Plum Pretty will miss the Mother Goose Stakes (gr.1) on Saturday at Belmont Park due to a fast-passing illness, but she will not miss her chance to step back into the national spotlight as trainer Bob Baffert wasted absolutely no time in entering his star filly in another graded stakes race all the way across the country in California. The Hollywood Oaks (gr.2) now appears at least as strong, if not stronger, than the Mother Goose field. While Baffert is bringing the Kentucky Oaks winner to the table in the Hollywood Oaks, it’s John Sadler who could be bringing the biggest player of all.
Grade 1 winner Zazu is the filly to beat in the Hollywood Oaks in my humble opinion. She and Plum Pretty head a short field of just five fillies and are the only two graded stakes winners in the field. Zazu was last seen finishing a late closing third in the Kentucky Oaks (gr.1) after navigating the final turn very wide and taking longer than usual to hit her best stride. She is back on her own turf in the Hollywood Oaks and has been training exceptionally well the last few weeks. Her last two works were identical six furlong moves completed in 1:13.40 at Hollywood Park that each ranked as the second fastest moves of the day for the distance. She has always faced the very best of the best and with the smaller field this time, things could set up perfectly for her to make a return to the winners circle.
Plum Pretty has to be considered “the big gun" of the Hollywood Oaks as the Kentucky Oaks winner, but she is still less enticing to me than Zazu. She’s making just her sixth lifetime start Saturday and has a record of three wins and two thirds in her five career starts so there’s still a lot of room for her to improve. The best could easily still be in the future for this talented Medaglia d’Oro filly and with Baffert pulling the strings and Garcia holding the reins she has a great shot at super-stardom. She’s been training just as well as Zazu, especially her last move on Sunday when she completed seven furlongs in 1:24.40. Hollywood Park was the scene of her maiden victory so the surface is no concern.
[Plum Pretty ranks #5 on HRN's current 3-year-old filly rankings page; should she be ranked higher as the Kentucky Oaks winner?]
As well as Zazu and Plum Pretty have been training, it’s Big Tiz who has really captured the eye with her works at Hollywood Park. She enters the race off two straight bullet five furlong moves. On June 12th she went in :59.40 to rank as the fastest of 75 running the distance and then followed that up with an even faster :58.60 on Sunday, getting the best time of 63 horses working the distance. She has just a maiden victory to her credit but finished second in the Hollywood Starlet in December and enters the Hollywood Oaks off a third place finish in the Grade 3 Railbird Stakes behind the Baffert trainer May Day Rose.
Love Theway Youare and Wallstreeter complete the field. It took Love Theway You are six tries to break her maiden and once she did she lost little time in capturing an Optional Allowance race three weeks later. She last finished fourth in the Black-Eyed Susan in a field of five after fading badly and barely mounting a challenge in the stretch. Wallstreeter hasn’t won a race since breaking her maiden last October and enters off a second place finish in an allowance race at Hollywood Park on June second. Suffice it to say Zazu looks like a good choice for a rebound here. Plum Pretty could easily win this race and I don’t think anyone would be surprised to see that happen, she’s the most logical win pick here. Big Tiz is the best shot at an upset on paper.
Joyful Victory will be facing off against Victoria’s Wildcat, Salty Strike and Buster’s Ready on Saturday at Belmont Park in the Mother Goose Stakes where she is easily the overwhelming class of the field. The Tapit filly posted a bullet five furlong work at Delaware Park to show her race readiness and is another filly that appears poised to bounce back in a big way. If both Zazu and Joyful Victory pull off wins on Saturday it will mark a very powerful Tapit two-punch.