As Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) morning dawned, the key words for the day may not be distance, training, fillies or lilies but rather muggy, cloudy, rainy, and sloppy.
The forecast has remained constant, with a front hanging over the Ohio River Valley that contains considerable precipitation. The weather prognosticators were calling for a nice temperature in the mid-70s but a 70% chance of rain and thunderstorms prior to the running of the Oaks.
In fact, at 9:20 a.m., claps of thunder occurred and rain started pouring down. So the forecasts from just an hour earlier, which called for the rain to begin about 4 p.m., were way off. Post time is 5:45 (Eastern) for the Oaks.
Those that see synthetic surfaces as not only safer for horses but as a way to keep a track surface fair for all runners may be able to use this weekend as a strong point in their argument.
The forecast for Kentucky Derby day is again for pleasant temperatures but also again for possible rain and thunderstorms, the percentage dropping to 50%. However, on Derby day, the rain is supposed to occur in the morning thus the odds are better for a fast track by post time.
What morning rain on Derby day might do, however, is lower the attendance in the infield, especially if it rains Friday and turns the area inside the turf course to mud rather than grass.
It rained steadily in Louisville, Ky., on Thursday and races were taken off the turf to protect it for stakes run over that surface Friday and Saturday.
Of course, as luck would have it, the forecast for Sunday shows no chance of precipitation.
An 11-race card at Churchill Downs greets race goers and simulcast patrons Friday, with a first post both Oaks and Derby days of 11 a.m. There is advance wagering all day Friday on the Derby.
There also is a wager that ties the two days together, the Daily Double on the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby having become increasingly popular among bettors.
Trainer Todd Pletcher has the favorite in the Oaks in 5-2 morning line choice Rags to Riches, who after running fourth in here first start has reeled off three straight victories. The program tabs last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) winner and Eclipse champion Dreaming of Anna as the 5-1 second choice.
A field of 14 is schedule to compete in the nine furlong contest, which carries a purse of $500,000. Eight members of the field, including Rags to Riches and Dreaming of Anna, have never run on an off track.
Five other stakes will be run on Friday including the grade II Louisville Breeders’ Cup and three grade II races, the Alysheba, Aegon Turf Sprint, and Crown Royal American Turf.