Favorite Bellafina Lands Ideal Starting Gate in Friday’s Kentucky Oaks

Posted on: April 29, 2019, 08:34h. 

Last updated on: April 29, 2019, 08:34h.

Bellafina drew the fourth position for Friday’s Kentucky Oaks and handicappers at Churchill Downs installed her at 2-1 odds for the Grade I stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

Bellafina, shown here winning the Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita in February, is the 2-1 morning line favorite for Friday’s Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs. The filly has won six of her last seven races. (Image: Santa Anita Park)

Even before landing such a prime starting spot, the Simon Callaghan-trained horse was likely to be the big favorite anyway coming out of Monday’s pill pull to determine how the 14 starters for the Oaks would line up. She’s won six of her last seven races, including the April 6 Santa Anita Oaks by 5-1/4 lengths on April 6.

It’s a good post for her. I’m fine with it,” Callaghan told reporters after the draw. “I see there’s a fair amount of speed outside us and I’m thinking the race should set up nicely. She’s very versatile and doesn’t need the lead in order to win. I think she’ll find a place where she’s comfortable.”

The filly’s only blemish during her recent streak incidentally came at Churchill Downs in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, where she finished fourth after a less than perfect start.

Bellafina’s Competition

Whereas the favorite landed an inside position, her main competition will need to come from the outside gates to win.

Champagne Anyone got the 10th gate. Trained by Ian Wilkes, the filly comes off a half-length win in the Gulfstream Park Oaks on March 30. Ridden by Chris Landeros, her morning line odds were set at 6-1.

Also at 6-1 is Restless Rider, who will start from the far outside in the No. 14 gate. The Kenny McPeek-trained filly has finished first or second in all seven starts. While she has not won since last October, she has raced four times at Churchill Downs, finishing second in both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and the Golden Rod Stakes. Her last race came at Keeneland on April 6 in the Ashland Stakes

At 8-1 are a pair of hit-or-miss horses.

Jaywalk won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, part of a four-race win streak for the John Servis-trained horse. However, she’s raced twice in 2019 and finished no better than third, which she did in the Ashland. Jaywalk will race from the No. 7 gate.

“She won from that post here in November (in the Breeders’ Cup), so I’m fine with it,” Servis said.

Meanwhile, Serengeti Express has won three of her past five races, including two Grade 2 stakes wins, but the Tom Amoss-trained filly has finished seventh in the other two. She’ll race from the No. 13 gate.

Among the long shots in the field include Flor de La Mar at 20-1. Trained by Bob Baffert, the filly is owned by Godolphin Stables. Earlier this month, human rights activists sought to keep the filly from racing in the Oaks and ban Sheikh Muhammad, Godolphin’s owner, from attending. Activists allege the Dubai ruler kidnapped his adult daughter, preventing her from immigrating to the United States.

The Field

After the post positions were finalized, Churchill Downs handicapper Mike Battaglia set morning line odds for each horse, including two also-eligibles, who may end up running if one of the 14 original entries withdraw.

Here’s how they will lineup. Post time is scheduled for 6:12 pm ET Friday.

  1. Out for a Spin (Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.) Morning line odds: 15-1
  2. Chocolate Kisses (Julien Leparoux) 20-1
  3. Lady Apple (Ricardo Santana Jr.) 20-1
  4. Bellafina (Flavien Prat) 2-1
  5. Flor de La Mar (Joel Rosario) 20-1
  6. Positive Spirit (Manny Franco) 30-1
  7. Jaywalk (Javier Castellano) 8-1
  8. Motion Emotion (Mike Smith) 15-1
  9. Liora (Channing Hill) 20-1
  10. Champagne Anyone (Chris Landeros) 6-1
  11. Jeltrin (Luis Saez) 15-1
  12. Street Band (Sophie Doyle) 15-1
  13. Serengeti Express (Jose Ortiz) 8-1
  14. Restless Rider (Brian Hernandez Jr.) 6-1
  15. *Dunbar Road (Jose Ortiz) 5-1
  16. *Point of Honor (John Velazquez) 30-1
    *=Also Eligible

The race will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network.