Although the Kentucky Derby is the crown jewel of the first weekend in May at Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Oaks is a great chance for fans to take in a marquee race a full day before Derby action begins.
As a gentleman would say, ladies first.
The three-year old fillies took to the track to open up the big-time festivities on Friday, and Princess of Sylmar will take home the $1 million payout after a strong run to outlast Beholder, Dreaming of Julia and Unlimited Budget with a lively crowd of fans and spectators in attendance for the 1 1/8-mile race.
Ray Paulick had the news on Twitter:
Ray Paulick @raypaulick
Princess of Sylmar (by A.P. Indy stallion Majestic Warrior) runs down champ Beholder, win G1 #KyOaks for King of Prussia Stable, T Pletcher5/3/2013, 9:51:27 PM
With 38-1 pre-race odds, Princess of Sylmar's win is the second-biggest upset in Oaks history (via Santa Anita Park on Twitter).
Santa Anita Park @santaanitapark
#HOF Jockey Mike Smith wins the 2nd biggest upset in #KYOaks history up top PRINCESS OF SYLMAR!5/3/2013, 9:56:36 PM
The win is the first at the Kentucky Oaks for Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith and the first win this weekend in a marquee race for trainer Todd Pletcher, who went 1-3-4 in the Oaks and has another five horses in the Derby on Saturday.
Midnight Lucky took an early lead out of the gate after the field got tangled up in the mid-posts and set the pace alongside Beholder, Unlimited Budget and Silsita around the first turn.
As the horses came down the back stretch, Beholder made a strong move to the outside to pass a fading Midnight Lucky, but Smith and Princess of Sylmar managed to come even further outside to make a strong late charge and win the race by a half-length.
Midnight Lucky faltered after a strong start, finishing fifth, while Silsita moved all the way into last place by race's end. Rosie Napravik, aiming to be the first woman to win the Derby on Saturday, finished ninth on Seaneen Girl.
Flashy Gray, a horse that would have raced from the No. 10 post on Friday, was scratched prior to the Oaks with a bruised heel (h/t Jason Frakes of Courier-Journal.com), making for an even 10-horse race on a overcast Friday afternoon at Churchill Downs.
Dreaming of Julia was the odds-on favorite when the race began, pulling 3-2 odds after winning the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) in late March by an astounding 21 lengths. She would finish fourth after a slow start on the outside, but John Velazquez should be commended for putting her in contention with a strong run down the final furlongs.
Midnight Lucky, Close Hatches and Unlimited Budget were all unbeaten fillies heading into this race, but none were the favorite when the race began—something that should tell you the strength of this field.
To some, the 2013 Oaks field is stronger than the 2013 Derby field will be on Saturday.
In fact, as noted on the NBC broadcast, Dreaming of Julia could have been favored over Derby favorite Orb if entered in the big race, and this race had the makings of the most competitive in Oaks history prior to post (via Nick Rousso of KentuckyDerby.com).
It did not disappoint.
Precluded by the Survivors Parade for breast cancer awareness, the women in pink hats who have battled through life's tribulations were a perfect precursor to the action on the track.
With the Oaks now in the books, the countdown to the Derby is officially underway at Churchill Downs. If the big brother race is anything like the one on Friday, we should be in for another exciting installment of the 139th weekend of this American classic.
2013 Kentucky Oaks Results, Payouts, Etc.
Princess of Sylmar (6)
|Mike Smith||Win ($79.60)|
|2||Beholder (3)||Garrett Gomez||Place ($9.00)|
|3||Unlimited Budget (4)||Javier Castellano||Show ($3.80)|
|4||Dreaming of Julia (8)||John R. Velazquez|
|5||Midnight Lucky (2)||Rafael Bejarano|
|6||Pure Fun (7)||Julien Leparoux|
|7||Close Hatches (11)||Joel Rosario|
|8||Rose to Gold (9)||Calvin Borel|
|9||Seaneen Girl (5)||Rosie Napravnik|
|10||Silsita (1)||Gary Stevens|
*Complete odds, results and payouts via DRF.com. Odds based on a $2.00 bet.
Follow Ethan Grant on Twitter: