Race of the Week 2017
HRN Original Blog:
Kentucky Oaks Runner

R Heat Lighting and the Novel Nine

The 137th Kentucky Oaks on May 6th is stacking up to be one of the deepest and most diverse fields in history. Of the nine fillies on today’s list six are graded stakes winners, three have posted consecutive wins, 7 have never finished off the board in their last three starts and one is undefeated. I’ve been doing some serious analyzing of these nine fillies races over the weekend in an effort to rank them as fairly as possible. As I result I think I was able to compile a much more accurate list than last week but it was still tough deciding on the top three spots.

The Novel Nine:
1)      KathmanbluShe keeps the top spot over R Heat Lightning by a whisker. I like her schedule better than R Heat Lightning’s for one thing, she will enter the Oaks four weeks after she runs in the April 9th Ashland Stakes (gr.1) which means she will be sharp and fit. Trainer Kenny McPeek gave her a stout workout on Saturday when she fired off a 5 furlong bullet in a fantastic time of :59.00 flat. She’s going to be ready to run her ‘A’ game on Saturday in the Ashland against a strong field. Another reason for keeping her at #1 is her impressive Golden Rod win last year over Churchill Downs dirt track, plus she’s won three-in-a-row.

2)      R Heat Lightning You literally can’t say anything bad about this filly after her romp in the Gulfstream Oaks. She’s done everything right in her last two starts by relaxing behind the pace, moving herself into position nearing the top of the stretch and responding to the slightest move from jockey John Velasquez to kick away in the stretch. She has won her last two starts by more than 15 lengths and felt the whip just once.

3)      Joyful Victory She has posted two solid 5 furlong works since her devastating Honeybee win on March 12. Her first work on March 29th went in 1:01.60 and on Tuesday morning she went 5 furlongs in a strong 1:00.80 in preparation for her Fantasy Stakes (gr.2) run this Sunday at Oaklawn Park. She could be facing an average field in the Fantasy with the possible exception of Arienza if she is entered. Her move in the Honeybee continues to be one of the strongest performances this year, she didn’t just draw away, she exploded halfway around the far turn and then continued that incredible pace all the way through the stretch.

4)      ZazuWhile her main rival Turbulent Descent takes on Gran Lioness and Pomeroy’s Pistol in the 7 furlong April 17th Beaumont Stakes (gr.2), Zazu it seems will be pointing straight for the Kentucky Oaks after her hard-fought second place finish in the Santa Anita Oaks on March 5th. That gives her a break of 9 weeks to work up to the Kentucky Oaks. It’s not the ideal schedule you want to see in a filly pointing for such tough race but Zazu has a very solid 2-year-old foundation and has raced 7 times in her career finishing no worse than second in her last three starts. Trainer John Sadler has brought her along very progressively this year entering her first at 7 furlongs, then 1 mile, then 1 1/16 and now she heads to the 1 1/8 mile Kentucky Oaks which was custom built for her closing-punch style of running. She has breezed an easy 4 and 5 furlongs since her last race but you can rest assured Sadler will pick up the tempo as May 6th approaches. Interestingly Sadler feels his filly will do very well at Churchill Downs especially if the track comes up sloppy.

5)      DancinginherdreamsAfter the Ashland Stakes on Saturday we will have a much better idea of where this talented Tapit filly stands. She ran an uncharacteristically dull second in the Davona Dale behind R Heat Lightning’s powerhouse win but was completely out of her element being so close to the pace. Her last work was a slow :50.70 four furlong move but she fired off a 1:00.00 flat 5 furlong bullet the week before that to show her readiness. Kathmanblu seems to be coming into the race stronger than her so she will have to step up her game quite a bit to show she can make an impact in the Kentucky Oaks. It’s hard to remember that this filly has only run 4 times and never finished worse than second so I’m willing to throw out her last race and hold out hope that we will see the real Dancinginherdreams show up and give Kathmanblu a serious challenge. She will be running over Polytrack for the second time at Keeneland in the Ashland Stakes after breaking her maiden over the synthetic track on October 10th last year. One thing that still gives her a big advantage in the Kentucky Oaks pursuit is the fact that she is undefeated in her only start over Churchill Downs dirt surface.
[Dancinginherdreams is currently ranked #18 on Horse Racing Nation's Kentucky Oaks Contenders page]

