Thursday, May 5, 2011

Live Longshots On Kentucky Oaks Undercard

There’s no doubt that the Kentucky Oaks/Derby weekend offers a plethora of wagering opportunities. Everyone in racing has formulated odds, calculated figures and watched endless hours of videos in an effort to figure out this year’s Kentucky Derby. However, the undercard contests deserve serious consideration as they are filled with quality horses and fantastic opportunities to pad the bankroll. Let’s take a look at some of the contenders for the Kentucky Oaks undercard and see if we can weasel out the live longshots.


Race 6 | La Troienne Stakes (G-2) | 1 1/16 Miles | Fillies and Mares | 3 Year Olds +

UnrivledBelle The LaTroienne Stakes has attracted a couple of heavyweights. Last year’s Kentucky Oaks heroine BLIND LUCK and last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner UNRIVALED BELLE renew their rivalry at Churchill. Although they’ll likely go to post as the co-favorites, both mares must rebound from their last races. Blind Luck has struggled with seconditis since last October, and Unrivaled Belle was a badly beaten third last month in the Rampart Stakes. Both mares love Churchill Downs.

While it’s hard to see a scenario where Blind Luck and Unrivaled Belle finish out of the money, it’s entirely possible for a longshot to hit the board. QUIET GIANT is ready to take the next step up into graded stakes company after winning or placing in five listed events. She is bred to love the mud and trounced a group of stakes fillies by over eight lengths in her last foray over the surface. Quiet Giant has exceptional breeding and is a half sister to three stakes winners including Champion older horse Saint Liam.

ABSINTHE MINDED will try to take them all the way on the lead. In her last two races she was overtaken by Havre de Grace but still finished third. Absinthe Minded has been firing triple digit speed figures since January.

MISS LUANN could be right there on the lead with Absinthe Minded. Although this is her first foray onto dirt, she is bred for the surface and has superior mud attributes. She’s been in the money all three starts this year, but is stepping up in class.

RAVI’S SONG was victorious in her last two starts including a win over Stage Magic. She’s been in the money four of five starts over the Churchill surface and although her one off the board placing was over a sloppy Churchill track, Ravi’s Song was trying 1 1/8 miles for the first time and that may have been a factor. Ravi’s Song is a daughter of Unbridled out of the multiple graded stakes winner Lu Ravi and has a superior pedigree for mud.


Race 7 | Edgewood Stakes | 1 1/16 Miles Turf| Fillies | 3 Year Olds

The Edgewood appears to be a competitive, wide open race, and lacks a pace setter. With all of the rain this week, the turf will likely be soft or yielding, if they even get to run over the lawn. In any event, this race will be handicapped for turf.

BONITA STAR adds blinkers after a disappointing finish in the Providencia Stakes. Not sure why she’s been made the favorite, since she only owns a maiden and allowance win. To her credit, she’s been breezing lights out and has won over good going. Bonita Star adds blinkers in an effort to get her to break more sharply and stay closer to the field. The James Lloyd barn is a sharp 22% with blinkers on.

The remarkably well bred SMART STING is making only her third start, but is unbeaten. She’s a daughter of Smart Strike and Champion turf mare Perfect Sting. Smart Sting is taking a step up, but what she lacks in experience she could make up with sheer talent.

GAYA has managed to overcome trouble in two of her last three races, earning progressively better speed figures in each race. The pretty gray filly has handled good turf and has been out of the money only once in her career.

NIJI'S GRAND GIRL has been very consistent and has never finished worse than third. She has won on the lead in the past and with the lack of speed in here, she could lull them to sleep and wire the field. Niki’s Grand Girl won an off the turf contest at Gulfstream this winter and could be one to think about if the race comes off the lawn.

Possible longshots include Sassy’s Dream who won her maiden over the Churchill mud last year. MY PHI TEMPER has won over soft turf but moves up in company, and Diva Ash, who has done nothing wrong in two starts.






Race 8 | Eight Belles Stakes (G-3) | 7 Furlongs | Fillies | 3 Year Olds

The eighth race is the appropriately named Eight Belles Stakes, named for the gallant filly who finished second to Big Brown in the 2008 Kentucky Derby. Arienza - Coady Photography

All eyes will be on ARIENZA as she takes on a solid group of sprinters. The daughter of two Champions, Giant’s Causeway and Azeri offered no  resistance to Kentucky Oaks contender Joyful Victory in the Fantasy Stakes. Arienza has won over a wet fast track and posted a bullet work over the Churchill surface.

The morning line favorite and undisputed class of the field is POMEROY’S PISTOL. She was competitive in three graded stakes in Florida this winter and was victorious in the seven furlong Forward Gal (G-2). She hasn’t faced an off track but her pedigree is average for the surface. She’s quick enough to control the pace if she wants the lead.

HOLIDAY FLARE has won her two state-bred contests in race horse time. She’s speedy enough to give Pomeroy’s Pistol a fight on the lead, but will be tested for class. She has average mud attributes.

HOME SWEET ASPEN could be worth a second look. She’s facing winners for the first time but she’s been working strongly and can lay off a fast pace. She showed progression in her first two starts and has a good off track pedigree.

