2018 Oklahoma Derby Selections

This year’s Oklahoma Derby drew a competitive field of eleven, which Melissa Bauer-Herzog previewed here yesterday. The wagering appeal is as strong as the field size, particularly given the question marks hovering over the likely favourites.

Lone Sailor is the most proven horse in this field, and it looks like he’ll get some pace to chase from Sea Foam, Diamond King, Eisenstaedt, Limation, and possibly even Retirement Fund in the field. However? Dirt routes at Remington have been relatively kind to forward placings, and Lone Sailor himself has been a frequent runner-up. It is difficult to see that changing today — it would be likely to see Lone Sailor run into a placing, but there isn’t a compelling reason to think he will break the cycle and find the line.

Morning line favourite Limation, from the imposing shedrow of Steve Asmussen, has questions surrounding him. His Super Derby was a huge effort, and his tactical speed makes him a threat. It was a career best, though anyone willing to toss his Ellis Park Derby clunker will notice it wasn’t such an anomalous effort compared to the form he was coming around to earlier in the year at Churchill and Ellis. A repeat of the Super Derby effort will make him tough. But, that race came on good dirt, and Limation’s better work has come on off tracks. He merits a look for a defensive use or a spread ticket, but isn’t the most exciting as an affirmative play.

So, who gets the nod?

Todd Pletcher has not won an Oklahoma Derby yet, but he has a live one in Wooderson. Pletcher picks a reasonable spot for the lightly-raced colt’s stakes debut. His breeding suits a mile and an eighth well — he is an Awesome Again half-brother to Rachel Alexandra — and that has borne out on the track. Wooderson has blossomed at this trip. He broke his maiden July 22 at Saratoga going nine furlongs, and then missed by just half a length at the same distance last time out. It was his first attempt against winners, and he was beaten by an older horse. Now he drops back against his own age group. Though he takes the blinkers off, his single start without blinkers had him forward, suggesting he should be able to gain a forward position.

Sea Foam gets a class test in this, as he spent most of his summer running aganst New York-breds. His only open stakes try was on grass, so not necessarily a reflection of how he will perform on dirt in this race. He has won his last two, including a wire-to-wire victory in the Albany Stakes on August 24. That came at a mile and an eighth, a positive since this race covers that same trip. Though he will not likely get the decisive lead he got that day, looking back into his two-year-old form suggests that he can be more tactical if he has to be. If his new rider Florent Geroux can tap into that, he can stalk and pounce at attractive odds.

#2 Wooderson (4/1)
#9 Sea Foam (12/1)
#4 Limation (3/1)

Longshot: #3 Believe in Royalty (20/1) has yet to prove himself at this level, but should be able to make better account of himself at this mile and an eighth trip. During his career he has shown some tactical versatility; he cleared his maiden and one-other-than conditions on the front end, but rallied from well off the pace to take down the Ellis Park Derby on August 12. That gives rider Gabriel Saez some options. he has never gone past a mile and a sixteenth, but he is bred to thrive with the extra bit of distance: he is by Tapit out of Kentucky Oaks winner Believe You Can. Don’t let the price get too low, since Believe In Royalty still has to take a step up from that Ellis Park Derby outing. But, the upside is there, and Larry Jones has a plan when he puts his horse on the van.

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