Noel’s Weekend Winners: Betting Kentucky Derby and Oaks Hopefuls at Oaklawn

Welcome to Noel Michaels’ Weekend Winners, the place to go for weekend best bets and spot plays from veteran handicapper and tournament-play pioneer Noel Michaels. Check back every week for a couple of highlighted selections designed to help you cash a few bets and make some money.

Noel’s selections have been featured just about everywhere horse racing picks can be found, including in print in the Daily Racing Form, The HorsePlayer Magazine and American Turf Monthly, online at, and, from the paddock on-track at Arlington International Racecourse, and on the air on HRTV, TVG, NYC OTB Extra, NYRA’s Talking Horses, and on broadcast TV on WAVE-3 Louisville, ABC KOLO-8 in Reno, Nevada, and channel 72 Long Island Cablevision.

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6 Beginner Betting Tools

  1. Start simple with an easy guide for how to bet on horse racing.
  2. Not sure what that word means? Horse racing terminology is a language of its own. Allow us translate for you.
  3. What the heck is a speed figure? This beginner’s guide to speed figures has everything you need to know.
  4. Betting on horse racing can be intimidating. Team ABR put together some Dos and Don’ts for the new fan getting started betting on racing.
  5. We all make mistakes when it comes to betting on horse racing, here are eight lessons learned from experience.
  6. Figure out how much each bet will cost in advance with our Gambling Calculator, presented by NYRA Bets.

The road to the Longines Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve winds its way through Oaklawn Park this week with the runnings of the $300,000 Honeybee Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and the $1 million Rebel Stakes for 3-year-old colts and geldings headlining a 12-race card at the Hot Springs, Ark., oval. Both races have drawn full loaded fields that appear to be topped by horses that can go on to be serious contenders in their respective races on the first weekend in May at Churchill Downs. Good luck at Oaklawn on Saturday and enjoy the races.

Oaklawn Park, Race 10, $300,000 Honeybee Stakes, post time 5:43 p.m. ET

The Grade 3 Honeybee Stakes drew a field of 12 fillies that will go 1 1/16 miles on the main track. Some of the horses in the race are exiting the local prep, the $200,000 Martha Washington Stakes on Jan. 28 won by #7 Wet Paint. That Godolphin homebred rated off the pace and passed fillies late to win easily, and the next three finishers in the Martha Washington all return Saturday. Wet Paint looks good again in this spot based on her ability to come from off the pace, because there is a bunch of new speed that has been infused into Saturday’s field. Last time out, Wet Paint won after sitting off moderate fractions. They should be flying up front in this race, and that only will help her cause. One of the likely speed horses that’s showing up for the Honeybee is #3 Grand Love, who was third in the Pocahontas Stakes and sixth in the Netjets Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies last fall for Steve Asmussen. She’s fast and talented and dangerous on the front end for these connections in her 3-year-old seasonal debut off the brief layoff. The other principal contender appears to be #2 Towhead, who was knocking around in turf races for a while but has really come into her own with wins in her last two races since switching to dirt. She overcame trouble and won a two-turn race impressively over this track last time out, and that alone is enough to make her a serious contender in this spot.

The Play: Bet #7 Wet Paint (7-2) to win and box her in trifectas along with #2 Towhead (9-2) and #3 Grand Love (3-1).

Oaklawn Park, Race 11, $1,000,000 Rebel Stakes, post time 6:23 p.m. ET

The $1 million, Grade 2 Rebel Stakes drew a field of 11 horses set to go 1 1/16 miles on Saturday. There will be several horses in this field looking to boost their Kentucky Derby credentials and some of them may be capable of improvement, but this race actually looks like a showdown between the two principal contenders, who are #1 Verifying and #6 Reincarnate. Trainer Bob Baffert has a long successful history in the Rebel Stakes and really in all of Oaklawn’s Kentucky Derby prep races, and while his name is no longer associated with Reincarnate, he has trained that horse all the way until now and has pointed him all along to this spot. When Baffert does that for the Rebel, he usually does not disappoint. Trainer Tim Yakteen takes over the reigns on Reincarnate as that horse hopes to proceed to the Kentucky Derby, and it sure looks like he is good enough based on his record so far, which includes a win in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita Park where he beat Newgate, who came back to win the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes in his next start. The other horse to beat is morning-line favorite Verifying, who was second in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes last fall behind Blazing Sevens and sixth in the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. He began his 3-year-old season in style last time out with a very impressive Oaklawn allowance optional claiming two-turn win where he beat #4 Gun Pilot, who has already come out of the race to win his next start. Verifying is a half-brother to 2019 champion older female Midnight Bisou and can step out and begin to make a name for himself outside of his sister’s shadow with a win in the million-dollar Rebel. Beyond the top two, perhaps the other horse in this race that can add some value to your exotics is #3 Red Route One, who exits a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes here at Oaklawn last time out. Red Route One lost to Arabian Knight in the Southwest, and if you buy in to that horse being one of the nation’s top two Kentucky Derby contenders at this stage, then that runner-up finish last time could very well translate to at least another in-the-money finish again Saturday.

The Play:  Bet #6 Reincarnate (7-2) to win and play him in chalky exacta boxes along with #1 Verifying (2-1). For a better priced horse to add into your trifectas, use #3 Red Route One (10-1).