Oaks Day holds a special place in the hearts of horseplayers. The most coveted prize in American horse racing is but a day away, and the card at Churchill Downs is always loaded with great races featuring high-class horses. The La Troienne is the lesser-known Grade 1 on the docket and is carded earlier in the day, when many of those fans lucky enough to be on the grounds are sipping their first mint julep of the day and enjoying the scenery. Those who turn their attention to the past performances will find a modest field of six fillies and mares contesting this 8.5-furlong event. To be sure, this isn’t the best betting race on the card, but we will try to squeeze out some value with a filly who appears to be peaking at the right time and figures to go off at odds longer than her 5-2 morning line.
According to the TFUS Pace Projector, Magic Union (#4, 5-2 ML) figures to get a good stalking trip behind the expected pacesetter, Devil’s Cave (#5, 5-2).
We feel that Magic Union is likely to be in the 4-1 range when the gates open, as so many punters will settle on the high-profile connections of Unlimited Budget (#3, 2-1). In Magic Union’s most recent start, she ran a career-best speed figure of 109, a number that would be highly competitive in here. Although that number represents a significant top for Magic Union, her prior numbers were on the improve. She gets a sweet 48 days of rest coming into this spot. Her form at CD is quite good, with a win and a second from two starts.
[Pace figures shown in running lines are for the race leader.]
We feel there are signs that she is ready to win at this level. Magic Union is our selection in the La Troienne.
Part of our play is predicated on the feeling that all is not well with Unlimited Budget. In her two starts as a four-year-old, she hasn’t managed to run back to her best three-year-old numbers. While this is her third start off a layoff, we can’t help but think she will get pounded at the windows and go off at close to even-money. If that happens, we recommend taking a shot against her.
Of the others, On Fire Baby (#6, 7-2) is consistently fast, but this is her third start in 48 days, and we wonder if a regression is coming off two grueling efforts.
Devil’s Cave is a threat to wire them and should be used protectively with our top choice.
Molly Morgan (#1, 10-1) is our upset candidate. She’s slower many of these, but we think she may be rounding into a good effort. This mare has only four wins in her career, but three of them were at The Downs, and we think she will get a comfortable rail trip near the back of what figures to be a tightly bunched pack. Yes, she is unproven at this class level, and yes, a trip to the winner’s circle feels like a stretch, but we give her a great chance to complete the exotics at double-digit odds and will use her accordingly.
The Play: #4 Magic Union to win at 7-2+.
Exacta Box: #4 Magic Union and #5 Devil’s Cave.
Straight Exacta: #4 Magic Union over #1 Molly Morgan.
Trifecta part wheel: #4 Magic Union in the 1-hole, with #1 Molly Morgan back and forth in the 2/3 slots and the ALL button filling the open hole.