Will Guarana like Coaching Club American Oaks' distance?

July 20, 2019 09:53am
Without deeper analysis, Guarana might look like a lock in the Grade 1, $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) on Sunday at Saratoga. This rising star trained by Chad Brown enters off two smashing wins, with the latter victory in the Acorn Stakes (G1) where she won by six lengths. 

The lack of longer distance experience is one significant hole in Guarana's resume. But first, it helps to set a foundation for Sunday's race by looking back at what she has accomplished. 

In that Acorn win, Guarana displayed useful tactical speed by sitting a few lengths off the wicked pace set by Serengeti Empress. 

How fast did the pace go? TimeformUS marks the first three Acorn fractions in red, and it showed visually as the presser Cookie Dough could not handle the heat and faded back to eighth. Also, Fancy Dress Party chased in fourth with an undefeated record, and she finished last by 21 ½ lengths.

But Guarana not only endured the rapid pace. She drew clear toward the end under urging from Jose Ortiz, while the rest spun their wheels. 



For the effort, TimeformUS gave Guarana a whopping 126 speed figure, well higher than any other filly in this short CCAO field. The Beyer team also gave Guarana a 99, which is a few points lower when adjusted for scale, but still high.

Guarana can post a big number and owns tactical speed, two major assets.  

Yet, the CCAO is a two-turn race going nine furlongs, and Guarana’s lone two races came at a one-turn mile and at 6 ½ furlongs. Can Guarana show the same tactical speed at nine furlongs, and will she last the distance? 

From a pedigree standpoint, the answer is yes. Guarana’s second dam, Pleasant Home, won the 2005 Breeders’ Cup Distaff by an overwhelming 9 ¼ lengths. But Guarana still needs to prove distance capabilities herself.

In any case, Guarana's 2-5 odds make her mostly unplayable in this spot, while Point of Honor or Champagne Anyone are logical alternatives. Both of them enter with enough class to make winning plausible. 

About two months ago, Point of Honor won the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (G2) at Pimlico in a game performance over Ulele.

Note how Point of Honor went wide on both turns. The runner-up filly later on finished second in the Iowa Oaks (G3) by half a length. 



Two races ago, Point of Honor could only manage fourth in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) to Champagne Anyone, but Point of Honor closed on a speed-biased track. Notice the three leading fillies retained the first three spots, with only Cookie Dough changing the order slightly by fading to third place. 

Point of Honor moves with a grinding style that will suit her well. If the favorite fails to fire or gets weakened on the pace, Point of Honor can win Sunday at Saratoga. 

Champagne Anyone heads into this race off a decent effort in the Kentucky Oaks, where she finished fourth by 7 ½ lengths.

As pointed out, Champagne Anyone also won the Gulfstream Parks Oaks, albeit with a better trip as she pressed the leader closely and enjoyed first run. If both Guarana and Point of Honor fail, she is the one. 

What about Boxwood? 

Boxwood owns some ability, as her 6: 3-2-1 record shows. But the quality of her competition is in question. While she finished second in a Churchill Downs optional claimer open to older fillies and mares, the field did not contain any notable names. The winner, Divine Queen, previously finished only a mild fourth in the Winning Colors (G3). 

On Nov. 24, Boxwood won a Churchill allowance by 10 lengths. But the runner-up Support and third-place Julia’s Ready have lost a combined 10 races since then.  

Furthermore, if Boxwood flashes her speed, Guarana will undoubtedly challenge early. Boxwood might only soften up Guarana a bit, rather than hold her off. 

As for Off Topic, she finished a distant fifth in the Black-Eyed Susan to Point of Honor and ran third in a weak Gazelle Stakes (G2). 

If anyone is playing the trifecta in a 5-horse field, then include Off Limits underneath in case she passes a few horses. Otherwise, she is outclassed. 

The worst mistake bettors can make is settling on Guarana to win when there are several better race options for that kind of wager. 

Yet, people will inevitably bet Guarana to win. Otherwise, how is she 2-5?

If this leg is needed for an early Pick 4 or 5, then Champagne Anyone and Point of Honor are worthwhile B options to use alongside Guarana.

Otherwise, wheeling Champagne Anyone and Point of Honor over Boxwood and Off Limits is the logical exotics play (2,5 / 2,3,4,5). 

The third option is to bet either Champagne Anyone or Point of Honor to place, if there are bridgejumpers on Guarana to place (no show wagering offered for this five-horse field).

2019 Coaching Club American Oaks (G1)

 

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Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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