Friday, May 6, 2011

The Oaks

The Kentucky Oaks (broadcast: 5 – 6 PM ET on VERSUS) is shaping up to be one heck of a race.  Unlike their brothers running in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, The Oaks has had few, although very significant (R Heat Lightning) defections and features plenty of fillies coming in after hitting the board in graded stakes races.

The morning line favorite is Joyful Victory.  The Tapit filly, trained by Larry Jones, comes into the race in great shape after two dominating victories at Oaklawn in the Honeybee and the Fantasy.  As a two year old she broke her maiden first out and then disappointed in the Frizette and then the BC Juvenile Fillies.  She was laid up after that race and moved from Anthony Dutrow’s barn to Jones’ and apparently had quite the makeover.  She came back winning the Honeybee by nearly nine and the Fantasy by seven.  Mike Smith barely asked her in either race.  Her Beyers are in the low 80’s, but it’s hard to tell just how fast she is when she hasn’t been asked.
Another filly coming in after seemingly turning a corner over the winter is Summer Soiree.  Ironically, this filly left the Jones barn after her 10 ¾ length win in the Bourbonette and is now under the care of the red hot Graham Motion.  While earning a 93 in the Bourbonette, it was also over the synthetic at Turfway, though she did earn her career best Beyer on the Oaklawn dirt in non-winners of two allowance prep. 

The Mosses have another “Z” filly this year, this time it’ll be Zazu that will look to carry the pink and green silks to the winner’s circle.  Zazu lost by a shrinking neck in her seasonal debut in the Santa Ynez at Santa Anita but added an additional furlong and a win in the Las Vergennes.  Stretching out to a mile and sixteenth for the Santa Anita Oaks, the filly came up a neck short with her rally but proved she could get the distance.
Then there is Kathmablu.  Trained by Ken McPeek, Kathmanblu has been a monster at times on the race track.  She closed out her two year old campaign with a dominating win in the Grade II Goldenrod, went back on the turf to win the Sweetest Chant at Gulfstream after being as far as 11 lengths back and then topped the Grade III Rachel Alexandra at the Fairgrounds at a mile and a sixteenth.  Her latest effort in the Ashland had her ready to pounce entering the lane and flattening out to finish third. 

Rounding out the top five in the morning line is the Sunland Park Oaks winner Plum Pretty.  She’s only had four career races for Bob Baffert with the first three adequate, though not spectacular.  She reserved spectacular for the Sunland Park Oaks were, as the overwhelming favorite, she absolutely decimated the field by twenty five lengths while earning a career (and field) best 99 Beyer in the process.  Drawing post position 12 and wanting to race near the front end may be a bit problematic and until she can duplicate the Sunland race against sturdier competition, I’m going to have to bet against her in here.
If JJ Castellano, on board Ashland winner Lilacs and Lace, heads to the front and challenges Summer Soiree for the lead, the race is going to set up nicely for either Joyful Victory or Kathmanblu.  In that scenario I would give the edge to Joyful Victory.  Her break before the Ashland wasn’t enough to say she needed a race.  I don’t think we’ve seen the bottom of Joyful Victory yet, however and that Mike Smith would prevail with her in a stretch drive.

However, that’s not how I see this race shaping up.  I think that Summer Soiree has the speed advantage over Lilacs and Lace, especially over the dirt.  Her pedigree says she can get the distance (447 Tomlinson number for the mile and an eighth) and should she shake off the other speed early and can take the field through a half or three quarters uncontested, then the closers are going to have a tough go with her in the lane.  My exacta?  I’m going to box her with Daisy Devine.  The Fairgrounds Oaks winner has Beyers that have improved with each and every race indicating that we may not have seen her top yet.  She doesn’t need the front but should be lying close enough.  Depending on the tote board, she may even be the win bet in this race.
Officially, here are my top 4:

Summer Soiree
Daisy Devine

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