As far as racing attention goes this weekend, all the focus
will be centered around a highly competitive running of the Rebel Stakes at
Oaklawn Park and a rematch between Champion, Blind Luck, and her arch nemesis,
Havre de Grace, in the Azeri Stakes (gr.3), also at Oaklawn Park this Saturday.
While the celebrated Arkansas track will host the two biggest races of the
weekend there will also be some minor in California and New York that could
influence the Kentucky Oaks lineup. Santa Anita will host the 6 ½ furlong Santa
Paula Stakes on Sunday while Aqueduct kicks things off on Saturday with the
Cicada Stakes (gr.3).
Examining the field for the 19th running of
the Cicada Stakes it seems unlikely the outcome of this 6 furlong race will
have any kind of major impact on the Kentucky Oaks trail.
Seven 3-year-old fillies are entered and morning line
favoritism falls to the Kiaran McLaughlin trained In Step who enters off a
solid ½ length maiden win at Gulfstream Park on February 20th.
McLaughlin has decided to sway from his preferred training regimen with the 3-year-old
daughter of Unbridled’s Song by placing her in the Grade 3 Cicada Stakes before
testing softer competition in an allowance race. Her maiden victory was the
only start of In Step’s career. She was purchased for $1 million at the 2009 Keenland
September Yearling Sale.
Dream appears to have the best form entering the Cicada
undefeated in two starts by a combined 10 ¾ lengths in a maiden race and an
optional allowance claimer. She had a small bone chip removed last year after
her maiden win and according to trainer Rodney Jenkins she won the Laurel Park
optional claiming race by 6 lengths while only 80% ready.
Trainer Tony Dutrow has entered Quantum Miss in the
Cicada after a 5th place finish as the favorite in the Grade 3 Old
Hat Stakes at Gulfstream Park in early January. He is confident his filly is a
graded stakes caliber runner saying, “I’m feeling very good about her.” She won
a state bred stakes race last year in Pennsylvania by 16 lengths at Penn
National, so the potential is there.
Coax Liberty enters off a solid 2 length score in the Dearly
Precious Stakes at Aqueduct last month and has drawn the outside post much to
the delight of trainer James Lawrence. “It gives us a chance to get a good position,”
he said, while also stating that they would be able to watch the race setup
within the first ¼ mile.
Full Moon Blues and Wild About Sonny finished 3rd
and 5th behind Coax Liberty in the Dearly Precious Stakes and are
back for another try.The field is completed by Roman Treasure who broke her
maiden last out at second asking, scoring by three lengths at Aqueduct on
[Will the Cicade Stakes outcome make an impact on the HRN's 2011 Kentucky Oaks Contenders rankings?]
There are a few fillies in the Cicada who could prove
their graded stakes worth with a dominant win but it appears overall to be a
fairly weak field that is in no danger of threatening the top 9 Kentucky Oaks
contenders. If a filly is to come out of this weekend with a chance to make
some kind of impact in the Oaks it could come from Grade 3 winner California Nectar in the Santa Paula Stakes.
She took the Santa Ynez field gate to wire in mid January,
defeating a fast-closing Zazu for the win before fading badly after helping set
torrid fractions in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes. She eventually finished 5th
in the Las Virgenes far behind Turbulent Descent and Zazu. She doesn’t like to
rate and loves to be either setting the fractions or right beside the pace
setters. You can expect her to once again be on the lead in the Santa Paula
Stakes Sunday at Santa Anita and if she can relax and set some easy fraction up
front the race should be hers.
Next Saturday is when things will really start to move
with Kathmanblu and Inglorious set to contest the Fair Grounds Oaks and R Heat
Lightning and It’s Tricky headed for a clash in the Gulfstream Oaks the
Saturday after that.
Image Courtesy of KentuckyOaks.com