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Three Favorites to Bet For The 2018 Kentucky Oaks
2018 Kentucky Oaks Contenders
The Kentucky Oaks is run on the day before the Kentucky Derby, this year scheduled for Friday, May 4 from Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. The Oaks field is limited to 14 starters, and they'll race 1 1/8 miles on the dirt, for a total purse of $1 million. The field was decided through a series of qualifying races, that began with the Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill last September.
Midnight Bisou in the Kentucky Oaks
A Kentucky-bred trained by Bill Spawr, Midnight Bisou has made five lifetime starts - all in southern California - and was runner-up in her first two races prior to reeling off three consecutive wins coming into the Oaks. She ran second in her debut at Santa Anita last October, surging late from back in the pack to just miss by a nose racing six furlongs. She then raced in a seven-furlong stakes race, again coming late to again be beaten by a nose.
For 2018, she moved to graded-stakes company and won the (G2) Santa Inez stakes, racing mid-pack before taking over in the stretch to win by more than four lengths. Next up was the (G3) Santa Isabel Stakes, where she beat a small field of four others by 2 1/2 lengths. Finally, in her final Oaks prep, she captured the (G1) Santa Anita Oaks at 1 1/16 miles, rallying from second last to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Ultimately, she topped the Oaks qualifying list with 160 points.
Pedigree-wise, her sire Midnight Lute was a multiple grade-one stakes winner as a sprinter, while her grandsire was 1998 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Real Quiet, who ran second in the Belmont Stakes that year. Her dam was a graded-stakes winner at 1 1/16 miles, while her damsire won four and was runner-up three times in graded stakes, including the 1 1/4 mile Travers.
A late-running filly, Midnight Bisou has a tremendous late kick, and seems to be able to close well even into a slow early pace. While she lacks distance pedigree from her sire, overall pedigree suggests she should get the 1 1/8 miles. Jockey Mike Smith won the Oaks last year on Abel Tasman.
At the same time, there's a legitimate question as to the level of competition she has been facing in fairly small fields. None of the fillies she beat in the Santa Anita Oaks, for example, made the top 14 for qualifying for the Kentucky Oaks. She's never raced outside of southern California, so how she'll handle travel and the Churchill Downs track is unknown.
Monomoy Girl in the Kentucky Oaks
Another Kentucky-bred trained by Brad Cox, Monomoy Girl has had six lifetime starts, with five wins and one runner-up finish. She made her debut a winning one at Indiana Grand Race Course on the turf at one mile, and then repeated that exact result in an allowance-level race at Churchill Downs. She switched to dirt for her final start of 2017 in stakes company and improved her performance, going wire-to-wire to win by more than six lengths.
She made her first start of 2018 in the (G2) Golden Rod Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the Churchill dirt and suffered her only defeat, losing by a neck after leading most of the way. She bounced back from that by winning the (G2) Rachel Alexandra Stakes at 1 1/16 miles by 2 1/2 lengths, a race where she had to rally from far back for the first time. Most recently, she captured the (G1) Ashland Stakes at Keeneland by 5 1/2 lengths. She finished with 154 qualifying points, good for second place behind Midnight Bisou.
Of her pedigree, her sire Tapizar won the 2012 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, and several other stakes up to 1 1/16 miles, while her grandsire Tapit won the 1 1/8 mile Wood Memorial before running ninth in the 2004 Kentucky Derby. Monomoy Girl's dam was Drumette who has a single maiden win to her credit at 5 1/2 furlongs, while damsire Henny Hughes captured all four of his graded-stakes wins sprinting at six furlongs.
In contrast to Midnight Bisou, Monomoy Girl is a front-running filly who wins by controlling the pace right out of the gate, and has a very good turn of foot once the field hits the top of the stretch. Also in contrast to that one, she has been racing against top competition, and she's already beaten four other fillies she'll face again in the Oaks. And she already has a win on the Churchill dirt.
Despite her recent string of victories, her pedigree is lacking in proven distance performers, and the 1 1/8 miles is a question mark. She wants to be on the lead, and if one or two others in the field decide to take her on early, it will be interesting to see how she holds up when they turn for home and the real running starts.
My Miss Lilly in the Kentucky Oaks
Given the expected low odds being offered on the top two for the Kentucky Oaks, we might want to look for a bit of value in My Miss Lilly. Also a Kentucky bred and trained by Mark Henning, she's made four lifetime starts, with two wins and two third-place finishes.
She won her maiden debut on the Aqueduct dirt in December by 2 1/2 lengths racing six furlongs, and then ran third in her first start of 2018, the (G3) Forward Gal Stakes at Gulfstream going seven furlongs, racing in mid-pack before going five wide to grab the Show money. She went back to Aqueduct to again run third in a lower level stake at one mile. She took a huge step forward in her final Oaks prep, winning the (G1) Gazelle at Aqueduct by a half-length after a tough stretch duel when she stretched out to 1 1/8 miles. She finished fourth on the leaderboard with 112 points.
My Miss Lilly was sired by Tapit, who as mentioned above won the (G1) Wood Memorial and was ninth in the 2002 Kentucky Derby. Her grandsire was Pulpit, who won the 1 1/8 mile Blue Grass Stakes before running fourth in the 1997 Kentucky Derby. Her dam is Wicked Deed, a stakes winner at six furlongs, and her damsire is Harlan's Holiday, who also won the Blue Grass, as well as the 1 1/8 mile Pennsylvania Derby and the 1 1/8 mile (G1) Donn Handicap.
While lacking the resume of the top two, My Miss Lilly has improved her speed figure every race out, and has the pedigree - shown by her win in the Gazelle - to get the 1 1/8 miles of the Oaks. She has good tactical speed to race in a stalking position just behind the leaders and try to run them down as they turn for home.
On the other hand, she might not have the overall speed of the top two, and like Midnight Bisou, there is a question of the quality of competition she has beaten, as none of the other runners in the Gazelle made it into the Kentucky Oaks field.
Kentucky Oaks Betting Odds
Right now, Midnight Bisou and Monomoy Girl top the Bovada future bet odds board at 9-5 and 5-2 respectively, and it can be assumed they will be right around there come race day. My Miss Lilly is tied for fourth spot at odds of 10-1, while many North American oddsmakers predict she'll be 15-1 when the race begins.
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