Fair Grounds Oaks 2022 Entries: The rave reviews ... Echo Zulu is back!
Race 11: 1 1/16th (Dirt), Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), Purse $400k, 3F (Saturday)
The last 10 years have seen some of the best 3-yr-old fillies come through the Louisiana version of the “Oaks.” The race never disappoints when it comes to providing sonorous hoof beats down the lane. The Fair Grounds once again will host a solid field… Who will join the likes of Rachel Alexandra, Quiet Temper, Daisy Devine, Untapable, I’m a Chatterbox, Street Band, Bonny South, and last year’s winner, Travel Column, as alumni of this celebrated North American race? Will Brad Cox earn his 3rd consecutive FGOaks win? Should be fun to say the least, especially considering that 100-40-20-10 Oaks “Points” are on the line to those that place 1-4!
Now, let’s find out about this field…
#1 Echo Zulu (Jky: J. Rosario/Trn: S. Asmussen):
Finally … she’s back! The filly that we have all been waiting for is ready to make her ’22 debut. HOF trainer Steve Asmussen has taken the patient and methodical approach with this daughter of Gun Runner, and he is hoping that a cluster of works on the tab in February and March will be sufficient. I am sure L&N and Winchell are ready to see her run, and the $300k filly (Keeneland Sept ’20 Sale) appears ready to take her position in the starting gate. Currently, she sits undefeated (4/4), and the last time she hit the track, it was at Del Mar in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1). She won that sunny Friday by 5+ lengths, and if she is close to that level of fitness, then I have no doubts that she will win. Joel Rosario is back aboard, and this one is heading one direction … to the May running of the KYOaks!
#2 Turnerloose (Jky: F. Geroux/Trn: B. Cox):
Trainer Brad Cox knows something about training young 3-yr-old fillies, and I am sure he was pleasantly surprised to see this daughter of Gun Runner sweep down the lane to victory in the Rachel Alexandra (G2). Switching from being a turf horse as a 2-yr-old to a dirt runner as a 3-yr-old is not easy. She used some of her sodbusting skills against a tough field of 10 others, and really outran her odds of 18/1. She is the logical 2nd choice in this spot to my eye, and dare I say it … she might end up being my top selection on Saturday. This one by Nyquist is developing quickly, and I would not count Cox out at all. He is too strong, and just when you think he is outmatched, he comes out swinging. A win against this short field would be even sweeter than her latest victory. Florent Geroux rolls into New Orleans from Hot Springs, and he is the only jockey to ever pilot her. Tough to overlook these connections …
#3 Favor (Jky: T. Gaffalione/Trn: T. Pletcher):
It would not be a “Graded” contest without an entry from Todd Pletcher’s midst. Here is an expensive filly that was bought by Stonestreet Stables back in 2020 for $500k. This daughter of Pioneerof the Nile is a perfect 2/2 this year, and her HOF conditioner watched her move effortlessly from MSW Co. into the OC75k ranks, rather easily. She liked the track at Gulfstream, and was able to handle 2 turns going 1 mile around that oval. Pletcher is going to roll the dice, sending her to the Big Easy with Tyler Gaffalione, who has never ridden her in a race. The main issue, as I see it, is that she has never faced a bunch like this one. Clearly, the filly has a strong level of fitness, but can she make the jump? We will see … I am reserving judgement, but this is Pletcher we are talking about, isn’t it?
#4 Bernabreezy (Jky: J. Graham/Trn: M. Shirer):
Here is a local runner from Matt Shirer’s midst that has some major experience on the Fair Grounds MT. She was a solid winner last time out in an OC50kn1x against 6 others, one of whom was Sequist #5. That was a good rebound race, after the Bernardini filly was 3rd in the January running of the Silverbulletday S. $150k. James Graham, who happens to be riding hotter than pretty much anyone at the FG Meet gets the call once again. The central question is not necessarily her talent, but whether or not she is fast enough to keep up with this crowd. If she just had a “Graded” contest under her saddle, I would be a little more convinced of her ability. You never know … Graham has ridden some long shots in his day. Shirer does not get many chances like these … hmm …
#5 Sequist (Jky: J. Alvarado/Trn: D. Stewart):
Here is another filly with that famous Derby-winning father, Nyquist. Dallas Stewart is definitely hoping that his router can work a little harder this time around. Her ’22 debut did not go as planned, and she lacked the needed punch that is necessary when prepping for the Oaks Trail. Stewart is making the move back to Junior Alvarado, who was this one’s pilot last year. The filly competed in some tough races … the SPA Spinaway S. (G1) … the KEE Alcibiades S. (G1) … and the icing on the cake, the BC Juvenile Fillies (G1). Based on those efforts, there is still more work to do … could be a sleeper pick … you never know with Stewart.
#6 Hidden Connection (Jky: R. Gutierrez/Trn: B. Calhoun):
Back in September, this filly by Connect really turned some heads when she won in fine fashion the Pocahontas S. at Churchill Downs. It was a major victory for both Bret Calhoun and Reylu Gutierrez, and the team was hopeful they could be sharp in the BC Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Del Mar. Though the 3-yr-old looked the part, she was up against Echo Zulu #1, and we all know how she ran. Her ’22 bow was in the Rachel Alexandra (G2), and her early running style was put on ice before the top of the lane. Gutierrez is an aggressive rider, and he has the ability to take over a race. He is going to be up against some formidable opponents once again, but maybe she can turn the tables against her rivals. What an opportunity!
Join us Saturday for all of our selections on Louisiana Derby Day! Should be a great set of races from the Fair Grounds! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter … Horseracing_USA !!!