Best Horse Racing Bets for Friday, April 30, 2021

| April 29, 2021 11:27 pm PDT

Friday brings us the first of the two most anticipated horse races in any year you can think of: The Kentucky Oaks, the distaff prequel to Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky Oaks features three-year-old fillies competing for the biggest piece of a $1.25 million purse.

That’s just the headliner on Friday—there are five other graded stakes at Churchill Downs, which, if we include the Oaks, have a combined purse of $3 million.

In honor of all that money, I’m dedicating this special picks post to six stakes runs of my choosing.

And if you’re interested in betting on all the races at Churchill Downs on Friday (or even the races at other tracks), you can always find them at one of the top online racebooks.

Good luck!

Race 6: Alysheba Stakes (Grade II)

With a purse of $400,000 on the line, you need to be very certain of your choices. And It’s hard to argue with a horse that’s won five of his six races, particularly when most of those five were graded stakes races.

So I won’t try: My win ticket here is on Maxfield, the 4/5 morning line favorite. Maxfield has already shown he can bring home the bacon in the 2021 Mineshaft Stakes (Grade III), and in 2020, he finished first in the Tenacious Stakes (Listed) and the Matt Winn Stakes (Grade III).

In 2019 he won the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (Grade 1), not to mention his first maiden race.

While ace jockey Florent Geroux has been in the irons for Maxfield’s most recent three races, Jose L. Ortiz rode the four-year-old colt to his first four victories. It only makes sense that top trainer Brendan P. Walsh would bring Ortiz back for this ride.

Race 7: Edgewood Stakes (Grade II)

Speaking of Florent Geroux, in the Edgewood Stakes—a 1-1/16 mile turf run for three-year-old fillies—he’s riding the odds-on favorite (and my pick to win): Aunt Pearl, an Irish import with a brief but unbeaten record.

Aunt Pearl won all three of her career starts, from her maiden back in September to the Jessamine Stakes (Grade II) in October and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (Grade I) in November. And thanks to trainer Brad Cox, Geroux has been aboard for each of Aunt Pearl’s visits to the winner’s circle.

Race 8: La Troienne Stakes (Grade I)

Half a million bucks is on the line for this 1-1/16 mile main track run for fillies and mares four years old and upward. This looks to be a much tighter race than the morning line odds suggest, with the top three contenders very close in terms of the stats that matter.

I like the second-favored mare (at 5/2) in this race—Dunbar Road. The five-year-old mare moneyed ten of her eleven career starts, winning six—and her speed figures have been almost entirely in the triple digits since 2019.

Interestingly, top trainer Chad Brown has had one of the Ortiz brothers aboard Dunbar Road for all of her races. While both have ridden her to victory, this race Dunbar Road will have Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the irons.

Race 9: Eight Belles Stakes (Grade II)

This is a seven-furlong stakes race for three-year-old fillies, and this year an even dozen contenders will vie for the biggest share of the $300,000 purse.

I like one of the third-favored entries (there are two at 6/1) in this race—Slumber Party, piloted by Irad Ortiz, Jr. Slumber Party moneyed both her career starts. In January, she won her first maiden and then pulled a second win in the 2021 Beaumont Stakes (Grade III) at Keeneland in April.

Her speed figures stand up quite well against those among the morning line’s other favorites. She is under training to New Jersey native Kelly J. Breen, who has taken thoroughbreds to the Belmont Stakes as well as a fistful of Breeders’ Cup races.

By the way: Keep an eye on Steve Asmussen’s horse Abrogate.

Abrogate has a record identical to the favorite in this race (four money finishes, three of which were wins) and yet has M/L odds at 8/1.

Abrogate’s jockey for this run will be Ricardo Santana, Jr.

Race 10: Twin Spires Turf Sprint Stakes (Grade II)

This is a 5-1/2  furlong turf race for three-year-olds and up, and this year, eleven horses are in contention to see who gets the biggest piece of the $250,000 million purse.

My money here will be on the second-favored (at 4/1) entry, Fiya. Ridden by Luis Saez for this race, Fiya moneyed all seven of her career starts and won five of them. Saez was also aboard for Fiya’s latest two wins—The Maryland Million Turf Sprint Handicap (Black Type) at Laurel Park in October and the Claiming Crown Canterbury Stakes at Gulfstream Park in December.

Top trainer Thomas Albertrani has paired Fiya with several veteran jockeys but appears to have found the perfect match with Fiya and Saez.

Race 11: Kentucky Oaks (Grade I)

Fourteen three-year-old fillies will be competing for the $1,250,000 purse in the 147th running of the Kentucky Oaks, a 1-1/8 mile race on the main dirt track at Churchill Downs.

I have to agree with the morning line here and call this year’s Kentucky Oaks for the 5/2 favorite, Malathaat. This filly won all four of her career starts, from her maiden in October, on through the Tempted Stakes (Listed) and the Demoiselle Stakes (Grade II)—both at Aqueduct—and on to her most recent victory in the Central Bank Ashland Stakes (Grade 1) at Keenland in April.

While Malathaat has raced to victory under the pilotage of many good jockeys, including Kendrick Carmouche and Joel Rosario, it was John R. Velazquez who was in the irons for Malathaat’s maiden run. He also joined her in the winner’s circle after the Demoiselle Stakes. He’ll be aboard for this run, as well.

Trainer Todd A. Pletcher has won hundreds of graded stakes races in his long career in thoroughbred racing. Of Malathaat’s drawing of post position 10 for the Oaks, Pletcher told Bloodhorse:

“I probably would have preferred to be a bit more toward the middle, but if it was a case of drawing inside or outside, I’ll take the outside. It’ll work out fine.”
J.W. Paine
J.W. Paine

J.W. Paine is one of the most experienced writers at He's written for television and the printed media, and is a published novelist (as Tom Elliott).

Paine loves writing about Las Vegas nearly as much he loves living here. An experienced gambler, he's especially familiar with thoroughbred horseracing, poker, blackjack, and slots.

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