05/03/2013 9:37AM

Oaks Day at Churchill Downs


Good morning on Kentucky Oaks Day from Churchill Downs, where it is partly sunny with very comfortable temperatures. In other words, conditions here Friday are perfect, but there remains concern for tomorrow. Rain is in the forecast. But even the experts don't seem to know if it will be just showers, which shouldn't affect anything considering how the main track here handles water, or a steadier rain, or even thunderstorm, which of course would adversely impact conditions. We will just have to wait and see. Wet or dry, we will also have to see how the track plays. There have been several big race days in recent years at Churchill when the rail was not the place to be.

One other quick thought. With so many people picking Orb, it just feels like he should be 8-5. Okay, that is an exagerration. But it does feel like Orb might move into underlay territory.

I'll be back from time to time during Oaks Day with some impressions. See you later, and good luck.

11:36 - Black Onyx has been scratched from tomorrow's Kentucky Derby. The reason has not been announced yet, but trainer Kelly Breen will soon return to the track to make a statement on the matter.

The irony is the scratch of Black Onyx comes a little more than two hours after the also eligible Fear the Kitten had to be scratched. In the good news department, racing officials have decided that the one post, which Black Onyx was to break from, will remain vacant. It makes perfect sense not to move everyone else in one slot considering what an enormous disadvantage the one post is.

It's funny, leaving the one hole vacant is so the obvious way to go. And yet the first instinct is to applaud this sensible decision. That probably says something about many of the decisions made in this game.

4:23 - I realize the crowding going into the first turn of the Allysheba Stakes must have compromised a couple of horses, at least to some extent. But they were not compromised nearly enough to say that with a clean trip, they could have competed with Take Charge Indy on this day. Take Charge Indy was absolutely lights out in winning the Alysheba by six in his first score since last year's Florida Derby. Now, the tricky part. Take Charge Indy has to follow up on this effort. If he does, then he will merit ranking as a prominent member of the handicap division.

At this writing, with over $415,000 in the win pool, Revolutionary and Goldencents are both 5-1 in early Kentucky Derby win betting. Orb is 6-1, and Verrazano is 11-1 as is Itsmyluckyday. The longest shot on the board right now is 50-1, and that is Falling Sky.

4:54 - Now that is the Noble's Tune I remember. Noble's Tune, who showed all the ingredients of a potential top turf horse last year at 2 when he dominated the Pilgrim and finished second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, wasn't great when he barely won his 3-year-old bow in Tampa. But he was terrific winning the American Turf. Yes, he had a sweet trip. But Noble Tune impressed with the way he neutralized big late moves from a couple of opponents with a big late kick of his own. He's a really nice colt.

5:54 - I will say right off the bat that I didn't bet her. But if you liked Close Hatches in the Kentucky Oaks, and it seemed like a fair amount of people did, then you had to give a second look to Princess of Sylmar. And that is because Princess of Sylmar ran every bit as well as Close Hatches when second to her last time out in the Gazelle, for Princess of Sylmar was compromised by a speed bias that prevailed at the point in the card that race was run, a bias Close Hatches capitalized on. But even thinking that, I still had no piece of the 38-1 Princess of Sylmar paid after upsetting the Oaks.

One thing is for sure, the crowd here today will disperse more quickly than usual after the Oaks because few will be cashing.

Let's hope the start of tomorrow's Derby is cleaner than the start of the Oaks. Rose to Gold took a left out of the gate, and there were inside horses coming out, putting the middle of the field into a squeeze. I don't want to make excuses for beaten favorite Dreaming of Julia, but she was clobbered coming out of the gate, putting her farther off the pace than she probably wanted to be, and it never really looked like she settled during the running.

And Beholder was very game finishing second. Beholder, last year's champion 2-year-old filly, was coming off a pair of soft paced wins in California. But she attended a hot pace Friday, and fought hard all the way to the end in a highly creditable effort. More evidence that it is wise to never underestimate a champion.

That's it for Oaks Day. See you tomorrow.