Oaks Day 2014!

Today is Kentucky Oaks day, and there are four races on the Churchill Downs card that are contest races for the Danonymous Racing contest this weekend.  Three of them are for three-year-old fillies, with the other being the Alysheba, a short dirt route for older horses, featuring Will Take Charge.

This won’t be the only stakes preview this weekend; the Derby, and a plethora of other races Derby Day, are forthcoming.  However, there’s a lot of great racing action today, so let’s jump in!

Eight Belles Stakes (GIII, three-year-olds, fillies, seven furlongs on the dirt)

I love Mufajaah here (8).  There is a lot of early speed in this race, which should set up nicely for her style of coming in from a handful of lengths off the pace early.  She isn’t a deep closer, but should be ready to pounce on the fighting, possibly tiring speed come the far turn  She cuts back in distance here after racing her last two times at 1 1/16 miles.  Also, she adds Lasix for the first time in her career.  The 10-1 morning line on her is a Mike Battaglia Special along the lines of that 12-1 he assigned Dance With Fate in the Blue Grass, but with She’s a Tiger and Fiftyshadesofgold in this field, she hopefully won’t be bet down past 5-1 or 9-2.  She is the strongest candidate for coming in off the pace here.

If one of the speed horses hangs on to take this race, it will probably be She’s a Tiger.  Last year’s champion two-year-old filly is coming into this race off a long lay; she hasn’t raced since the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies last year.  However, even as a two-year-old she put up the best early pace of the field, and is cutting back to seven furlongs after two strong efforts at 1 1/16 miles to close out her two-year-old year.  She has been working regularly since February, and posting good times; she should be fit to run.  Finally, she showed enough last year to suggest that the outside post shouldn’t hurt her so much; she had the tenth and outermost post in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

One other interesting horse in this field is Our Amazing Rose (3).  She rises in class coming here, but she is so far two-for-two with a maiden win and an allowance win to her credit.  She is stretching out to  seven furlongs, but has been gaining on the field in both of her times out, suggesting she won’t mind the extra furlong.  She has stalked early in both of her races so far, and has shown good speed in both of her starts.  The competition here will be tougher than the bunches she has beaten at Aqueduct so far, but if she improves second off the winter lay, she should at least hit the board against this crowd.

Edgewood Stakes (three-year-olds, fillies, 1 1/16 miles on the dirt)

This race has very little credible early speed: Istanford (7) and Resistivity (10).  If either one of them manages to get on the early speed alone, they are going to be in a strong position in this race.  Resistivity is probably slightly more likely to get it; even though she has only raced once on turf, it was quite possibly the best of her career, and she should relish the return to the surface today.  If she breaks well and gets near the front, she’ll be tough to beat.  Istanford is secondary among the speed horses mainly because she has shown a little less speed (though just as much early pace), and it’s a bit questionable whether she is going to want to stay for a mile and a sixteenth.  It isn’t completely out of the question, as she held second behind Testa Rossi in the Florida Oaks at this distance, but Resistivity has shown a bit more at the distance.

If the pace falls apart, or a single leader doesn’t get too loose to collar, Candy Kitty (4) has a great chance to collar that leader.  She isn’t likely to be pace-compromised no matter what happens on the lead.  She can rate, but doesn’t hang too far off the lead to have to worry much about leaving too much work to complete late.  Candy Kitty drops into here from an uncharacteristically rough run in the Ashland; that was her first race on the synthetic, so there is a good chance she just didn’t handle the surface very well.  She has won twice at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.  Two starts ago she came in second behind Room Service in the Herecomesthebride, which was at 1 1/8 miles.  The distance won’t be a problem for her at all.  She’s in here third off the lay, shows the best speeds of the bunch, and will be a serious contender here as a result.

