HRN Division Rankings: Bellafina an Oaks favorite on a familiar tear

April 24, 2019 12:51pm

We are less than two weeks away from the Kentucky Oaks, and as is the case in many seasons, the May 3 feature is flying under the radar with a potential superstar on track to become the favorite.

It's inevitable, really. Many will be at work on a Friday when the Oaks runs, and the attention given to the race doesn't come near to the Kentucky Derby run 24 hours later.

Yet, this year we have another filly who deserves attention from both ardent fans and novices to the sport. In the last 10 years we have had several Oaks winners who had historic 3-year-old campaigns or careers after their wins at Churchill Downs. I'm thinking about Rachel Alexandra, Blind Luck, Princess of Sylmar, Untapable, Abel Tasman and just last year, Monomoy Girl.

Bellafina has a shot to join this stellar list. Already with a 6-1-0 record from eight starts, the Simon Callaghan-trained filly has accomplished more up to this point in her career than the greats who preceded. Her 2-year-old season was stellar, but ended with a puzzling fourth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. It was subsequently revealed that she had been in reproductive heat.

This year, Bellafina's record is unblemished in three starts, making that Breeders’ Cup start look more and more like an aberration. It remains her only loss in seven stakes starts. Last time out, Bellafina waltzed to an easy Santa Anita Oaks win for her third Grade 1.

Although she will go postward as the solid favorite, Bellafina's 
task will not be easy. Restless Rider appears to be the main threat. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies runner-up didn’t make her season debut until Keeneland's April 6 Ashland Stakes (G1). She was a game second that day to longshot winner Out for a Spin and should move forward off of that effort.

Last season’s Eclipse winner, Jaywalk, will also be in the field. Off to a slow start this season, Jaywalk gave her supporters some hope last out in the aforementioned Ashland when she was beat only two lengths after factoring in a hot pace. It was a much-improved effort from when she was off the board in Gulfstream Park's Davona Dale (G2) first off the shelf.

Given that, here's a look at all of this week's division rankings.

Older Dirt Males

1.  
Thunder Snow – Became the first to win two Dubai World Cups, and he'll likely come to the United States for a later summer/fall campaign. We could see him back in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

2.  
Gift Box – The Santa Anita Handicap (G1) winner has turned into a star since his transfer to Southern California.

3.  McKinzie 
– Was very game in his Santa Anita Handicap defeat, beaten by a scant nose, and will look to win his first race as an older horse in the Alysheba (G2) on Derby weekend.

4.  
Prince Lucky – Won his second in as many starts in the Gulfstream Park Mile Stakes (G2).

5.  
Coal Front
 – Winner of three in a row, including the Godolphin Mile (G2) in Dubai. He has put it all together this year and could appear next in the Met Mile (G1).

Next 5: Core Beliefs, Quip, Gunnevera, Seeking the Soul, Audible, Leofric.

Older Dirt Females

1.  
Midnight Bisou  Deserves this spot after already winning three graded stakes in 2019, most recently the Apple Blossom (G1).

2.  Monomoy Girl 
– Recovering from a mild colic scare, her 2019 debut is on hold.

3.  
Elate – No real excuse when third in the Apple Blossom. The Bill Mott-trained mare will regroup for her next start going a longer distance.

4.  
Wow Cat – Really stepped up her game in her last two starts, with her Breeders’ Cup Distaff run the best to date. A South American import, she showed vast improvement in each of her four races in this country last year. I'm expecting more strides forward, but need to see her soon in a race.

5.  
Blue Prize – The Spinster (G1) winner will return in next weekend's La Troienne (G1) at Churchill Downs.

Next 5: Escape Clause, Secret Spice, Marley’s Freedom, Blamed, Champagne Problems.

3-Year-Old-Males

1.  
Omaha Beach – Takes this spot based off of his wins over Improbabe and Game Winner. His run in the Arkansas Derby (G1) was impressive, as few horses are able to sustain a mid-race move like that.

2.  
Game Winner – His Santa Anita Derby (G1) effort was better than it looked. He wasn’t in a must-win situation like his stablemate, Roadster. The performances reminded me of Silver Charm’s runner-up in this same stakes.

3.  
Roadster – Really showed his talent when coming from the back to win the Santa Anita Derby. I am not sure 10 furlongs will be his best distance, but he will no doubt be on the top of many Kentucky Derby lists.

4.  
Tacitus – This battle-tested son of Tapit is a serious threat in Louisville. For Bill Mott, this is his best chance yet at a Kentucky Derby win. Tacitus could produce the Wood Memorial's first Kentucky Derby winner since Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000.  

5.  
Maximum Security
 – The Florida Derby (G1) winner is somewhat underrated. He ran the fastest Brisnet Late Pace Rating in the history of Kentucky Derby points races and could be somewhat ignored at the windows on the first Saturday in May.

Next 5: 
Vekoma, Code of Honor, Improbable, By My Standards, Anothertwistafate.

3-Year-Old-Females

1.  
Bellafina  It appears her Breeders’ Cup run was an aberration; she has been dominant in three starts since, easily winning the Santa Anita Oaks (G1). Now, she moves forward as the Kentucky Oaks favorite.

2.  
Restless Rider - In her season debut, she ran a big race, just missing in the Ashland (G1). Will likely be Bellafina's toughest hurdle in the Kentucky Oaks.

