We miss you Songbird!
Now with that said, how about this wonderful Kentucky Oaks field? A total of seven graded stakes winners are entered, including the daughter of 2009 Oaks winner Rachel Alexandra, the hard-trying Rachel’s Valentina. But there is much more to this field than no Songbird and Rachel’s daughter, as the incredibly fast Cathryn Sophia will start here instead of in the Eight Belles (III) as well as Ashland (I) winner Weep No More. There are few races on Derby weekend with this much intrigue and depth, all of which makes for an outstanding betting race.
$1 million Kentucky Oaks (I) – 3-Year-Old Fillies. 1 1/8 miles on dirt at Churchill Downs. Post Time: Friday, May 6 at 5:49pm CT.
[Post Position, Horse – Jockey, All carry 121 lbs, Trainer – Summary, Opinion]
1) Terra Promessa – Ricardo Santana Jr, Steve Asmussen – A two-time G3 winner who has been worse than first only once in her five career starts, the Stonestreet filly sired by the red-hot Curlin went undefeated so far as a three-year-old running at the competitive Oaklawn circuit, winning an allowance and the Honeybee (III) by open lengths. She was a bit rank in her last start, but still gutted it out over an improving Taxable. The rail post probably won’t help her at all, but this is a very promising, excellent sort of filly with a long stride. Very usable underneath, at minimum.
2) Weep No More – Corey Lanerie, George Arnold – The Mineshaft filly launched a 30-1 surprise in the Ashland Stakes (I) last out over Rachel’s Valentina and Cathryn when that duo settled into a match race in the stretch, adding a nice G1 win to her prior resume of a comfortable stakes win at Tampa Bay Downs. It’s worth mentioning she’s one of a few in the field with Oaks royal lineage as a granddaughter of 2001 winner Flute. She won’t be anywhere near those handsome odds in the Oaks, and might not be as far back as she was in the Ashland; looking at her past performances, she’s usually not all that far back from the front. However, this race might see some pace from Cathryn Sophia and a few other early pace horses, so she should be watched.
3) Lewis Bay – Irad Ortiz Jr, Chad Brown – The winner of the Gazelle Stakes (II) at Aqueduct, the Bernardini filly is a half sister to graded winner Winslow Homer and is line-bred to Weekend Surprise, the dam of A.P. Indy and Summer Squall. A winner twice at 9 furlongs– previously the Demoiselle (II) as a two-year-old– she has yet to finish worse than second and won a very quick running of the Gazelle (II) in sloppy conditions. With Chad Brown and Irad Ortiz Jr, Lewis Bay is sitting on a big effort in her third start off the layoff following an excellent prep race. She’s a can’t miss, must use.
4) Go Maggie Go – Luis Saez, Dale Romans – The least experienced filly in the field with just two races (and two wins), the daughter of Ghostzapper is a half to stakes winner Wallyanna and makes the field off a solid win in the sloppy Gulfstream Park Oaks (II). The jury’s out on how Maggie will improve here, and she should not be knocked for her pokey 1:03 and change work recently, as Derby contender Shagaf had just started breezing in the middle of her work and she was held back a bit. She’ll likely be part of the early pace, and should be able to improve off her last start. She’s probably a few points inferior to the top class starters here, but I would fancy using her underneath at inflated odds.
5) Dream Dance – Brian Joseph Hernandez Jr, Neil Howard – A fun filly to look at and a daughter of Afleet Alex, Dream Dance was 23-1 when running second to Land Over Sea in the Fair Grounds Oaks (II) before winning an allowance prep race at Keeneland while being floated out. She will probably be placed further behind and in this post, that might be a little tough on her with speed on her inside. However, third off the layoff with Neil Howard winning at a 28% clip, Dream Dance could be sitting on a big one looking at her pedigree as well as recent works. A live longshot, it’ll be interesting to see what her best looks like.
6) Mokat – Flavien Prat, Richard Baltas – Runner-up to Songbird in the Santa Anita Oaks (I), the Uncle Mo filly has not won since last year when she broke her maiden in a mile-long turf race, after which she was G3-placed on turf behind Family Meeting. Not minding the mud when she was runner-up to Songbird, on a fast dry track Mokat was still beaten 3 lengths by Land Over Sea in the Santa Ysabel (III). A turf filly in a dirt race, unfortunately, and her overall figures across the board are too slow to compete.
7) Mo d’Amour – Joel Rosario, Todd Pletcher – The King of Prussia colors are back in the Oaks with Todd Pletcher hoping for another longshot win with this daughter of Uncle Mo. She was a 2-length win of the Busher Stakes at Aqueduct back in February, but was 8 1/2 lengths behind Lewis Bay in the Gazelle (II) next out in the mud. She’ll likely be forwardly-placed early, but it’s sizzle or fizzle for this one too frequently, and her pedigree reads like she’s only interested in a one-turn race.