DR. DIAMOND’S PRIZE beat a soft group in a listed stakes at Turfway in her last race. She’s never been out of the money and she had a brisk work at Keeneland as a tune up for the Eight Belles. She’s a half sister to the stakes winning Miss Red Delicious and their dam is grade 2 stakes placed. Unfortunately, the Hubley barn is 0 for 13 in graded stakes races. Still, at a morning line of 20-1, Dr. Diamond’s Prize could be a good exotic play.






Race 9 | Alysheba Stakes (G-3) | 1 1/16 Miles | Open | 3 Year Olds And Up

The two morning line favorites, Caracortado and Mission Impazible both have weaknesses. The Alysheba offers a good betting opportunity because there are three or four in here that have a legitimate shot of winning.

CARACORTADO CARACORTADO switches back to dirt in search of a win. After hitting his highest speed figure in the Frank Kilroe Mile, he regressed slightly in the Arcadia. He could rebound here. Caracortado has an average mud pedigree.

MISSION IMPAZIBLE has improved in each of his three races this year, but he’s never won at Churchill or over an off track. He does his best work on the front end and will have company from Regal Ransom.

GIANT OAK cuts back in distance which probably isn’t suitable for the long winded son of Giant’s Causeway. He’s won once out of five attempts at Churchill and was unplaced in his sole foray onto a muddy track. Give him another chance though; he has superior breeding for the mud.

ICABAD CRANE has been in the money in every start since last July. Of course, he’s been beating up on the poor New York statebreds and tries a salty group in the Alysheba. Ichabad Crane has an average pedigree for an off track and has been in the money in all four starts over the surface.

What do we do with FIRST DUDE? He’s a big, beautiful horse who showed a ton of potential this time last year, but he just can’t seem to put it all together. He beat up on a group of overmatched allowance runners in his last race, but we have the feeling he prefers to be a follower not a leader.

Taking a look at a few longshots:

DEMARCATION has been in the money in all five starts over an off track and in the money five of nine tries over the Churchill surface. He threw in a clunker in his last start, but cuts back in distance and he could rebound.

WISE DAN was a weakening fifth in the Commonwealth in his first start since last November. You know he’ll come back in racing shape and he posted a bullet three furlong lung opener at Keeneland. Wise Dan has won two of three starts at Churchill and both starts over a muddy track. It would be wise to include him in your tickets.

Many will be watching EQUESTRIO with interest. He’s Dialed In’s stablemate and beat the probable Derby favorite by a diminishing half length at Gulfstream. Equestrio won his maiden over the Churchill surface and his speed figures are slowly improving. He hasn’t gotten his hooves dirty in the afternoon, but has an average pedigree for mud.

JARDIM is perfect over an off track, so beware. He’s shown flashes of brilliance against lesser foes and a mile to 1 1/6 is his game. He’s a cut below, but could creep into the exotics at a huge price, especially if it’s a day for longshots.

It isn’t a handicap race without AWESOME GEM. The eight year old warrior appears to have lost a step lately against his younger compatriots, but he’s been known to pull a fast one every now and then. He cuts back in distance and should be fit in his third race.





EQUESTRIO - longshot

Race 10 | American Turf Stakes (G-2) | 1 1/16 Miles Turf | 3 Year Olds

Air Support and Great Mills will go to the post as the likely favorites. Air Support has drawn very wide in the 13 post, while Great Mills is stuck on the inside. There are a number of speed horses in here, which could set up nicely for a closer.

GREAT MILLS has been out of the money only once in his career. He was beaten a bare nose by Air Support in the Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland in his first try at two turns. He’s handled soggy lawn in the past and will try to wire the field. He may have plenty of company on the front endAirSupport Photo Coglianese, but if he is left alone we could be looking at the winner.

AIR SUPPORT won his three year old debut by a nose in the Transylvania Stake. That should set him up for improvement, right? Maybe not. Last  year he had a very noticeable good/bad race cycle which could persist into this year. Air Support is one of the best bred horses in the field. He has plenty of talent and has won over a yielding lawn, but his outside post and race cycle are deterrents at his short odds.

BANNED won his maiden over a yielding turf at 1 1/16 miles so whatever the condition of the Churchill turf course, he shouldn’t have any difficulty with the surface. He was a little short in his three year old debut over a good Keeneland turf course at a mile last time out. Banned may be up close to a fast pace.

After feeble attempts to join the Triple Crown crowd, SURREY STAR finally got a chance to shine on turf. He’s bred for the surface and is Group 2 placed over the lawn. His outside post could be a factor since he likes to be close to the lead, but he’s bound to show improvement in his second grass start. Surrey Star is no stranger to soft ground.

MAN OF STRIFE takes a break from beating up on statebreds and joins graded stakes company. He won his only start over a good turf course and has never finished out of the money. The Brian House barn is 24% with shippers and at 20-1 morning line, Man of Strife could be a live longshot.

PRIVATE PRIZE might keep Great Mills honest on the lead. The Pure Prize colt wired the field last time out at Keeneland and appears to be improving. If the stalkers can’t make headway over the heavy going, Private Prize may find himself in the money.