feb. 21 she really showed some talent. She was last in a field of 10 in the early going, but when she began to make her move she just kept coming. She was forced out four horses wide around the final turn, but started mowing them down through the stretch. It was the kind of move you like to see in a race that makes you say “Wow!” The winning margin over stablemate Lovely Maria was 2 ½ lengths. One concern with this one is her pedigree since her sire, Munnings, was more of a sprinter. Her mother, Chit Chatter, however, was able to win at 1 1/16 mile. Florent Geroux will be in the irons when I’m a Chatterbox breaks from post eight.

    Lovely Maria, who I’m a Chatterbox beat in that Rachel Alexandra, came back Apr. 4 to a win in the Ashland (G1) at Keeneland. Lovely Maria has a beautiful way of going when she hits the final turn; it’s that powerful surge around the corner and a strong kick for home that you hope she’s going to keep on to the wire. In the Rachel Alexandra, Lovely Maria made her sweep on the outside and came over on Forever Unbridled’s path, forcing the Dallas Stewart-trainee to go to the outside. It looked like Lovely Maria was going to go on to a win, but stablemate I’m a Chatterbox came up on the outside. With Forever Unbridled in-between and Lovely Maria on the rail, she held for second. Forever Unbridled was able to hold on for third, a head in front of Angela Renee. In the Ashland when Lovely Maria made her sweeping move there was no one who could get to her, and she gave jockey Kerwin Clark his first grade one win. It would be a lovely story for Lovely Maria to win the Oaks and take Clark from his first grade one win to first Kentucky Oaks win in the span of a month.

    ​Birdatthewire, a daughter of Summer Bird trained by Dale Romans, is the type of horse that has taken some hits in racing and learned how to recover. She tends to be way out of it early and then makes one late run. Birdatthewire has finished in a near-blanket finish in her last two starts—the Davona Dale (G2) Feb. 21 and Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) Mar. 28. The Gulfstream Park Oaks was a most impressive run for Birdatthewire. She was forced to check so strongly behind traffic around the backstretch that rider Jose Ortiz Jr. appeared to have to stand straight up. She quickly recovered and cut through horses to settle into the middle of the field. When she moved to the outside and started to close, she just grinded it out and powered past Eskenformoney and Danessa Deluxe to finish 1 ¼ lengths in front.

    Dallas Stewart just got Forever Unbridled into the Kentucky Oaks field on Monday after the defections of Bob Baffert’s Luminance and Maybelline. She is a full sister to Unbridled Forever, Stewart’s filly that ran third in last year’s Oaks. Forever Unbridled has been running on the Fair Grounds circuit in Louisiana and has one win in five starts. She sat just off the leaders in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) Mar. 28 and seemed to get caught behind traffic when she was ready to move. As I’m a Chatterbox pushed through and went out to a 2 ½-length win over Shook Up, Forever Unbridled couldn’t do much more than third. Stewart believes she’s every bit as good as her sister and is likely to hit the board. Jockey Mike Smith will have to overcome the rail when they break from post one.

    The Oaks is a tough field this year, just has talent-rich as the Kentucky Derby field. There’s plenty of early speed, including Condo Commando and Eskenformoney. There’s also plenty who will be sitting just behind the leaders and still others at the back of the field ready to make a strong closing run. Condo Commando will likely go for the early lead and should have no problem getting there from post five. Eskenformoney and I’m a Chatterbox will probably be close behind her and have the speed to challenge her. If that happens and a speed battle ensues, a closer like Birdatthewire or someone who can rate comfortably behind the leaders like Stellar Wind may be able to run them down for the win.

    The play: I’m going to play a three-horse exacta box that includes Condo Commando, Birdatthewire and Lovely Maria. I may also try some other combinations that include Stellar Wind and Forever Unbridled. I’ll also put straight money on both Condo Commando and Birdatthewire.

    The field from the rail out, with jockey and odds is: Forever Unbridled (Mike Smith, 15-1), Shook Up (Robby Albarado, 30-1), Include Betty (Rosemary Homeister Jr., 20-1), Eskenformoney (Javier Castellano, 20-1), Condo Commando (Joel Rosario, 4-1), Angela Renee (John Velazquez, 15-1), Lovely Maria (Kerwin Clark, 5-1), I’m a Chatterbox (Florent Geroux, 4-1), Money’soncharlotte (Paco Lopez, 50-1), Oceanwave (Rafael Bejarano, 30-1), Sarah Sis (Gary Stevens, 30-1), Stellar Wind (Victor Espinoza, 7-2), Birdatthewire (Irad Ortiz Jr., 6-1), Puca (Junior Alvarado, 15-1).

    Listed on the also eligible list is Peace and War with jockey Julien Leparoux. She could draw in if another horse defects from the Kentucky Oaks before 9 a.m. Friday morning. Peace and War is entered in the Pat Day Mile (G3) against the boys on the Derby Day undercard, so likely look for her there.

    The race is the 11th on Churchill Down’s stakes-filled Friday card with a scheduled post time of 5:49 EST. The race can be seen as part of the day-long coverage on NBC Sports Network. Click here for free PPs courtesy of Brisnet.

    Photo: J. Oswald

    Jessie Oswald's picture

    About Jessie Oswald

    I'm a lifetime Louisville resident with a passion for horse racing. When I'm not working as a paralegal or taking care of my family, I follow Thoroughbred racing and love to share the excitement and beauty of the sport with anyone willing to learn!

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