8) Royal Obsession – Florent Geroux, Steve Asmussen – A million-dollar Tapit filly with the Stonestreet colors flying, Royal Obsession broke her maiden here at Churchill and added an allowance win and a runner-up in the Gazelle (II) last out to her credit. She ran great last out in the Gazelle (II) but fell short of catching winner Lewis Bay. Overall her chances at the win are pretty mild as she’s more of a one-pace horse and will need to move on the front runners in the stretch. She’s a nice horse, but nothing that really grabs my attention from any one particular angle.
9) Paola Queen – Emisael Jaramillo, Gustavo Delgado – Second to Go Maggie Go in the slop of the Gulfstream Park Oaks (II), the daughter of Flatter makes her second start of the year with a class bump up and more distance added. Her career win in her maiden special weight at Gulfstream had her cruising out on the lead moving quickly, so there’s some question as to how much she’s going to be interested in stretching out. Big time class test off a G2 placing in questionable slop conditions; she’s almost assured to contribute to the early pace.
10) Venus Valentine – Shaun Bridgmohan, Tom Amoss – I’m a fan of any good Congrats filly, and Venus Valentine was one earlier in the Fair Grounds meet when she upset the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (II) at 74-1 odds. That start was only her second win in six starts, with her last race a non-threatening fifth in the Fair Grounds Oaks (II). She’ll get blinkers added for this race, with trainer Amoss winning at 26% with first-time blinks. Even at her best, this filly is probably too slow to get it done unless the blinkers have some magic potion in them.
11) Rachel’s Valentina – John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher – The superstar of the show, the daughter of Bernardini and the epic Rachel Alexandra impressed me greatly before making her first start as a two-year-old at Saratoga; she was so muscled and professional in her gate work it seemed logical that a G1 victory was in her immediate future. Following her win in the Spinaway (I), I surmise she probably wasn’t at full strength when she had to face Songbird in the Breeders’ Cup with Pletcher sidelining her from other prep she was supposed to run in before that one, and she showed up with a big race in the Ashland (I) last out, putting away Cathryn Sophia in the stretch only to get passed late by Weep No More. Her best BRIS figure shows a 95 from the Breeders’ Cup, but I think her best race is ahead of her as she looks rarin’ to go this time. Pletcher wins at 26% second off the layoff with Valentina showing signs of readiness, although she will have to step things up a good deal to match strides with a couple others who have better betting odds.
12) Cathryn Sophia – Javier Castellano, John Servis – An incredible runner who was undefeated up until a very tough Ashland Stakes (I) last out– which she only lost by 1/2 a length!– the Street Boss filly won all four of her previous starts by daylight, and because of that reputation, it’s unlikely any filly here is going to try to go with her early on as the pacesetter. Javier will likely try to put the field to sleep on the front end as best he can, although while she’s fierce and owns the top dirt speed at 7 furlongs, she showed last time out she’s probably distance-limited.
13) Land Over Sea – Mario Gutierrez, Doug O’Neill – Had it not been for Songbird, Land Over Sea would have won four more graded stakes to add to her recent win in the Fair Grounds Oaks (II), a race she won decisively over some pretty mild company. The Bellamy Road filly packs the excellent shipping punch of Doug O’Neill, and picks back up her regular jockey Mario for her Oaks trip. This will be her fourth start of the year, and although her Fair Grounds trip looked pretty comfortable, it might have forced her to peak one race too early. Her chances are probably going to be lower than her odds, so while I think she’s a nice filly, I’ll pass on her.
14) Taxable – Mike Smith, Steve Asmussen – The second least-experienced filly in the field with just three lifetime starts– including a 7-length maiden-breaker of a debut at Churchill Downs– the daughter of Tapit is from the same connections as Untapable and missed being undefeated by just a neck last out in the Fantasy (III) at Oaklawn to Terra Promessa. Also of Oaks lineage, her dam is a half sister to 2005 winner Summerly. She had every chance to lock onto and pass a very rank Terra Promessa last out, which is indicative of her inexperience. She showed traction last out while running into weakening pace horses, which is a situation that may present itself again in the Oaks. After narrowly missing the good Terra Promessa last out, she’s one of the better longshots of the field to use.
AE 15) Dothraki Queen – Gary Stevens, Ken McPeek – It’s a shame this filly didn’t show up more often in the preps than the others after a nice third in the Breeders’ Cup; as such, she is listed as an also-eligible here and I wish like crazy she was set to run. She had a rough single start this year in the Appalachian Stakes (III) on turf, finishing way back in eighth behind Catch a Glimpse. If by some freak of nature she’s able to run in the Oaks, I will use her as she looked sharp in her recent breezes and has never been worse than third on dirt in top races.
Top 4 Picks in Order (with preferred odds)
1) Lewis Bay (5-1)
2) Rachel’s Valentina (7-2)
3) Dream Dance (15-1)
4) Weep No More (5-1)
Value Pick: Dream Dance, with a morning line of 30-1, represents excellent value as a filly who has been training well heading into the Oaks and will be coming in as an improving horse in her third start off the layoff. She runs her best races when the pace is a little quick, which will likely happen here with several early pace horses running, and will love the 9-furlong distance. Should Dothraki Queen draw in at 15-1 or better, I would highlight her usage as well.