04/29/2015 1:49PM

Fornatale: Top contest players weigh in on Oaks


As a special feature for the Kentucky Oaks and Derby, I asked a handful of well-known contest players for their thoughts on both races. We’ll start with the Kentucky Oaks.

Rich Goodall, 2008 National Handicapping Championship champion

“In a wide-open Kentucky Oaks, I like #1 FOREVER UNBRIDLED at 15-1 as a solid value play. Although she has been beaten by a few of these in the past, she was never disgraced, and her breeding suggests that she should relish the extra distance. The addition of Mike Smith in the irons seals the deal for me."

Sally Goodall, 13-time NHC qualifier

“My selection in the Kentucky Oaks is #7 LOVELY MARIA. She won the Ashland in hand for super-hot trainer Larry Jones, and the workout April 26 indicates that this improving filly may have the most upside in the field. Best of all, she should be a ‘lovely’ price.”

Jonathon Kinchen, currently in second place on the NHC Tour

“I love it when my top selection to win the race is actually a great tournament play; #14 PUCA was forced to attend the pace in the Gazelle because of the distinct pace advantage Condo Commando had over that field. She ran well considering, and I expect her to continue to improve for Bill Mott. The shorter and safer play would be #7 LOVELY MARIA. She is coming into this race really well, and Larry Jones has shown he knows how to win the Oaks. A longshot to consider is #2 SHOOK UP. She has always shown talent but has seemed to get in her own way at times. She galloped out huge in the Fair Grounds Oaks.”

Chris Larmey, nine-time NHC qualifier

“There is no Untapable in this race this year. The five favorites are all solid but nothing special and hard to separate at morning-line odds ranging from 7-2 to 6-1. Since I don’t have a strong opinion on any of them, those odds are too low for me to bet or play in a contest. Fortunately, there is a live bomb in the race. She is a notch below the top ones but has room for improvement and is likely to get a good trip. #2 SHOOK UP is by the red-hot sire Tapit out of a graded stakes-winning mare and is bred to be a good one.

“She is trained by Steve Asmussen who trained last year’s Oaks winner, the previously mentioned Untapable, who is also by Tapit. She showed a lot of promise when breaking her maiden by 13 lengths. She then ran a decent second to Lovely Maria, and two races later, she once again ran second, this time to I’m a Chatterbox. Both of those fillies are among the favorites in the Oaks. Since then, she sports a blazing-fast 59-second flat bullet work at Churchill. This is particularly noteworthy because Asmussen very rarely works them fast.

“She also ran well at Churchill last year despite a sloppy track and a troubled trip, so she clearly likes the surface. She has good tactical speed and drew a nice inside post, so she should get a ground-saving trip just in behind the likely pacesetter, Condo Commando. She looks like she could be sitting on a breakthrough effort, and that might be enough to pull the upset at long odds (she is 30-1 on the morning line). Shook Up is exactly the type of horse that I am looking for in a contest. I might also make a small Oaks-Derby double wager with her in an attempt to leverage the horse I really like in the Derby, but that is another story…

“If I’m in a situation in a contest where I just need the winner, I’ll go with I’m a Chatterbox, unless the track looks speed-favoring, in which case I would go with Condo Commando, who looks like she will get an easy lead.”

Nick Tammaro, who won more than $100,000 at the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge

"The 2015 Kentucky Oaks brings together an eclectic cast from all sections of the U.S. While many concentrated on the late runners in Oaklawn's Fantasy, #11 SARAH SIS endured a nightmare trip being completely blocked and shuffled back on the inside before making a late run. She gets a new rider and an outside post, which will enable her to stalk what figures to be a moderate pace."

We’ll be back tomorrow with some Kentucky Derby thoughts.