Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Kentucky Oaks as Wide Open as Derby

“Irony is the gaiety of reflection and the joy of wisdom,” said the 19th Century French writer Anatole France.

Wonder what he might have thought about drawing the 12 hole for the Oaks?

Before trainer Larry Jones cleared things up earlier this week, owner Rick Porter was saying he would be very concerned if his Kentucky Derby filly drew anywhere in the auxiliary gate or the first couple of inside positions.

After all, you can always save with the Oaks.

Not anymore.

Glad Cowboy Larry said later that only the 19 or 20 post might keep Eight Belles out of Derby 134. Good thing, too, for Denis Of Cork.

The Churchill-loving longshot could have been on the outside looking in, so to speak, since, according to Porter’s first analysis, there was a 40 percent chance Eight Belles could opt out of the Derby.

Not anymore, probably.

This three-year-old filly class is comparable to the colts in that there are quite a few nice horses but few truly exciting ones. But the 2008 Oaks group is a good one nevertheless, and superficially looks like a great betting race.

Eight Belles’ stablemate, Proud Spell, had better luck, drawing #8 in the 12-horse lineup. Many of these fillies can blossom as the season lengthens.

The Oaks has all the major fillies from the Ashland including a real comer in Little Belle, and there’s the Arkansas contingent, headed by Eight Belles.

Yet to see the Equiform performance figures, I will say that even if she had drawn better, Eight Belles appears no cinch. Perhaps when I get a look at how they run fast, I might be willing to change the tune.

Who knows, maybe Jones and Porter think the Derby is easier?

There are two other intriguing Oaks ladies, namely Country Star and Golden Doc A.

Before getting to them, however, a note of caution not to dismiss the Tampa Bay filly, Awesome Chic, out of hand. She lived up to her name when beating lesser in the G3 Florida Oaks. She’s bred to run up the side of a mountain and attracts Robbie Albarado.

Best of all, she’ll be overlooked by many of the 100,000-plus on hand.

Country Star was the filly I once thought would try the boys but either she didn’t develop over the winter or something else prevented Bobby Frankel from thinking too aggressively, like the purse.

A multiple G1 winner at two, she ran better than Pyro did in her return to Keeneland, where she won the Alcibiades, but not all that much better. At least she loomed into third before settling for fifth in the Ashland. Unlike Pyro, she couldn’t use the Polytrack excuse, but at least picked her feet up at some juncture.

Country Star is making her first start ever on dirt. (Oh, no, not that again).

We never hear too much about Golden Doc A in these parts, but all she does is run real good.

She won the G1 Las Vergennes, the race that launched Rags To Riches, was a very- tough-trip second in the S1 Santa Anita Oaks, and a strong-finish second in the always competitive G2 Beaumont going seven-eighths at Keeneland April 10.

Doing her best Colonel John--or is it the other way around?--she worked five furlongs in :59-flat at Churchill, a move termed breezing, with a good gallop-out, according to the attentive Mike Welsch.

Golden Doc A. drew the pole and, looky here again, she’s got Big Brown’s rider, Kent Desormeaux, in the boot.

Sure hope for Porter’s sake his filly draws well in the Derby. These fillies ain’t no pushovers.

Written by John Pricci

Accompanying Photo Gallery to "Racing to the Kentucky Derby".
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BallHype: hype it up!

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