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Kentucky Oaks 138: Make Your Pick

Grace Hall with jockey Javier Castellano winning the Gulfstream Oaks (G2). Gulfstream Park Hallandale Beach Florida. 03-31-2012. Arron Haggart/Eclipse Sportswire
2012 has truly been a year blessed with a multitude of talent among the 3-year-old crops of both fillies and colts in America. Even with the loss of such standouts as My Miss Aurelia and Algorithms, both the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby have compiled two of the most competitive fields in the last 15 years. An overflow field of 15 fillies were entered for the 138th running of the Kentucky Oaks tomorrow at Churchill Downs but a maximum of 14 will actually contest the prized race. The Timothy Hills trained Oaks Lilly currently sits on the outside looking in as the first ever also-eligible to be entered in the Oaks.
The most solid contenders:
This edition of the Kentucky Oaks is probably the strongest field entered since the turn of the century. Grace Hall was installed as the 5-2 morning line favorite off the strength of her 6 ½ length romp in the Gulfstream Oaks Stakes (gr.2) which means that Empire Maker has sired the favorites for both the Oaks and Derby this year. It’s easy to look at Grace Hall’s most recent work of :52.10 for four furlongs and think that she might be coming into the race a little less sharp than she might need to be but I do not believe that is the case. This is a filly I have been on for the Oaks ever since her Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies runner-up effort and she has done little wrong since then. With only two starts this year and a huge leap forward in performance between her first and second run of the year, I think she will improve even more on Friday. This is the filly to beat. She drew post position 2, just to the outside of On Fire Baby and to the inside of Summer Applause.
Broadway’s Alibi and On Fire Baby were made co-second favorites, each at odds of 4-1. Broadway’s Alibi has been flying under the radar surprisingly ever since her Comely Stakes (gr.3) romp. She easily defeated the highly regarded Millionreasonswhy in the one mile contest and has since recorded two solid four furlong moves. The only worry people seem to have about her, including Todd Pletcher, is that she has the appearance of a one turn runner. On the other hand her pedigree says there should be little distance limitations, being a granddaughter of Seattle Slew through her sire Vindication. She has successfully stretched out from six to seven furlongs and finally one mile. Her last three quarters in the Comely were slower than each previous quarter which could be cause for concern, but she was running very easily and could have given much more if asked.
On Fire Baby will have to run forwardly to escape getting pinned down on the inside by a wall of horses moving to the rail from the 13 outside posts. She should be one of the most fit fillies entering the race having posted two good seven furlongs moves at Churchill Downs. The biggest cause for concern here is her two month wait after winning the Honeybee Stakes (gr.3) but with two wins over the Churchill Downs surface last year already she is on familiar ground and hold an advantage over a majority of the field.
Eden’s Moon is one of six fillies that could try to contest the Oaks pace along with Broadway’s Alibi, Sacristy, Believe You Can, Amie’s Dini and Yara. I absolutely love this filly’s pedigree and I think her third place finish in the Santa Anita Oaks (gr.1) is a throw-out. She still ran a good race but just didn’t show that explosive move the uncorked in her two previous starts. Baffert sent her out for a 1:14.00 six furlong move on Saturday which was easily the fastest move at the distance. I think there is a lot of upside to this filly. It’s hard to believe she has only been running since December which means there is a ton of room for her to still get better.
Summer Applause stands to benefit in a big way from all the speed horses running in the Oaks this year. She is one of the few fillies that has consistently made her final run from well behind the front-running pack. She will break from post three, right between Grace Hall and Eden’s Moon, which means she’ll have plenty of room to get to the rail and secure a good running spot into the first turn. She’s been making a good appearance at Churchill where she has recorded two works, both in excellent times, but she has been galloping up to the race since her :59.60 five furlong work on April 20th. Another one with a huge shot at winning this year, especially with the strong possibility of a hot pace for her to close into.