6)      Plum PrettyThis is another filly who will most likely be heading straight for the Kentucky Oaks after the most dominating win by a filly in the entire nation all year. Trainer Bob Baffert was thrilled with her Sunland Park Oaks win where she won by 25 lengths after swooping to the lead from just off the pace. If she can maintain the same form she showed winning the Sunland Park Oaks or even improve heading to Churchill Downs she has an excellent chance to win. If she regresses from her super-horse effort or peaked too soon she could be in a bad spot. Her works leading up to the Oaks will tell us a lot about where she is from a fitness standpoint. She hails from the same sire as Rachel Alexandra, Medaglia d’Oro.

7)      Summer SoireeHer 10 ¾ length Bourbonette Oaks (gr.3) romp caught the eye of Team Valor International who purchased the War Front filly for an undisclosed amount from Brereton Jones and son Bret Jones. She has since been transferred to the barn of trainer Graham Motion and will be pointed to the Kentucky Oaks. She has six weeks between her March 26 win and the Kentucky Oaks to prepare for the toughest race of her career but judging by the nature of her Bourbonette win fitness isn’t an issue with this filly. She doesn’t run her best race unless she can be on the front end uncontested as she was in the Bourbonette. She’s going to have to learn to relax in the early stages of the 1/18 mile Kentucky Oaks if she hopes to survive the onslaught of Kathmanblu, Zazu, Dancinginherdreams, R Heat Lightning and Joyful Victory.

8)      WyomiaShe will be facing the giants Saturday in the Ashland Stakes when she heads to post with Kathmanblu and Dancinginherdreams but she ran well against the top fillies in the nation last year when winning the Grade 3 Mazarine Stakes while defeating Delightful Mary. She won the Suncoast Stakes on March 12th with an impressive closing rally from the back of the pack to just get up for the win by a head. Her latest work on Saturday was a 4 furlong move that completed in :47.80, ranking as the second fastest of 55 horses working the distance. She hasn’t been facing high quality fields this year but her worst lifetime showing was when she finished 6th behind Awesome Feather and R Heat Lightning in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

9)      ArienzaI like the look of this promising filly more and more, if she continues winning the way she has won her first two she is destined to become as great as her famous parents. She is listed as a possible entry for the Fantasy Stakes (gr.2) on April 10th at Oaklawn Park where she would face Joyful Victory. It would be a huge step up in class but aside from Joyful Victory she would be the best of the prospective field.

Honorable Trio:

Daisy Devine, Pomeroy’s Pistol and Inglorious. Pomeroy’s Pistol will be facing Turbulent Descent and Gran Lioness in the Beaumont Stakes (gr.2) at Keeneland on April 17th. Inglorious needs to regroup after he dull 4th place finish in the Fair Grounds Oaks. Daisy Devine is coming into her own at the perfect time, if she can treat the Fair Grounds Oaks as a launching pad and move ahead from there she could play a pivotal role in the Kentucky Oaks.

Also of note: Delightful Mary makes her return to the races on Saturday in the already loaded Ashland Stakes. She enters the race off a speedy 1:00.20 five furlong work.

In closing I would like to ask a question purely for fun and out of curiousity: If the Kentucky Derby field was divided half fillies and half colts how do you think this year’s crop of colts would fare against this year’s crop of fillies?

Photo Courtesy of Coglianese Photos


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Older Comments about R Heat Lighting and the Novel Nine...

