2020 Derby Weekend Part 1 – Fridays are for the Girls!
By Katie Hall
Baseball & Horse Racing Analyst
Well, we made it. Derby weekend is finally here!
While it isn’t the first weekend in May and there won't be any fans in the stands, some things have not changed about Kentucky Derby weekend. Even in a year that fans are desperate for live sports, the Kentucky Oaks is once again being overlooked and underappreciated.
If you are not from Kentucky or follow horse racing closely, you may not have even heard of the Kentucky Oaks before. As an avid lover of horse racing and Kentucky, Kentucky Oaks Day is easily my favorite racing day of the year. Let me explain why.
Kentucky Oaks Day is the day of racing during Derby weekend that many locals from Kentucky view as their day, as it does not draw the attention from out-of-towners like the Derby. When you’re in the stands, locals will share their intimate insight and experiences with the horse racing industry that is so intrinsic to their identity and culture as Kentuckians. While Derby Day is a bucket list event, I urge anyone that is going to Churchill Downs to attend Friday’s races.
In terms of the race itself, the Kentucky Oaks is a Grade 1 stakes race always contested the Friday before the Kentucky Derby. Often people view it as ‘The Kentucky Derby for Girls” and is usually the first leg of the “National Triple Tiara” – the Triple Crown for fillies. While the Oaks and the Derby are both marquee events, there are also a few differences. Unlike the Derby which allows colts, fillies and geldings, the Kentucky Oaks is for three-year old fillies (female horses) only. The race itself is one and 1/8 miles, a furlong shorter than the Kentucky Derby, and the purse is about half of the Kentucky Derby ($1.25 million vs. $3 million).
And instead of it being a Run for the Roses, these lucky fillies are running for a garland of beautiful stargazer lilies – which is the inspiration for the entire day. While Derby Day is filled with bourbon and lovely mint juleps, the drink of the Oaks is called a Lily. As a bourbon lover, I was a bit skeptical of this vodka cranberry drink at first, but it has now become one of my favorites. If you’re looking to make some at home today, check out this official recipe.
The lily theme carries beyond just the official cocktail. Because of the flower’s gorgeous pink color, the stands and infield at Churchill Downs are a sea of pink on Friday as men and women alike wear their best pink outfits and hats. While the pink inspiration comes from a flower, it has evolved into a national awareness campaign for breast and ovarian cancer. On the day of the race, cancer survivors participate in a Survivors Parade down the straightaway at Churchill demonstrating hope and drawing awareness to the disease.
Even though the Oaks may not have the flashiest red carpet or television presence, it does showcase some of the best things about horse racing. Fundamentally and most importantly, the Oaks gives fillies their time to shine. I have always had a soft spot for fillies, not just because I am a woman, but because these talented horses become some of the most sought after broodmares in the world, and eventually produce future Kentucky Derby and Oaks contenders.
As you finish up your work week (either remote or in person), start your Derby weekend festivities early and treat yourself to some of the best horse racing that you’ll see all year! Don’t forget to put on your favorite pink outfit and turn on NBC Sports or Fox Sports 2 at 4:45pm CST (5:45 EST). And, if you’re interested in making it more exciting, see the analysis of this year’s field of fillies below and some advice on how to bet!
The 2020 Kentucky Oaks – Outlook and How to Bet It
Baffert verses the world – It seems to be an evergreen theme in horse racing and today is no different. To say that Gamine dominated in The Longines Acorn at Belmont in June would be an understatement. While this field is impressive with the speedster Swiss Skydiver (8/5) and Speech (5/1) – who beat Gamine in back in May – I think this year’s Kentucky Oaks is Gamine’s race to lose… And she won’t. I believe John Velazquez well let her speed create enough distance that no one will be able to catch her.
$1 Trifecta: 5/1,4,6,7/1,4,6,7 ($12 ticket cost)
$2 Exacta: 5/1,4,6,7 ($8 ticket cost)
Expert Analysis – Sammy
Before looking at this race on paper, I believed that Swiss Skydiver (8/5) was the filly to beat in the Oaks. She’s still my pick, but now that post positions have been drawn, it’s not as clear. Swiss Skydiver is an impressive filly – two races ago, she battled against the boys at Keeneland and came up a valiant second to derby-contender Art Collector. Unlike Bob Baffert’s, Gamine (1/1), Swiss Skydiver has already won a Grade 1 at 1 ¼ miles and gets a cut back here to one and 1/8 miles. However, coming from the first post position and with Gamine looming large to her outside, we are in store for a really fast early pace, maybe even challenging the Oaks record. Over the last 15 years, the fastest first half-mile fraction has been 46.24 seconds. If there is indeed a new record half mile, I think both Swiss Skydiver and Gamine could be in big trouble and I would look for Speech (5/1) and Donna Veloce (15/1) to pick the favorites off down the stretch. The good news for Swiss Skydiver fans is that jockey Tyler Gaffalione knows his horse and I have to believe Swiss Skydiver will have one final surge at the end.
$10 Exacta: 1 / 3,4,5 ($30 ticket cost)
$0.50 Superfecta: 1 / 3,4,5 / 3,4,5 / All ($18 ticket cost)
If you want to bet the upset:
$1 Trifecta: 3,4 / 1,3,4 / 1,3,4,5 ($8 ticket cost)
Across the Board Sports