This weekend, the top of the 3yo filly division squares off on the dirt and the turf in the two bastions of summer racing, Saratoga and Del Mar. The Grade 1 Alabama S. going a mile and a quarter on the main track at Saratoga, while the grass fillies will be going a mile and an eighth in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks over the Jimmy Durante turf course. These races may provide some clarity to each division, as most of the division leaders are running in these races. Or maybe the divisions will be thrown into further disarray, if this blog's selections are correct. Let's start with the Alabama, then come out west for the Del Mar Oaks.
#1 Acting Happy Lezcano J 121 12-1
#2 Devil May Care Velazquez J 121 7-5
#3 Tizahit Prado E 121 20-1
#4 Blind Luck Rosario J 121 8-5
#5 Connie and Michael Maragh R 121 10-1
#6 Havre de Grace Rose J 121 4-1
The morning line favorite is #2 Devil May Care. This daughter of Malibu Moon has rebounded from a sub-par effort in the Kentucky Derby to easily defeat her two compact fields in the Grade 1 Mother Goose and Grade 1 CCA Oaks. (Her Oaks win below)
She has trained well in the interim, but the distance may be a question mark. Also, both times she ran third off the layoff, a poor performance ensued, with the caveat that both times had extraordinary circumstances attached. I'm not a big fan of not having any works beyond 4 furlongs for any race going a mile an an eighth or further. She is a contender, but not the pick.
The second morning line choice by the slimmest of margins is #4 Blind Luck. This daughter of Pollard's Vision comes off another one of her trademark cardiac victories, getting up by a nose over #6 Harve de Grace in the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks (below).
Blind Luck worked steadily in the interim, keeping her top form. But one has to worry about the distance with her as well, as her pedigree does not scream 1m & 1/4. Also, this her 4th cross country trip (Oaklawn, Churchill, Delaware) this year, since she returns back to her SoCal home base after each race. That amount of travel can wear down anything. Is today the day all that traveling gets to her? She is another contender, but not the pick.
Who then is this blog's selection? It is #1 Acting Happy. This daughter of Empire Maker was defeated by Devil May Care in her last start, but it was her first start in 2 months and she ran a little short. She comes in 2nd off the layoff, a favorite angle of the blog, with two maintenance works in the interim. She should have less of a problem with the distance based on her pedigree than the two favorites. Her last race before the CCA Oaks was her victory in the G1 Black-eyed Susan (below).
She will be tracking from just off the pace of (assumed) pace setter #5 Connie and Michael. She will have first jump on both of the favorites, make her move turning for home, and hopefully will hold on to pull off the huge upset.
This blog will be betting Acting Happy to win, and exacta boxes with Blind Luck and Devil May Care. No matter what, this should be a very interesting race.
Now we head clear across the country to "where the turf meets the surf" Del Mar for the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks. Here's the field:
#1 Berg Bahn (IRE) A O Solis 122
#2 Antares World F Alvarado 122
#3 Perfect Shirl C Sutherland 122
#4 Evening Jewel V Espinoza 122
#5 Distinctive (GB)B Blanc 122
#6 Harmonious M E Smith 122
#7 It Tiz (D R Flores 122
#8 Weekend Magic A Quinonez 122
#9 Crisp R Bejarano 122
#10 Warren's Jitterbug P A Valenzuela 122
The favorite probably will be #4 Evening Jewel. This daughter of Northern Afleet will attempt to win another Grade 1 race after her win in the Ashland at Keeneland over the Polytrack. She has great positional speed, and should be in a good spot. She has had three steady works over this course, where she won the local prep for this race, the Grade 2 San Clemente. However, at each of races at this distance, she has been life and death to hang on at any race past a mile, like today's race distance of a mile and an eighth. With some of the new faces she is facing for the first time today, this blog thinks she is very vulnerable.
The East Coast invader #3 Perfect Shirl is a stretch-running daughter of Perfect Soul who won the Grade 2 Lake George Handicap at Saratoga last time out. Her training at her home base of Woodbine has come along nicely since the win, and she brings in tow her jockey Chantal Sutherland, who was aboard for her first two victories of her career. This 1/2 sis to multiple graded stakes winners Shakespeare and Lady Shakespeare But this Del Mar course will have the shortest stretch of any course she has run on in her career. She is also a smallish filly who is shipping for the 2nd time in under a month. The fact that she will probably be an underlay in the betting is the final reason she is not the selection, but remains a must-use in the exotics.
The pick is the horse who is most likely to be the 2nd or 3rd favorite, depending on the money on Perfect Shirl, #6 Harmonious. This daughter of Dynaformer won the Grade 1 American Oaks last time out. (below)
She hasn't missed a beat in the morning since, with 5 works in the 49 day interim. Her trainer has little problem bringing horses back off this kind of layoff, and the distance will give her no problems. She gets back the services of jockey Mike Smith, who rode her in all starts prior to her last race. There seems to be enough speed to allow her to get a mid-pack tracking position early on, making her move at the top of the turn and hopefully winning going away.
The two foreign invaders #1 Berg Bahn and #5 Distinctive both present interesting prospects, but my limited knowledge of European racing makes it almost impossible to comment on their chances, other than to note that Alex Solis comes in from Saratoga to ride the #1.
Saturday shapes up to be a great day of racing for the fillies, no matter the surface or the coast. Will we have some clarity to the divisional rankings? Or will we have calamity instead? Either way, it will be fun. Good luck everybody!