Alysheba Stakes (GII, four-year-olds and up, 1 1/16 miles on the dirt)

Will Take Charge (2) makes his first start here since the Oaklawn Handicap three weeks ago, and cuts back from 1 1/8 miles to 1 1/16.  He has a couple of good works since his last race, and his speed figures are consistently good for the group.  However, between the shortened distance and the fact that there’s not a lot of credible early speed in this race, Will Take Charge seems like a somewhat vulnerable favourite here, and especially not worth taking at any odds close to his 4-5 morning line.

Golden Ticket (7) looks like he is in a really good spot here.  He is stretching back out from has last couple races, which at seven furlongs and a mile have been a bit too short to suit his style best.  He likes the 1 1/16 mile distance, being 6-2-2-1 career at it.  He is also a versatile horse, having won races from near the pace, or fairly far away from it.  His last time out in the Carter Handicap wasn’t a great race, but he tends to bounce back next out from subpar outings like that.  The time before that, in the one-mile Gulfstream Park handicap, he came in from off the pace and missed catching Palace Malice by a head.  There isn’t a ton of early speed in this race, so there’s a decent chance that a speed horse could take it if he can control the fractions.  The best among the speed horses here is Bradester (9), who is coming into his own as a four-year-old.  He faded after setting the early fractions in the New Oreleans Handicap last time out, but cuts back to a better distance for him here.  He is 6-4-1-0 at 1 1/16 miles, including a win two outings ago in the Mineshaft Handicap.  He won that Mineshaft from an outside post, a good sign given his outside post here.  He can rate from a few lengths off if he has to, though his early pace figures suggest he can take the lead her if he wants it.  He is working well at Churchill leading into this race, and should be sitting on a good one here.

Kentucky Oaks (GI, three-year-olds, fillies, 1 1/8 miles on the dirt)

Let’s get the obvious bit out of the way first: Untapable (13) may well be a freak.  She’s an extremely solid filly, and I would not get a multi-race wager without Untapable as one of my horses on there.  However, she is 4-5 morning line, and likely to be an underlay.  She’s a strong contender, but she’s not such a lock that she’s not worth trying to beat.  This is mainly because of the pace scenario.  Even though Untapable has shown the ability to rate from a couple lengths off, there’s a ton of early speed in this race: Fashion Plate, Sugar Shock, Kiss Moon, My Miss Sophia, and Untapable is going to be right up, at least close by.

It looks like the pace is going to set up for someone coming in from off the pace.  An intriguing choice, and my top selection, is Thank You Marylou (5).  She comes in from a third-place finish in the Ashland, seven lengths behind the dead heat pair of Rosalind and Room Service, in her first effort in a route and her first effort on the synthetic.  The out before that, she won the Any Limit, at seven furlongs over the Gulfstream dirt, by stalking and then overtaking the lead down the stretch.  She is by Birdstone out of a Menifee mare, suggesting plenty of distance in her blood, and suggesting she’ll relish the return to dirt.  Ria Antonia (2) is another quality possibility for coming off the pace.  She comes in here off her second-place finish being Fashion Plate in the Santa Anita Oaks, a race in which Fashion Plate had an uncontested lead.  The pace here will be quite different; there should be a cracking pace to close into here.  The only thing that really gives me pause about Ria Antonia is the equipment change; she adds blinkers for the first time in the Oaks.  One other horse who has a really good chance here to come in for a price is Aurelia’s Belle.  She is better than she looks on paper.  It’s true that her only two wins were on the synthetic: her maiden win and her Bourbonette Oaks win.  However, she has never missed the board, even on dirt.  She was third in the Old Hat, which was a sprint, and her first race off the lay.  In the Forward Gal and the Davona Dale, she turned in creditable performances behind Onlyforyou.  She runs a stalking style, but shouldn’t be too far off the pace to come in and contend late.  Her last work was a nice seven furlongs; it’s good to see a horse stretch their legs such a nice, long way before a route race.  Though there is no way she is going to go off anywhere near the 50-1 odds on the morning line, she should still carry a good price.

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