2016 Pippin Stakes preview

A field of nine fillies and mares at Oaklawn would be hard-pressed to fall more squarely into Blinkers Off’s wheelhouse than that of Sunday’s listed Pippin Stakes at Oaklawn.  After all, the one and one-sixteenth mile dirt test drew a trio of Illinois-bred runners…as well as a Curlin baby, just for good measure.

Sunday, January 17: Oaklawn Park

Race 8: Pippin Stakes, four-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, one and one sixteenth miles on the dirt, post time 4:42pm CST

Selections:  Theogony (6), Rosie My Rosie (5), Streamline (1)

Longshot:  Sawsan (7)

Cabana and Rosie My Rosie, two of the Illinois-bred mares in this race, are familiar faces in stakes company.  The versatile Cabana won a pair of stakes last year: the listed Mari Hulman George over sloppy dirt at Indiana Grand, and the Mike Spellman Memorial Handicap on the Arlington grass against Illinois-breds.  Rosie My Rosie won the Illinois-bred Peach of It Handicap at Hawthorne last spring.  Though her best work has come at two turns on the dirt, she shortened up to six furlongs in the Illinois-preferred Pershing Handicap last out.  There, she rallied from the clouds to finish second behind crack sprinter Puntsville.

Among Illinois-breds, the new face in the group is Streamline.  She debuted on July 4 of last year, went off the longest shot in a field of seven, and nipped Swanky Princess to win by a nose.  She now has five career wins in eight starts.  This includes her last race, her first on dirt.  Though she faced a relatively weak field of Illinois-bred allowance fillies, Streamline beat them the right way.  She stalked early, pounced, and drew off to win by 15 lengths.  It proved she could handle the dirt — just like she could handle polytrack, firmer turf, or softer turf.

In the Pippin, the Illinois-breds all figure, for better or worse.  However, the top slot goes to the daughter of Curlin: Theogony.

Theogony’s racing career has proceeded in fits and starts, but it seems she has finally come into her own.  Last fall, at age five, she won the Belle Mahone Stakes in her first start off a yearlong lay.  Two starts later, she ventured away from Woodbine for the first time, and tried dirt for the first time in the Falls City (GII) at Churchill Downs.  It was an admirable first dirt try — Theogony chased around Ahh Chocolate, and though she could not close the gap late, she held safely for second.

Here, Theogony both drops in class and cuts back to a mile and a sixteenth  The cutback should help; she has won two of three tries over the Woodbine poly at a mile and a sixteenth.  Theogony should also benefit from a likely hot early pace.  Cabana looks the speed of the speed, and the likes of Ribbon of Darkness, Tosha Tolifero, and possibly even Cash Control could be prompting things early.  Theogony has run well either stalking just off the pace or rallying from well off the pace, and she consistently fires some of the best late pace in the field.

Another who should be rolling late — and returning to her best game — is Rosie My Rosie.  She acquitted herself well sprinting last out, but her best races have come going in dirt routes.  This mare is a solid 9-5-2-1 going this distance.  The Pippin will be the toughest company she has ever faced, but her speeds at two turns are competitive, and she is the only one in range with Theogony on late pace grounds.  She has been on the shelf since late November, but does have some solid recent works over the Oaklawn surface, and trainer Scott Becker is a 28% winner (with positive ROI) when coming from similar layoffs.  She gets regular rider Santo Sanjur back in the irons, and if she is anything like her old self now that she returns to two turns, Rosie My Rosie is a solid contender at a solid price.

The up-and-coming Streamline intrigues here.  Her best asset is her versatility.  Though she has won races on the lead, she has also gotten the job done stalking, or even rallying from midpack.  Expect an off-pace style here, given how much other speed exists in this race.  She drew the rail, but has shown the ability to rally from off the pace from an inside draw before.  The post should suit her.  Moreso than either Theogony or Rosie My Rosie, Streamline requires an eye on the tote.  Given the class rise and the relative inexperience on dirt, she is the sort on whom one must demand a price.  However, if she goes off north of 7/1, consider a shot with her.  She is lightly raced, untested on dirt, and a winner at the distance.  Streamline has every right to improve.

For a price, Sawsan has appeal.  This will not be easy, as it will be her first start against winners.  It took Sawsan eight tries to break her maiden.  Still, her 8-1-4-2 record suggests that she is consistent…and she earned her diploma the first time she tried a mile and a sixteenth on dirt.  Of course, this will be a stiffer test than a field of maidens washed off the turf.  Still, her running style should be an asset, as Sawsan has shown no desire to join the early pace.  She should be happy to track a few lengths off, and ought to be closing ground late.  A win over the likes of Theogony or Rosie My Rosie may be too much to ask, but particularly for a long price underneath in trifectas or superfectas, Sawsan fits the bill.

Two who figure, but are worth taking a stand against, are Cabana (9), and Cash Control (4).  They both seem likely to be on or near the early lead.  If the track is playing unfairly heavily toward speed, Cabana is a bit more dangerous as the speed of the speed; Cash Control will not likely be fast enough early to keep pace with the zippy grey to her outside.  Still, Cabana has been at her best on turf or mud.  With no rain in the forecast, and others likely to give her a run for her money up top, Cabana stands to be underlaid.

Cash Control was a stakes winner at two turns on the Fair Grounds dirt last out, and stands to take some money on the fact that she has won her last three starts.  Still, this group is a tougher set than she has faced as an older horse.  And, though she has some versatility, she does not have the early zip of Cabana or Tosha Talifero, or the late kick of Theogony or Rosie My Rosie.  Sure, Cash Control is a solid enough horse, honest, but she looks likely to be underlaid compared to the quality of competition she faces here.  Her best could win this if no one else runs their best, but she will not go off at the longshot odds that would make such a proposition attractive.

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