Believe You Can has been working like a monster for Larry Jones who has compared her physical condition and attitude to that of Proud Spell’s, prior to her win in the 2008 Kentucky Oaks. With three straight bullet five furlong works, and the last two run in less than a minute, this filly appears to be peaking at just the right moment. She enters off a victory over Summer Applause in the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr.2). The only problem she could have is trying to fight for and hold onto the lead for 1 1/8 miles with fillies like Grace Hall, On Fire Baby and Summer Applause waiting to pounce from behind.
Middle ground: Fillies that could go either way, but might not be ready to win the Oaks.
Hard Not to Like and Karlovy Vary look the best of the remaining seven fillies in the field. Hard Not to Like ran the first five starts of her career on the turf and most recently finished a solid second to Karlovy Vary over Keeneland’s synthetic surface. I love the look of this Hard Spun filly but I have a feeling she’s not quite ready to win a race of this caliber. Karlovy Vary had a good work over the Churchill Downs dirt surface, running 1:01.20 for the five furlongs and looking good while doing, but she finished 7th in her only dirt start last year behind On Fire Baby in the Golden Rod Stakes (gr.2). Turf has been her surface of choice and I think she’ll be at a slight disadvantage over the dirt.
Remote possibilities:  Fillies without much of a shot.
Sacristy turned in one of the worst Oaks workouts to date, working seven furlongs in 1:29.00 over the Churchill dirt strip and visibly tiring towards the end. She’s a toss for me. Jemima’s Pearl is a daughter of Distored Humor and is trained by Bob Baffert. She finished a decent third behind Mamma Kimbo in the Fantasy Stakes and has posted two good five furlong moves at Churchill but she’s another I don’t think will be able to defeat this quality field. And Why Not looks the best of this second tier group even though she’s only won a maiden race out of her five career starts. She turned in a bullet four furlong work on Saturday, covering the distance in :46.80 for trainer Michael Matz. She could wind up taking a piece of the action with a favorable trip. Colonial Empress is the second Empire Maker filly in the race after Grace Hall and began her career in the Martha Washington Stakes, finishing a decent 4th. She’s probably a little outclassed at this point in her career but I’d keep an eye on her for the fall races. Amie’s Dini earned the reputation of being a gutsy, tough filly after winning the Martha Washington Stakes and finishing second in both the Honeybee and Fantasy Stakes but her latest Churchill work left much to be desired. She went five furlongs in 1:05.40. She could be eligible for a bounce after three hard-fought efforts. Yara upset Grace Hall in her 2012 debut, taking down the top prize by a head after a furious stretch battle. She threw in a big clunker finishing a distant 5th in the Gulfstream Oaks Stakes. She has only recorded one four furlong move in :51.00 since finishing 5th at Gulfstream and I don’t think that’s going to be enough to win the Oaks.
The final picks:
Grace Hall to win with Broadway’s Alibi and Summer Applause to fill out the trifecta. I’m afraid to leave Eden’s Moon because I think she’s going to have a terrific year, but I think there’s a danger she could run too hard on the front end and not have enough left at the end. On Fire Baby wouldn’t surprise me in the least if she wins, but I just like the top three better than her. So now it’s time to sound off, who are your Kentucky Oaks selections?


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Older Comments about Kentucky Oaks 138: Make Your Pick...

Eden's Moon and Summer Applause
A lot of support for Grace Hall and Summer Applause so far. My sleeper is Hard Not to Like, I don't think she'll win but she looks good enough to pick up a peice of the action if one of the top three falter.
Broadway Alibi, Jemima's Pearl, Summer Applause
Grace Hall has been moving forward towards today all spring & I expect her to wear the lilies, but Jemima's Pearl/Hard Not To Like are my sleepers.
Jemima's Pearl is looking very good in the morning here ... could be the Oaks sleeper.
Summer Applause
Karlovy Vary
On Fire Baby, Believe You Can, Grace Hall, Broadway's Alibi, Summer Applause are my top five.
Summer Applause, Grace Hall, Broadway's Alibi tri box. Also wps Summer Applause.
Grace Hall over Summer Applause

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