Friday, May 1, 2015

Kentucky Oaks Day Preview

Each year the folks at Hello Race Fans  provide their readers with industry veterans' selections for the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks and some of the supporting stakes on each day’s undercard.  They will post the consolidated picks in a spreadsheet on their site on Friday and Saturday.  I am honored and pleased to be part of the field again this year.  While my picks will be there for all to see, there isn’t room to expound on why I chose what I did ,so, as in year’s past, I’ll thumbnail that out a bit here.
My choice in here is on the inside, QUALITY ROCKS.  She won the Grade 3 Florida Oaks last out and did so turning the table on CONSUMER CREDIT who then went on to win the Memories of Silver Stakes at Aqueduct on April 23.  While SUNSET GLOW is favored and the pace will be light – which she should like with her front-running style, she’s faltered moving past 7 furlongs while QUALITY ROCKS has been able to take a graded stakes field at the distance here of a mile and 1/16.

I struggled a bit here between MY MISS SOPHIA and SHEER DRAMA.  The deciding factor for me has been MY MISS SOPHIA’s lackluster second half of her 3-year old season after fighting hard and being soundly beaten by UNTAPABLE in last year’s Kentucky Oaks.  She’s been training very well but going up against SHEER DRAMA may be too tough a task for her seasonal bow.  SHEER DRAMA has improved with each start this season culminating in a dominating performance in the Grade 2 Royal Delta at Gulfstream.

PROTONICO came back after injury with a completely masterful performance in the Grade 3 Ben Ali at Keeneland.  He had a nice maintenance work in between and while Castellano got off to stay on slightly favored HONOR CODE, I don’t think the latter is going to have a strong pace to close into.  In fact, the pace should be controlled by PROTONICO – and these two certainly seem to stand over this field.

Though the last race was chalky, I’m going long shot in this field. After a long break following a $62,500 claim last year, CHANNEL MARKER debuted poorly in a mile, flashing some speed before fading, he ran a great second in the 5 ½ furlong Grade 3 Shakertown on tax day. HEATAI, JASIZZLE, GOOD DEED and SOMETHING EXTRA should all be flashing speed.  I don’t see Torres having CHANNEL MARKER as far back as he did in the Shakertown and he should be flying at the end.  If the early pace is quick enough, I hope to cash at a price.

The Eight Bells features the undefeated 3-year old filly, PROMISE ME SILVER.  You can’t say that she’s done anything wrong.  The only negative she really has against her is that she’s never run in a graded stake.  Make no mistake, there is most definitely a step up when you move into the rarified air of a graded stake and she’s making that step today.  For that reason I went with EKATI’S PHAETON.  Yeah, her last was an absolute clunker, but she had speed for half the race when being asked to go a mile and a sixteenth.  This gal was NOT made to go that long.  She’s back to a sprint now and her speed should be controlling and if she can’t get on top, she has proven she can rate and win as well.  At a 6-1 morning line she’s providing great value as well.

Many have written about how deep the quality runs in this year’s 3-year old male crop competing for the roses in Saturday’s Derby, but the Oaks field is no slouch either.  CONDO COMMANDO, LOVELY MARIA, I’M A CHATTERBOX, STELLAR WIND and BIRDATTHEWIRE are all in with a chance.  Should any of these cross the finish line first I would not be surprised.

The morning line favorite, STELLAR WIND, seems to have the perfect style for the Oaks.  She has the ability to stalk and her big move after a troubled start to dominate the Santa Anita Oaks was very impressive.  I went elsewhere.
My whittling down process got me to BIRDATTHEWIRE and I’M A CHATTERBOX.  BIRDATTHEWIRE has had nothing but trouble in her 2015 campaign and yet still has won 2 of the three Grade 2’s she’s run in, just missing by a neck in the Davona Dale in her other start.  This type of adversity should serve her well in here.

I’M A CHATTERBOX has been splendid in her preps down on the Bayou.  She swept the preps at Fairgrounds and did it gate to wire, from far off the pace and pressing a bit before taking command.  Florent Geroux is going to be able to react to whatever scenario gets thrown at him as the race unfolds and have confidence that his mount can get it done.

In a very competitive field, I feel that I’M A CHATTERBOX is the best horse – and my choice – but I will be using BIRDATTHEWIRE with her in the exacta.

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