Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sophomore Spotlight: In-Depth Kentucky Oaks Analysis

--Brian DiDonato

This year's GI Kentucky Oaks came up very evenly matched, and looks to be a great betting race. See below for my take on each runner.

1 - On Fire Baby (Smoke Glacken) - It's hard to argue with what she has done so far in her career... Had pretty easy trips in her two local wins last year, but has proven more than just dressed up this term... She covered a ton of ground when third against the boys in the Smarty Jones S., and overcame another wide trip to annex the GIII Honeybee S. last time with a field's-best last out Beyer of 99... Sire Smoke Glacken doesn't inspire great confidence at nine furlongs, but her dam and siblings were all routers, including GII Fantasy S. winner and 2007 Oaks show horse High Heels (E Dubai)... Not concerned about the lack of a recent prep considering the morning reports on her; she's the race's most likely winner.

2 - Grace Hall (Empire Maker) - Not crazy about her figure progression from two to three--ran an 85 Beyer when winning last year's GI Spinaway S., but has only run a 90 and 89 in her two races in 2012... Distance is in her favor, but it's really hard to take favorite's odds on her considering how much lower her Beyers are than some other runners... Playing against.

3 - Summer Applause (Harlan's Holiday) - One of the toughest horses in the race to figure out... Her GIII Rachel Alexandra win was solid--came back fast enough (96) and was not the product of an easy trip... But how did she not get by Believe You Can in the GII Fair Grounds Oaks after those super-fast fractions (first quarter was 21 points above par on the Moss Pace Figure scale)? The track wasn't speed favoring that day or anything... Will use defensively on some tickets because she fits the profile and will be a big price, but hard to feature her more off of that last race.

4 - Eden's Moon (Malibu Moon) - Figures to be one of many pace casualties in this very speed-laden group... Got an easy lead in the GI Las Virgenes and had no obvious excuses last time when third behind Cal-bred Willa B Awesome in the GI Santa Anita Oaks... The Oaks winner came back to win last Saturday at Hollywood, but barely and with a 73 Beyer against state-breds... Not interested.

5 - Hard Not to Like (Hard Spun) - Has the same last-out figure as Grace Hall, but will be upwards of 10 times the price... The GI Ashland was a merry-go-round type race over a speed-favoring surface, but she managed to run well to be a close second... Showed signs of being a good one last year on the turf, but obviously dirt is the question... Dam Like A Gem (Tactical Cat) won sprinting on the dirt and was stakes-placed at 8 1/2 furlongs on the conventional stuff. Based at Woodbine when they switched over to Polytrack, she was a SW at 10 furlongs on that surface as well as turf... Hard Not to Like has had enough works over the dirt that you'd think they would know how she handles it, so inclined to think it won't be an issue... Trainer Gail Cox boasts an 18% win rate and $2.72 ROI second off the bench, according to DRF Formulator... Main longshot play.

6 - Broadway's Alibi (Vindication) - GII Forward Gal romp seemed slop aided, and she enjoyed a very easy lead in the GIII Comely S. last time... Seems destined to be caught up in the fast pace, and not crazy about how her connections were noncommittal about running here... Playing against.

7 - Sacristy (Pulpit) - Has never gone beyond seven furlongs and feels like she's in here because Peachtree's two big guns aren't... Can't use.

8 - Jemima's Pearl (Distorted Humor) - Thought her U.S. debut at Santa Anita for Simon Callaghan was solid visually despite being aided by a fast pace... You could make the argument that Oaklawn was speed favoring when she was third in the GII Fantasy, and she came home fastest... Worked in company with Bodemeister--while she obviously wasn't going to outwork him, can't be the worst sign in the world that Baffert paired them up... Very interesting mid-price type.

9 - Believe You Can (Proud Citizen) - She ran very valiantly to hold on in the GII Fair Grounds Oaks last time, but she's going to have to deal with another fast pace here with more distance and better competition... Seems she's best when allowed to show speed, but that will prove her undoing.

10 - And Why Not (Street Cry {Ire}) - She really doesn't seem to fit with these on paper--her one even semi-fast race came due to an extra fast pace in the GII Pocahantas... She does have an exceptional pedigree for this, though, and it's interesting that Matz opts to take a shot... Bullet work Apr. 28 says she's doing well... Her morning line price of 15-1 is an underlay, but she should drift from there... Will use her underneath and possibly on top as a back-up simply because she'll be running late if she's on her game.

11 - Karlovy Vary (Dynaformer) - Upset the GI Ashland thanks to a bias, and doesn't seem likely to take to the dirt... Not much to like.

12 - Colonial Empress (Empire Maker) - Can't see her breaking her maiden in this spot...

13 - Amie's Dini (Bandini) - Pace won't do her any favors and On Fire Baby proved much better than her two back in the Honeybee... Was only second in the Fantasy because of how it was run... Passing.

14 - Yara (Put It Back) - Pulled off quite the shocker in the GII Davona Dale when besting Grace Hall at 64-1, but came back to earth in the GII Gulfstream Park Oaks... That one good race is definitely the exception rather than the rule, so hard to expect anything competitive from her, especially going this far.

AE - Oaks Lily (Badge of Silver) - Incredibly slow. . . Fair odds might be in the 1000s-1.

Verdict: My main uses in the pick 4 and Oaks/Derby Double will be On Fire Baby, Hard Not to Like and Jemima's Pearl... Will use a little Summer Applause and a tiny bit of And Why Not somewhere... Also playing Hard Not to Like at 15-1+, boxing my top three in exactas and playing some sort of trifecta key with my top five.

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