Friday, August 19, 2011

Weekend Handicapping: Grass Burners in Del Mar Oaks Saturday

In a previous blog I stated I wasn’t going to handicap the Alabama because I was a big It’s Tricky fan and it would be slanted selection.  I mentioned that I was going to handicap the Del Mar Oaks for Saturday and then put it out of mind.  At the time, I was busy handicapping Monmouth for another group and working the Pick 4 at Balmoral.  I will admit I had no idea who was even in the Del Mar Oaks until I opened my Bris PP’s.  As I scanned the line up all I could do was mutter, WOW, and thought can I change my mind and do the Alabama? 
Not being one to dodge a challenge, I dug in and took a long look at the 8th Race, Del Mar Oaks (G1), going  1 1/8th  over the turf, for 3YO fillies and a purse of $250,000.  It’s a field of 10 with 2 also eligible.  Before I go through the contenders and the like, I would say if you are an angle player pick one.  There is cutting back in distance, several jockey changes, beaten favorite, bounce pattern and long layoff.   Oh, almost forgot the last angle, throw a dart at the entries.

After going through it over and over and changing my mind a dozen times, I settled on 7 horses. I normally rank 3 as contenders, 3 as dark horses and 1 “Bombs Away”.  For the Del Mar Oaks, it will be a bit different. I will rank 7 horses, the first 3 are my favorites and the next 4 are winners but for various reasons think they are vulnerable.  In truth, I’m splitting hairs for this line up is outstanding.  One last thing, what makes this race so neat, is no matter what you go with you’ll  get a good price! Even the ML favorite, Summer Soiree is at 5/2 and not even sure she will go off as the favorite, but will take 5/2 with this group any day.

Here we go:

1.       #9 Nereid  ML 5-1:   Won the G1 American Oaks in a dead heat with Cambina and  4 others in this race right on her heels.  She went to the front in the American and held it until the wire, with her cutting back a 1/8th,  I see no reason she can’t do it again. Sherriffs wins 42% with winners of last race and Talamo is hot on turf.  Three good 5f workouts and her Beyer’s have improved each race and no signs of a bounce.  She could wire this field.

2.       #10 Up In Time ML 8-1:  I liked this filly in the San Clemente (G2) but thought she might be one more race away.  She beat the undefeated Sarah’s Secret and rated nicely off the pace and took control and won by 1 ¼ , her runout was good and with the extra distance today she could run right by all the speed in this race if they melt down. Strong workouts and Bejarano rides her again for Simon Callaghan.

3.       #5 Sarah’s Secret ML 12-1:  Most will be surprised with her sitting in the third selection.  She is also my “Bombers Away” pick.  The question is why here?  This is more of an angle play.  She was the beaten favorite in the San Clemente(G2), she raced close and never fired.  Not sure why, there didn’t seem to be an excuse.     Here is the play; Kathy Walsh has an excellent record with graded stakes, and beaten favorites.  She made a big switch in jockeys, taking Flores off and puts Rosario up.  Granted her Beyer’s don’t match up with the rest, but just have a feeling she will bounce back. She will be near the front,  but she needs rate off Nereid not run with her.

4.       #7 Cambina ML 3-1:  She is a strong closer and caught Nereid at the wire in the American Oaks.  In watching the tape, she actually got jammed up in the lane and then rallied.  It makes you think she could have taken it clearly.  I put her 4th, due to the large group of speed and I don’t see them all crumbling.  Also this is a large field and closers can get into trouble clearing a bevy of horses or has to go wide.  Interesting thing is, Bonde puts Garrett Gomez back on, he has 3 straight wins back at Santa Anita with her.  Check the turf bias.

5.      #4  Bizzy Caroline ML 8-1:  In the American Oaks she rode right on Nereid’s hip and did nothing.  Most labeled it a no excuse effort and not sure what happened but she was there at the end.  The 5th place finish does not reflect that she was only ¾ of length behind the dead heat finishers.  McPeek doesn’t have a great win % this season on graded stakes but he has Cruz back on from her Churchill Downs days, where she won the Regret(G3).   With her speed and cut back in distance she could surprise.

6.     #3  Summer Soiree ML 5-2:  There is no doubt this filly can win. She has 4 wins and the closest one was her maiden when she won by 6 ¼ lengths.  She has been off for 50+ days but has won coming off longer layoffs.  Excellent turf trainer in Graham Motion. So why not here?  Her speed figures are not consistent, a touch of a bouncer and she is meeting a tougher group. Not convinced.

7.    #2   Star Billing ML 5-1:  This is her 5th start and she seems to be always on the board regardless if it’s G1, G2 or G3.  She was right there in the American Oaks placing 3rd off by a nose.  The concern is her speed figures tend to bounce up and down so not sure the consistency is there yet.  She loses Rosario for Espinosa, who does well on turf in his own right, but Rosario going to the Kathy Walsh filly says something.  I do like this filly and one of those “gut” feelings that this could be her breakthrough race.

There is tons of speed in this race (4 Beyers at 100, 1 at 101), strong closers and 6 of them are within 6 points on the Bris Net Prime Power rankings.  It should be an exciting race and wouldn’t be surprised if we see another blanket finish like the American Oaks.  Photo finish hold all tickets! 

Good luck and will be handicapping the Sky Classic from Woodbine for Sunday.  You can read my blog at

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