The 136th Kentucky Oaks is just one week away.
In seven short days one of the nation’s leading fillies will cross the line
first to seize leadership of the division, or at least that how it seems it should
work out on paper. In the real world who knows what could happen. Long shots
have been having a heyday in recent Kentucky Derby preps but the only major
upsets to happen most of this year in the Oaks division was when Daisy Devine
turned the tables in the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr.2) and when Lilacs and Lace lit
up the tote board at odds of 48-1 in the Ashland Stakes (gr.1). Even those two
upsets were won by fillies that had legitimate shots in their races and sported
solid records, they were simply overlooked.
Stability and consistency seems to be the ‘name of the
game’ for the Oaks fillies in 2011 and it appears that this year’s field of fourteen
could come up full of all legitimate contenders. There are a few fillies I
would toss as of now but honestly from a handicapping standpoint almost the
entire prospective field has come up with strong form. Before we get into that
though there is some Oaks news that needs telling.
Celebrity chef Bobby Flay has thrown his skillet into the
Kentucky Oaks fire with the recent purchase of three year old filly Her Smile, most
recently seen finishing second to Hot Summer in the Comely Stakes (Gr.3) at
Aqueduct on Wood Memorial day. The stakes winning daughter of Include has made
seven lifetime starts since August of 2010 winning three including the 6 ½ furlong
Donna Freyer Stakes at Philadelphia Park in which she defeated a very weak
field. She started the year finishing fourth to Dynamic Holiday in the Florida Oaks
on turf before finishing third to Wyomia in the Suncoast Stakes. Her second
place finish to Hot Summer in the Comely was actually a very good performance,
she just got outkicked in the stretch. Her 2011 record shows a promising
progression from a fourth place finish to a third and finally a second place
showing but I don’t think she’s ready to handle the Oaks field yet and win. She
looked really good on the turf and I think she likes the 1 mile distance better
than stretching out to 1 1/16 or 1 1/8. She’s a toss for me.
[Is Joyful Victory too low at #6 on the HRN 3-year-old Filly rankings page?]
St. John’s River took to the Churchill Downs track on
Thursday for a strong five furlong work that went in 1:00.80, ranking as the
second fastest of 23 horses working the distance. According to trainer Andy
Leggio his trainee will get the next two days off before a series of gallops to
prepare her for the Oaks. Leggio was pleased with her work and stated that she “Seemed
to handle this track better”, also saying that he feels she is very close to
peaking and should like the added distance in the Kentucky Oaks. Interestingly
enough St. John’s River is a daughter of Include just like new Oaks contender
Her Smile. I don’t think tossing this filly is a good idea; she’s an excellent
worker and always shows up in her races. She’ll be up against it with just four
lifetime starts in a 14 horse field but she could also present some nice value
on exotics. Street Storm also
worked on Thursday but is more likely to run in the Edgewood Stakes at
Churchill Downs on Oaks day due to her lack of graded stakes earnings.
Arienza took things to a whole new level this morning at
Churchill Downs when she blazed through five furlongs in :59.40 to a bullet,
working the fastest of 58 horses going the distance. In her last start she
finished a distant second to Joyful Victory in the Fantasy Stakes (Gr.2) while
appearing to tire in the stretch, just holding off Holy Heavens for the second
spot. As a daughter of Giant’s Causeway and Horse of the Year Azeri this young
filly has enormous potential and a family reputation to live up to. She will skip the Oaks and instead run in the Eight Belles the same day.
Suave Voir Faire also worked a strong five furlongs
Friday morning, finishing up in :59.80. I’ll still be tossing her.
Delightful Mary turned in a solid 1:01.60 five furlong work
at Churchill this morning. She has only raced twice this year winning her first
start and then fading badly to finish 7th in the Grade 1 Ashland. She has been withdrawn from Oaks consideration after trainer Mark Casse stated he doesn't believe she is back to her strong juvenile form. The plan is to send her back to Canada to sort things out.
Some of the big guns will be tuning up with their final
Oaks works this weekend including Kathmanblu and Lilacs and Lace on Saturday
and Joyful Victory on Sunday. Newly arrived at Churchill Downs is Summer Soiree
who could work either Saturday or Sunday.
Stay Tuned for more Oaks updates.
Photo Courtesy of Coady Photography