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Three Tall Oaks: Gulfstream, Fair Grounds and Santa Anita

It is just 5 weeks until the 138th running of the Kentucky Oaks on Friday May 4th at Churchill Downs and this weekend has come up saturated with talented fields of improving sophomore fillies. In what is easily the most exciting weekend of Kentucky Oaks preps so far this year, no less than three graded stakes races will set sail from coast to coast with some of the most promising 3-year-old fillies lining up to do battle.

We begin with the Gulfstream Oaks (gr.2) at Gulfstream Park this Saturday which features a return of the top three finishers from last month’s Davona Dale Stakes. It’s the top two finishers from the Davona Dale that will really be catching people’s attention at the betting windows though, as 64-1 Davona Dale surprise winner, Yara, and Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr.1) runner up, Grace Hall, square off once again after running a thrilling stretch duel in the Davona Dale that saw Yara prevail by a neck.
 
Grace Hall was the heavy favorite to win her 2012 debut in the Davona Dale but came up a little short of holding off Yara in the stretch of the 1 1/16 mile Davona Dale. She ran a stellar campaign last year as a juvenile, winning the Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes and finishing her campaign with just one loss, a decisive second place finish behind My Miss Aurelia in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. It’s a good bet that she was a little short for her debut in the Davona Dale and will be much sharper this time around. Trainer Tony Dutrow has sent her out for two strong 5 furlong moves, including a 1:00.70 last week. The Gulfstream Oaks is the same 1 1/8 mile distance as the Kentucky Oaks which should suit Grace Hall just fine. If she’s ever to prove this is her division to rule with the absence of My Miss Aurelia, now is the time.


Yara is coming into her own at exactly the right time. Her win in the Davona Dale was no fluke and she has won exactly half of her 6 lifetime starts now. She entered the Davona Dale off a very distant 4th place finish to Broadway’s Alibi in the Forward Gal Stakes in late January, which makes you wonder how good Broadway’s Alibi is if Yara was able to come back and take down the biggest Kentucky Oaks gun in the nation. She has turned in just two easy works in preparation for the Gulfstream Oaks, a 4 furlong breeze in :50.00 flat, and most recently a 1:02.00 5 furlong move. Conditioning won’t be a problem, trainer Jose Garoffalo just wants to keep her happy and fit coming up to the big dance.


Captivating Lass finished a well beaten and distant third behind Yara and Grace Hall in the Davona Dale and is back to try her hand at the giants once again. She has made just four lifetime starts with two wins, including a triumph in the Busanda Stakes at Aqueduct in early January. This is a daughter of A. P. Indy which warrants respect right off the bat, but instinct tells me she’s still not going to get to the top two on Saturday. She has turned in three 4 furlong breezes since the Davona Dale last month, her latest being a slow :49.92 move but this is another instance where trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is only concerned with keeping his charge fit and ready to run, not peak.


One of the most intriguing entries in the race is the undefeated Zo Impressive, a Hard Spun filly trained by Tom Albertrani. With just a maiden win and an Allowance Optional Claiming race to her credit, you might think this filly is worth overlooking. That is until you see the excellent form that is holding up from the field she defeated in the Allowance Optional Claiming race. For starters, second place finisher In Lingerie came back to romp in the Bourbonette Oaks last Saturday while third place finisher, Goldrush Girl returned to post a strong allowance win and 6th place finisher Harbor Mist also returned a victor in her next outing. Zo Impressive seems to be a slow worker by nature so it’s hard to gauge how much effect her last two works will have on her performance in the race. Her most recent most was a 1:03.04 5 furlong crawl that bested her previous 1:03.90 5 furlong move.
 

Hearts of Red is another nice looking filly that seems to be moving in the right direction as she enters the Gulfstream Oaks. She broke her maiden on December 31st and followed that up with a 5 length romp on February 8th in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park. This daughter of Lion Heart could have a lot of potential but might not be best suited for this race.

Emma’s Encore, And Why Not and The Cat’s All That complete the field. Of the three only Emma’s Encore appears to be a legitimate contender. She enters off two straight scores at Gulfstream, a maiden win and a March 14th Starter Optional Allowance race.


The Santa Anita Oaks (gr.1) came up with a compact but talented field of just 5 fillies for Saturday’s running of the 1 1/16 mile event. Three graded stakes winners are in the field and two have a score to settle. When they first met, Reneesgotzip and Eden’s Moon finished 1-2 in a maiden race, with Reneesgotzip taking home the top prize under a front-running hand ride. From there the City Zip filly went on to capture the Santa Ynez Stakes (gr.2) by daylight while Eden’s Moon laid waste to a maiden field at Santa Anita, winning by almost 12 lengths while in hand. The two fillies met once again in both their respective third starts, the Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes. Eden’s Moon won going away by 3 ¼ lengths with Reneesgotzip a clear second but no match for her rival in her first try at the 1 mile distance.
 
