The Kentucky Derby receives all of the spotlight at Churchill Downs, but it's not the only race on tap. A group of 13 female horses will prelude the Derby with the Kentucky Oaks on Friday, an event just as rich in tradition and prestige.
Before Rosie Napravnik attempts to become the first female jockey to win the Kentucky Derby, she'll ride the heavy favorite to take home first in the Oaks. Untapable is the heavy favorite after emerging victorious in her last three events.
But don't look past My Miss Sophia and Rosalind, each coming off victories of their own with renowned jockeys leading the way. Viewers will want to tune in early to make sure they soak in the full weekend worth of excitement in Louisville.
When: Friday, May 2
Where: Churchill Downs, Louisville, Kentucky
TV: NBC Sports Network (coverage beings at 3 p.m. ET, post time approximately 5:45 p.m.)
|1||Please Explain||Jose Lezcano||41/1|
|2||Ria Antonia||Mike Smith||5/1|
|3||Sugar Shock||Calvin Borel||9/1|
|5||Thank You Mary Lou||Julien Leparoux||16/1|
|6||Kiss Moon||Victor Espinoza||35/1|
|7||Fashion Plate||Gary Stevens||12/1|
|8||Aurelia's Belle||Channing Hill||32/1|
|9||Unbridled Forever||Robby Albarado||12/1|
|10||Empress of Midway||Corey Nakatani||48/1|
|11||My Miss Sophia||Javier Castellano||6/1|
|12||Got Lucky||John Velazquez||26/1|
Odds, courtesy of KentuckyDerby.com, as of Friday, 2:30 p.m. ET.
If the oddsmakers know what they're doing, Untapable will run away with a decisive victory at Churchill Downs.
In her two races this year, Untapable has left little doubt in triumph, cruising to easy victories at Fair Grounds Oaks and Rachel Alexandra by a combined 17 3/4 lengths.
Before handing the filly first place, consider that neither of those were Grade I events, meaning the competition gets much steeper for the favorite this time around. The favorable odds are warranted, but don't expect another colossal rout.
She has a skilled jockey at the helm in Napravnik, who became the first female jockey to win at the Oaks with Believe You Can in 2012. She'll look to make her mark again with an incredibly talented horse, who she raved about to the Lexington Herald Leader's Alicia Wincze Hughes.
"She's doing everything exactly the right way," Napravnik said. "She's just always been improving since the first race that she ran."
Untapable isn't unbeatable, but a crown could be well on the horizon.
My Miss Sophia
The team of Todd Pletcher and Javier Castellano will have something to say about Untapable coasting to an easy win.
According to Equibase, Castellano has the most earnings by a wide margin, netting over $6 million in winnings while no other jockey has tallied more than $5 million. His 123 first-place finishes trail Russell Baze for the highest mark by two victories.
Pletcher has also out-grossed the next-best trainer by nearly $3.6 million, making the two a ferocious tandem looking to steer My Miss Sophia to the finish line.
The offspring of Unbridled’s Song, My Miss Sophia won her lone race of 2014, a 1 1/8-mile Grade II event. That matches the distance each horse needs to cover at Churchill Downs.
While still relatively untested, her strong pedigree and crew make her a contender that should not be taken lightly.
Along with the other favorites, Rosalind has a premier jockey on the saddle in Joel Rosario, who has generated the third-most winnings of 2014, per Equibase's calculations, with a 50 percent rate of finishing in the top three.
Rosalind has finished in the top three every time, including a victory at Ashland earlier in April.
Horse Racing Nation's Brian Zipse believes she holds an endurance advantage over the field that will work to her advantage down the stretch.
The most consistent closer in the field, she looks to take advantage of a contentious pace that could leave many in the field feeling leg weary through the final quarter mile. If she is indeed as good on dirt as the BC Juvenile Fillies would make it appear, she is primed to make her presence felt in a big way late.
Yet all of her races have occurred on 1 1/16-mile tracks, so it remains to be seen if her superb closing speed translates onto the wider course. If it does, the other 12 horses better look out.