Race of the Week 2017
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Kentucky Oaks Runner

The Novel Nine: Kentucky Oaks Hopefuls

The colts have been stealing the headlines left and right this year as they make their preparations for the Kentucky Derby and prove that this is one of the most constant and talented crops to pursue classic dreams in quite some time. Sometimes the fillies tend to get shuffled into the background a bit as Derby fever begins to boil over, but from the moment My Miss Aurelia won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr.1) in an absolute waltz to remain undefeated last year, the fillies have been consistently proving that last year’s crop is still going strong. The 2012 Kentucky Oaks promises to have a field almost as exciting and dynamic as the Derby this year and if not for the fact that juvenile champion My Miss Aurelia is still sidelined with a shin issue and for the loss of both Now I Know and Weemissfrankie, the Kentucky Oaks would be garnering a lot more attention right now. As it stands now, the Oaks still has a multitude of talented fillies pursuing the coveted wreath of lilies and for the first time this year, the Novel Nine is finally back.
1. Millionreasonswhy – Millionreasonswhy as the number one choice might surprise some people, especially seeing as she hasn’t really been in the public’s eye since last August when she ran against My Miss Aurelia in the Adirondack at Saratoga. There are a few reasons why this Grand Slam filly takes the top spot. First, she gave My Miss Aurelia the toughest race of her life in the Adirondack, losing by just a neck after battling the entire length of the stretch and the last ¼ of the final turn while finishing more than 14 lengths ahead of the third place finisher. Second, her pedigree is absolute gold when it comes to classic influence and speed, tracing back to Mr. Prospector through her sire Grand Slam and having A. P. Indy as her grandsire through her dam In Secure. Third, she came back from an extended break after the Adirondack on March 3rd to win the Wide Country Stakes at Laurel by 1 ¼ lengths in a breathtaking hand ride. It was more than 12 lengths back to third place. Her next start could come in the 1 mile Comely Stakes (gr.3) at Aqueduct where she will most likely face undefeated Agave Kiss.
2. Grace Hall – Grace Hall went from maiden to Grade 1 winner in the first two starts of her career when she won the Spinaway Stakes (gr.1) at Saratoga last September. After capturing the Blue Hen Stakes by more than 5 lengths in an effortless hand ride, the Empire Maker filly finished a clear and distinguished second to My Miss Aurelia in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr.1). She finished a game second by neck to Yara in the Davona Dale (gr.2) at Gulfstream Park in her debut this year after taking the lead early from Yara and then losing it again at the head of the stretch. Her next start is a planned run in the Gulfstream Oaks (gr.2) on March 31st where she will undoubtedly run a much sharper race and a return to the winners circle seems more than likely. She has the looks, the talent and the experience to go the whole nine yards.
3. Broadway’s Alibi – I would love to have Broadway’s Alibi listed at number one right now but there has been very little word on what her future plans are and only one listed work since her last race. Those facts aside, Broadway’s Alibi is quite possibly the most talented filly on this entire list. After finishing a solid second in her debut the Vindication filly ran away with her maiden by 7 lengths in what the official chart notes was only a “mild drive”. She next captured an allowance optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park by 5 lengths after leading through hot early fractions and taking the final turn very wide. It was the Forward Gal Stakes (gr.2) on January 29th that really set Broadway’s Alibi apart from the crowd. After running an opening quarter of :22.35 and a blistering half in :44.94 over Gulfstream’s sloppy track, Broadway’s Alibi cornered the turn nicely for the first time in her career and exploded down the stretch to win going away by 16 ¾ lengths. It could have been 20 or more it was that easy. Trainer Todd Pletcher gave his star a long break after the Forward Gal but she returned to the work tab on March 10th with a bullet :47.77 half mile move. Her inactivity is the only thing that has her being held out of the top two.
4. Eden’s Moon – Bob Baffert almost always comes up with an exciting Derby and Oaks prospect each year and 2012 is no different. Eden’s Moon was favored over Reenesgotzip in their maiden race but finished second best to that one before going on to capture her maiden race one month later by almost 12 lengths at Santa Anita Park after setting an easy pace on the front end. She made her next start in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes where she once again faced Reneesgotzip. Once again the Malibu Moon filly took the lead over Reneesgotzip shortly after coming out of the gate and maintained her advantage until challenged by Reneesgotzip coming in the homestretch. Roused by jockey Martin Gacria, Eden’s Moon easily repelled her rivals bid and went on to win the Las Virgenes by 3 ¼ lengths in just her third lifetime start. There is a lot of room for improvement in this filly and she is in the best possible hands to make the most of her potential. Next up is a run in the Santa Anita Oaks (gr.1) where she could face the promising Princess Arabella.
5. Princess Arabella – If you look at just margins of victory as the deciding factor in your Kentucky Oaks contender rankings, chances are Princess Arabella won’t rank that high. In just two career starts the Bob Baffert trained Any Given Saturday filly has shown stunning talent and professionalism, winning both starts. She broke her maiden by 3 ½ lengths in a hand ride, responding like a champ to the subtle guidance of jockey Martin Garcia. On February 12th she posted an identical 3 ½ length margin of victory and made an absolute mockery of the small field, once again winning in a hand ride but this time geared down to what appeared to be an easy canter. The level of talent that she displays is astounding and the ease of her two victories is nothing short of spectacular. If she faces Eden’s Moon in the Santa Anita Oaks on March 31st I think Eden’s Moon will have her work cut out for her trying to beat this filly.
6. On Fire Baby – In the last article I wrote I said that On Fire Baby should be at least in the top three if she is pointed for the Kentucky Oaks, but as soon as I began researching in earnest the fillies pointing towards the Oaks, I didn’t feel the same way. On Fire Baby has won four of her six lifetime starts and all but one of her four juvenile races, the only exception coming when she finished a tiring 5th in the Darley Alcibiades Stakes behind Stephanie’s Kitten on Keeneland’s polytrack. She began the year with a decent third place showing against a weak field of males in the Smarty Jones Stakes and then showed her class when returned to race against the fillies in the Honeybee Stakes (gr.3), a race she captured with relative ease by 2 lengths over Amie’s Dini.
7. Amie’s Dini – Amie’s Dini broke her maiden at first asking last October before finishing 3rd in an Allowance race. She came back to win another allowance race by more than 6 lengths and proceeded on to the Dixie Bell Stakes where she gave the undefeated Delta Downs Princess Stakes (gr.3) winner Now I Know a run for her money and ultimately finished a game second. Next out Amie’s Dini turned the tables on Now I Know in the Martha Washington Stakes, winning by 1 ¾ lengths with ease. Sadly Now I Know exited the Martha Washington with a fracture in her right front knee and was retired shortly after. That made some people think Amie’s Dini won only because Now I Know was unable to run her best race but I think the fact that Amie’s Dini ran so well once again in the Honeybee Stakes, finishing second to On Fire Baby by 2 lengths after fighting that one tooth and nail the entire length of the stretch, proves that she is a good filly on the improve. One excellent characteristic she has demonstrated is her ability to improve off tough losses by coming back with a big winning performance in her next race.
8. Yara – Yara has posted an interesting career record thus far;4th place, 1st place, 4th place, 1st place, 4th place, 1st place. She finished 4th in her debut, then returned less than a month later to break her maiden by more than 5 lengths. She then finished 4th in the Cassidy Stakes at Calder before winning the Joe O’Farrell Juvenile Stakes by 5 ¼ lengths to finish out her juvenile campaign. Her 2012 campaign began with a 4th place thrashing delivered by Broadway’s Alibi in the Forward Gal Stakes (gr.2) where she finished more than 20 lengths behind the winner. She bounced back from that performance to register a huge win over Kentucky Oaks early favorite Grace Hall in the Grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes after taking the lead by a neck over the favorite and holding that advantage all the way down to the wire. No word as to where she might run next but I’m willing to bet she won’t be finishing 4th again unless something goes wrong.
9. Reneesgotzip – Reneesgotzip lost her flashy undefeated status when she was easily repelled by Eden’s Moon in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes, but certainly lost very little respect. She broke her maiden by more than two lengths in mid-December when defeating Eden’s Moon and returned one month later to make a laughing stock of the Santa Ynez Stakes (gr.2) field, wining by more than 7 lengths in wire to wire fashion. She blew the first turn very badly in the Las Virgenes, going at least ten paths wide before jockey Corey Nakatani was able to angle her back towards the pack and settle her into a close second behind Eden’s Moon. She launched a strong rally into the stretch and appeared to momentarily take the lead before Eden’s Moon waltzed away to an easy win. This filly might not appreciate being stretched past 1 mile or 1 1/16 miles but she’s been very classy so far and didn’t show her best in the Las Virgenes. I’m willing to bet she’ll come back with stronger run next time out.
It’s always hard to narrow down a list of 20 plus fillies to just 9 that look the best. Fillies like Stephanie’s Kitten, who is eyeing a potential Kentucky Oaks run starting in the Ashland Stakes (gr.1), and Stopshoppingmaria and Sweet Seventeen all have good cases to make if they turn in strong performances within the next few weeks.