3.  
Newspaperofrecord – The expectations are high for her this year. She will make her first start of 2019 in the Edgewood (G3) on the first Friday in May going 1 1/16 miles. If all goes well, she could also head to Royal Ascot, or wait for New York's new Turf Tiara series of races.

4.  
Jaywalk – Finished third as the even money favorite in longshot Out for a Spin’s Ashland. Has not matured like others in division from age 2 to 3, but will still go next in the Kentucky Oaks. 

5.  
Serengeti Empress 
– Bled when finishing in last in the Fair Ground Oaks (G2). Aside from that, she needs to establish more consistency, but has proven talent and a Grade 2 win this season.

Next 5: 
Out for a Spin, Enaya Alrabb, Chasing Yesterday, Chocolate Kisses, Lady Apple.

Turf Males

1.  
Bricks and Mortar – He got the head bob in the Muniz Memorial Handicap (G2) over a 62-1 longshot. However, it was supposed to have been easier than that for the horse that many have pegged as the best in this division. Will run next on May 4 in the Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs.

2.  
Stormy Liberal – Ran well to finish third in the Al Quoz Sprint (G1) in Dubai. Will now follow a similar schedule as last year with the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint three-peat a long range goal.

3.  
Catholic Boy – Was solid last year in his two starts on the grass, winning the Pennine Ridge (G3) and Belmont Derby (G1). Connections have mentioned a Preakness Stakes undercard race on turf, the Dixie (G2), as an option for his 4-year-old debut.

4.  
Glorious Empire – The Eclipse finalist for this division in 2018, he has won four of his last five starts. His only loss was a poor effort in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

5.  
Catapult
 – Almost got there in the Kilroe Mile (G1) at Santa Anita but was beat in a tight photo by the former claimer Ohio in his first start since the Pegasus.

Next 5: Zula Alpha, Delta Prince, Imprimis, Channel Maker, Bigger Picture.

Turf Females

1.  
Vasilika – Dominant winner of the Royal Heroine Stakes (G2) last weekend, her 11th victory in her last 12 starts. Expect to see her next on May 27 in Santa Anita's Gamely (G1), a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup.

2.  
Sistercharlie – It’s mid-April, and she hasn’t run yet. Her resume would normally be enough to keep her on top, but Vasilika has done too much to be ignored. The champ will be back, but she missing her intended Keeneland start due to a recent fever.

3.  
Rushing Fall – Made her first appearance in a race this year a winning one in the Jenny Wiley (G1). Is now seven for eight lifetime.

4.  
Newspaperofrecord
 – Yes, she is only a 3-year-old, but she looks like she could truly be any kind.

5.  
Uni – She capped off an abbreviated unbeaten 2018 campaign with a win in the Matriarch (G1) over a strong field. Will stay in training for 2019.

Next 5: Rymska, Hawksmoor, Competitionofideas, 
Daddy Is a Legend, Precieuse.

Male Sprinters

1.  
Roy H – He had to be scratched out of the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) due to a minor foot issue that showed quick improvement. Will focus on a return trip to the Breeders’ Cup.

2.  
X Y Jet – After two near misses and multiple knee surgeries, he put it all together to finally win the Dubai Golden Sheen, looking like a force on the front end.

3.  
Mitole – Passed his first graded stakes test with flying colors in the Count Fleet Sprint at Oaklawn. If he stays healthy, the future could be quite bright.

4.  
Whitmore – Ran his heart out when second to Mitole and looks to be in top form.

5.  
World of Trouble – 
He won the Carter Handicap (G1) last weekend over a seven-furlong distance that is probably not in his wheelhouse. Only off the board once in 11 starts, and will be tough going shorter.

Next 5: Imperial Hint, Promised Fulfilled, Coal Front, Limousine Liberal, Bobby’s Wicked One.

Female Sprinters

1.  
Marley’s Freedom – Ran well when she stretched out in the Beholder Mile (G1). When sprinting, though, she is still tops for now.

2.  
Dream Pauline  Easily took care of business in her first start this year, the Hurricane Bertie (G3). Champion Shamrock Rose was among those left her in wake.

3.  
Spiced Perfection – Impressive when winning the Madison (G1) for new connections, including trainer Peter Miller. Also won the La Brea (G1) three starts back.

4.  
Selcourt - May not be as good as in the past, but on her best day sprinting is still near the top of this division.

5.  
Late Night Pow Wow – Beaten by Spiced Perfection in the Madison, but had her number in their previous matchup in February’s Barbara Fritchie Stakes (G3).

Next 5: Amy’s Challenge, Shamrock Rose, Mopotism, Stonesintheroad, Spring Lily.

 

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Meet Chip Gehrke

Chip Gehrke has been with Horse Racing Nation since 2015 and currently serves as a Featured Writer. Based outside of Chicago, Chip can be found in the press box many weekends during the Arlington Park meet. The On The Air With Dr. Derby name originates from his local sports radio show appearances as an on-air racing expert. Now also a weekly contributor on FOX Sports radio's "The Fast Track," Chip can be heard giving his thoughts on the racing world every weekend.

In 2017, Chip was chosen to be a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association. As a part of the NTWAB, Chip became a voter for the year-end Eclipse Awards, something he takes very seriously. Some of Chip's favorite writings from the last couple of years is the best way to get to know him, along with following him on Twitter at @doctorderby.

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