Fair Grounds Oaks Preview: Horse-by-Horse Analysis of Saturday's Grade II Race @FG
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1 1/16th (Dirt), Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), Purse $400k, 3F
Over the last 10 years, some of the best 3-yr-old fillies came through the Louisiana version of the “Oaks,” and so, it continues. They never disappointed, as those sonorous hoof beats thundered 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, and last year’s winner, Bonny South as alumni of this celebrated North American race? 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 Zaajel (Jky: I. Ortiz/Trn: T. Pletcher):
I think trainer Todd Pletcher wanted to send this daughter of Street Sense into this race, but what I cannot understand is why he would not employ Luis Saez to ride her once again? No doubt having a multi-Eclipse Award winning jockey like Irad Ortiz is a great gift… still, it is not like Saez is on another mount that will end up being the favorite or even one that he has ridden before. These are the behind-the-scenes jock moves that are always part of the larger chess game. Whoever is aboard will have a jet engine under them late, because this filly loves to roll from off-the-pace. She is well-bred, can handle the increase in distance, and will end up being a short price when bettors see that she is already 2/2, after a magnificent run in GP’s Forward Gal (G3). Looks like a filly we will see more of beyond this race.
#2 Moon Swag (Jky: J. Graham/Trn: B. Walsh):
Trainer Brendan Walsh does not have nearly half of the starts that Todd Pletcher does, but he does his best to ship and compete at the very highest levels of the sport. Here is a Spendthrift Farm product out of Malibu Moon that Walsh has brought along steadily, after she was in the care of New Mexico-based conditioner Todd Fincher. After moving from “Non-G” action into the Rachel Alexandra (G2) last time, she was game down that long FG lane. A 3rd place finish, going off at 24/1, was impressive against 2 heavy favorites, who are back for this one. From what I am hearing, I am not sure if Walsh will end up entering her here anyway. After all, Keeneland is right around the corner, and her conditioner might drop back and punt. With so much firepower in this well-contested event, it might be best to scratch. Personally, I would like to see her return to sprinting, which might be a really good move.
#3 Souper Sensational (Jky: J. Velazquez/Trn: M. Casse):
Here is another grad from “The Rachel,” and that performance was less than savory. This Curlin daughter was thought highly off, since she went off at 4/1. Finishing 9+ lengths back was a dud of an effort. Casse wants to see this one run better, so he has replaced Declan Carroll with HOF jockey John Velazquez. Sometimes a rider upgrade, or just a switch can make the difference. Coming in 3rd off the bench should also provide some drama. The question is, what kind of running style does she possess? Is she a frontend burner like back at Woodbine, or does she rate, placing herself 4-5 back, in order to make a run towards the end? Maybe John Velazquez can decide. If he has a full head of steam around turn 2, lookout… she could be a home wrecker.
#4 Li’l Tootsie (Jky: L. Saez/Trn: T. Amoss):
There are some wonderful owners out there in Thoroughbred land, and Joel Politi is one of them. This daughter of Tapiture looks like my kind of filly. Tom Amoss continues to improve during the FG Meet after a slow start. Once he gets the turbines running, he is hard to stop. This filly made some great progress last time in the slop at this very track. That win will be useful coming into this spot. Now, Amoss gets the super scorching Luis Saez to ride his charge. I like this runner as an upset pick since she has worked well, and her level of fitness is high. I realize that her bloodlines speak to sprinting, but her figs could surprise you. She has a powerful late-breaking running style, and she will be a good price with a big chance.
#5 Obligatory (Jky: J. Ortiz/Trn: B. Mott):
Trainer Bill Mott comes to the Fair Grounds to play against some of the favorites in here, and he is never afraid of a fight. This filly is another Curlin daughter, and she blew away a field last time at Gulfstream Park for her first run as a 3-yr-old. Not only is she a Juddmonte homebred, but she has all the skills to go a bit longer. Her works look sharp over that deep sandy track at Payson Park. When I see a Mott entry, I immediately look to see how they fared over at Payson. This filly is primed to make a splash, and after winning so convincingly in South Florida, she could be an overlay when everything is said and done. Mott is right to send Jose Ortiz to New Orleans because he took her home last time. If you are unconvinced, she can win go look at that gaudy 92 speed fig she posted. Pretty sharp…
#6 Clairiere (Jky: J. Talamo/Trn: S. Asmussen):
Steve Asmussen and Stonestreet Stables have a long history together, and they pair up to bring this homebred to the FG Oaks. She will be the favorite, after winning the Rachel Alexandra (G2) last time by a neck over her rival, Travel Column #8. That was a gritty performance, and she showed true mettle in the face of a tough opponent who looked like she had it in hand. Now, it is rematch time, but these 2 are not the only ones in this race. I think she will get over bet, and probably will take a step back instead of forward. There is no doubt she is talented, and this daughter of Curlin has a bright future. Joe T. hops aboard again, but will he be the deciding factor in her winning, or the difference in a loss? We shall see…
#7 Il Malocchio (Jky: B. Herandez/Trn: K. McPeek):
Here is a Kenny McPeek filly who was acquired by the trainer before her last race at Tampa, after running primarily up at Woodbine. I would expect that this conditioner has gotten to know some of her tendencies by now, and he has a game plan in place that will move her forward along the 3-yr-old trail. McPeek knows a thing about fillies, after having the top-of-the-line Swiss Skydiver take the category by storm. Whether or not she is good enough to be in this group will remain to be seen, especially after a lackluster 3rd in that TAM 150k “Non-G” last time. Adding Brian Hernandez is a rider upgrade to be sure, but it may not be enough to make the difference here.
#8 Travel Column (Jky: F. Geroux/Trn: B. Cox):
Frosted was an amazing runner in his day, and he has passed on that ability to one of his offspring, Brad Cox’s talented filly. She has had much success in her short 4-race career, and I am sure many expect her to be one of the favorites for the Kentucky Oaks. She will solidify that notion with a win here, which will be payback for that loss she suffered in the Rachel Alexandra (G2). I do not think she is unbeatable, but she will be extremely tough. You know that Cox’s killer instinct will be out in full force, and I am sure he is going to have her wound up as tightly as possible. Her bullet work back on 6 Mar. was fast, fast… it is time for another showdown with Asmussen’s entry. Florent Geroux rides for the 5th time, and I am sure the orders in the walking ring will be simple. Win…
Join us Saturday for all of our selections on LA Derby Day! Should be a great set of races from the Fair Grounds!