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Older Comments about The Novel Nine: Kentucky Oaks Hopefuls...

Get rid of that sprinter, KyOR. (imo)
@Mary - She was my #10 and I'm still wondering if I should have kept her on instead of Reneesgotzip. I loved her final time in the Rachel Alexandra and she has proven to be a versatile runner.
@notobsessed - Me too! That pedigree is saturated with classic ability!!
Summer Applause was my Rachel Alexandra Stakes pick. She's my favorite for the Oaks, with My Miss Aurelia having to miss the race.
Thanks Andy, I agonized for a few days over the name! :)
@BrianZ - I took a good hard look at Zo Impressive Brian and I really like her, but I think the competition she's been beating up on has been mediocre so far. Only 3 fillies of the 15 she's faced have come back to win 2 maiden races and an optional claiming race. She has definitely beat them like a higher class filly, but I want to see her step up before I include her. I would love to see her in the Gulfstream Oaks facing Grace Hall, that would be a perfect test of her abilities.
@Ashley - I know, I was planning on rating On Fire Baby 2nd or 3rd but decided against it once I looked into all the fillies.
I like Eden's Moon's pedigree and she looks like a strong filly
I really like your nifty name of Novel Nine! The Oaks is a great race. I'll be looking for your continued coverage.
Zo Impressive is conspicuously absent from the first Novel Nine ... I really like her.
I've been a fan of Millionreasonswhy for a while, so I like that she's on top. I am surprised that On Fire Baby isn't higher up on your list, though.

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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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