I love that you are keeping Kathmanblu on the top of the list. I really like this filly. It has been no secret that I think Julien Leparoux will have a great Oaks/Derby weekend.
It's always hard determing if a horse will get 10 furlongs but as far as preps go this year the fillies have been far more impressive than the males aside from The Factor and Premier Pegasus. It would be interesting to see some match ups later in the year.
Great list, the Oaks field definitely took a sharp turn towards the "deep" category over the last couple of weeks. I think with the big general public crowd on Oaks day R Heat Lightning will go off a solid favourite being out of the Pletcher stable. I will also be trying to beat her. As far as the fillies vs the males; I'm not sure how many of these fillies want any part of 10 furlongs, I love when the fillies take on the boys and wish it happened more often but I don't see it being competitive this year.
Absolutely, I think she's displayed one the best closing rallies so far this year among fillies. I can't wait to see how she runs Sunday.
A big win for Joyful Victory in the Fantasy could put her in the picture for favorite as well.
I agree Connie, I think Uncle Mo, Premier Pegasus, Dialed In and The Factor as the leading males as of now and with the exception of Uncle Mo I think several of these fillies could easily give the males a run for their money. @ Brian - I think Kathmanblu will still be the Oaks favorite if she wins the Ashland but it's going to be very close between the two of them, unless Kathmanblu is upset.
I think the fillies overall are faster than the boys overall.....except for Uncle Mo and The Factor. I really don't like running fillies against colts, it's just bad and the results can be long term damaging......but UM and TF are the speed duo. We'll know more after the 9th.
The Oaks is looking awfully fun right now ... I will be betting against R Heat Lightning coming off that speedy Gulfstream Park track. I think she will be favored after Saturday. To answer your question, I think this year's fillies are solid, but I don't think the best of them wants any part of Uncle Mo or Premier Pegasus.

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 Meet Brian Appleton 

Thoroughbred Horse Racing is my passion.  It started when at the age of 9 I found a book called Come On Seabiscuit by Ralf Moody on my Mother’s shelf.  Reading that book was one of the most exciting things I ever did as a kid. I read that book so many times that I had entire chapters committed to memory and the dust jacket worn and ripped beyond recognition from so much use. From that point on I was hopelessly addicted, reading every book on horse racing I could get my hands on, especially racehorse biographies. In 2009 I began my own blog called Rail Runner on wordpress and have continued to blog there to this day.

Curlin is probably my favorite racehorse of all time. Being able to attend six of his races will always be one of the highlights of my life. Whenever I need to re-find some inspiration in my life all I need to do is watch one of his incredible victories and relive the memories. Rachel Alexandra ranks right up there too. As any horse racing fan will tell you it’s almost impossible to choose just one favorite and I am no exception. Phar Lap and Citation are another two of my all time favorites and the list could go on and on.

I was homeschooled my entire life by my parents and graduated High School in 2006 at the age of 17.  Currently I am completing my Marketing degree with the hopes of entering the Thoroughbred Horse Racing field as a writer/journalist , or in the marketing/advertising/promotions side of the industry.

It is my dream to someday become a thoroughbred racehorse owner and win major races across the United States. Who wouldn't want that, right?  For about 1 ½ years I was part owner in a racehorse, Lord Greystoke raced, and owned by Hibiscus Stables. I was able to attend one of his races at Belmont Park on Kentucky Derby day, May 2, 2009 and it was an incredible experience. While Lord Greystoke finished 7th in the race, being able to stand in an owner’s box not 30 feet away from Penny Chenery’s owner’s box was one of the most amazing feelings in the world.

Later in the year Lord Greystoke was finally able to break through with a 4 ½ length win which made me feel like one of the world’s most accomplished thoroughbred owners and further fueled my appetite. I think it would be rally neat to win the Appleton Stakes (Gr.3) at Gulfstream Park, even though I'm generally a bigger fan of dirt racing I can't help but think it would be neat for me to win a race with the same name as my last name.

That’s me in a nutshell, just a very passionate, driven young guy that wants to be a part of this amazing sport and share the adventure with other fans.

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