Once again both fillies will face each other in the starting gate on Saturday and this time it will be with an extra 1/16 of a mile added on. Eden’s Moon is bred for more distance and should relish stretching out. She turned in a speedy :46.80 half mile work before turning in an easy 1:28.00 seven furlong move in her most recent work. Expect her to be fit and ready to run another big effort. Reneesgotzip is a very talented filly and was compromised a little by blowing the first turn in the Las Virgenes, but the longer the distances, get the more challenged I think she will become. She turned in a blazing :58.60 5 furlong work last week indicating she is extremely sharp and ready to run her ‘A’ game.
 
Willa B Awesome has already made 11 starts in her career and 2 in 2012. She won the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes in late January to begin the year before finishing a distant 4th in the Las Virgenes. Her latest work was a sharp :59.40 5 furlong move that ranked 4th best out of 60. Bella’s Fantasy and Conjure the Spirit complete the field.


Summer Applause leads a small, capable cast of five other 3-year-old fillies in this year’s edition of the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr.2) and will run as a solid favorite. The Harlan’s Holiday filly has won 3 of her last 4 starts. She most recently captured the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (gr.3) at Fair Grounds by a determined length after an impressive rally coming off the final turn. She started the year with a second place finish, 1 ½ lengths behind Believe You Can, in the Silverbulletday Stakes at Fair Grounds. Her three works since the Rachel Alexandra have been excellent, especially her :59.60 five furlong move on  March 17th and her most recent :47.60 half mile move. She looks ready to roll once again.


Believe You Can has won four of her seven lifetime starts, including a victory over Summer Applause in the Silverbulletday Stakes to begin the year. She finished a dull 4th in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes after weakening at the top of the stretch but is coming into the Oaks with two excellent 5 furlong works under her belt.  She could surprise and wind up making a good race of it if she can bounce back from her poor effort last time out.


Disposablepleasure enters the Fair Grounds Oaks off a 4th place finish in the Davona Dale Stakes in her 2012 debut. She finished out her juvenile campaign with a maiden win and a game nose victory in the Demoiselle Stakes (gr.2) at Aqueduct last year. Her latest breeze was a strong 1:00.70 five furlong move. It appears she is coming into this race in good shape and should run a better race than she did in the Davona Dale with the extra condition she received there.


Small Kitchen is the wild card in the Fair Grounds Oaks field this year. Undefeated in two starts, this daughter of Corinthian has won both those starts by a combined margin of 13 lengths. She has never traveled beyond 6 furlongs but has also never been tested. A 1:00.60 five furlong move on March 24th signaled her race readiness. She is in excellent shape and could be coming into her own at exactly the right time. Her biggest obstacles will be her inexperience, the big step up in class and the 1 1/16 mile distance.
 
The field is completed by Inny Minnie and Colonial Empress, both of which enter the race off third place efforts.


So there you have it, three prep races, two returning rivalries and three fields packed with talent and potential. Grace Hall has the potential to take back control of this division with a strong performance in the Gulfstream Oaks as well as Eden’s Moon and Yara. Reneesgotzip has shown she has talent but needs to prove she can carry that talent past 7 furlongs and win. Summer Applause seems to have things well in hand at Fair Grounds but is facing some fresh new intriguing talent. When it’s all said and done there could be a much clearer image of who is headed for a shot at Kentucky Oaks glory, and who is headed home after the dust clears on Saturday. I for one doubt it will be Grace Hall or Eden’s Moon going home.
 
See where they all rank in HRN's Kentucky Oaks 2012 Contenders!   
 

 

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Older Comments about Three Tall Oaks: Gulfstream, Fair Grounds and Santa Anita...

Thanks Ashley! I agree with regard to Disposablepleasure. The Davona Dale was her first race of the year and I think she will benefit off that effort, but I don't think she'll get to the top two. All of these fillies are coming into the races looking really good.
You made very good points about Yara and Zo Impressive in regards to some of their previous races. Personally, I think Disposablepleasure is much better than her 4th place Davona Dale finish would suggest; just look back to her gritty win in the Demoiselle. I believe the match-up between Eden's Moon and Reneesgotzip will be the best of the weekend in the 3-yo filly division. Maybe we can get another BL/HDG rivalry going. Great analysis, Brian!
For my money's worth I think Grace Hall will have a really nice return performance and return to the top of the crop. Eden's Moon looks like she should just get better as the distance stretches out. Ii am very curious to see what Zo Impressive can do in the Gulfstream Oaks and even a little intrigued by Small Kitchen in the Fair Grounds Oaks.

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