Friday, July 20, 2007

Stakes Analysis: Coaching Club American Oaks

Apologies for the paucity of commentary and posts this week, but it's been a doozy at work, what with the torrential downpours that we had on Wednesday, the blast of the steam pipe on the East Side (a block from our NYC office), and the vagaries of just work in general. Regardless, let's get to one of our tasks at hand here: analyzing a New York stakes race. I'd look at the entire card for Saturday, a/k/a, Ladies' Day at Belmont, but with the exception of Shug McGaughey running Parading in the 3rd race, it's a pretty uninteresting card. (Can't we do something to minimize the number of New York-bred races on a Saturday, for crying out loud?) So let's go to the big one, the Coaching Club American Oaks.

Run at a mile and a quarter, the "classic" distance that's also the same length as the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders Cup Classic (along with many other races of note), the CCA Oaks was once the 3rd part of the Triple Tiara, the NY version of the Triple Crown for 3-year old fillies, coupled with the Acorn and Mother Goose, both races run earlier in the meet. The Triple Tiara was changed a few years back to instead consist of the Mother Goose, CCA Oaks, and the Alabama, which is run on the 4th Saturday of the Saratoga meet. There was some chatter about this new series of races when Spoken Fur won the first two legs in 2003, but she flopped miserably in the Alabama to Island Fashion. Smuggler also won the first two legs in 2005, but was injured and retired soonafter, and I'd be lying to you if I said there was an iota of hoopla over the fact she won the first two legs. Which is something of a shame, because the old Triple Tiara was won by some great fillies, including Sky Beauty, Open Mind, Davona Dale, Mom's Command and the incomparable Ruffian (left).

Is there a similar potential for greatness this year? Well, originally this was the spot for Super Girl Rags to Riches to make her next start after her historic Belmont, with the possibility of another run against the males in the Travers being in the offing. Sadly, though, she was declared from the race with a fever, and will instead be pointed for the Alabama. Result? Todd Pletcher goes to his #2 filly, Octave...who won the Mother Goose and is thus the lone girl eligible to win the new Triple Tiara. And she's a pretty bonafide favorite; she's run a pair of very nice races in a row in finishing 2nd in the Kentucky Oaks to Rags to Riches before taking the Mother Goose over 3 other fillies. Prior to those two efforts, her other 7 races all resulted in her finishing first or second, and if she had a pair of head bobs come out differently, she'd have 3 Grade 1 wins under her belt. Much as I like to beat favorites, this isn't the spot to try.

So there's no money made in the race? Hardly! This is where the beauty of exotic betting comes into play, because the second choice in the morning line, Lear Princess, is extremely vulnerable. She's 3-for-3, with all wins coming over either the grass or Polytrack (a synthetic clay-esque surface whose analog is closer to grass than dirt often), and is by Lear Fan, who's a great turf sire, but NOT a dirt sire. To top it off, the horse is owned by West Point, a syndicate who's often known for spotting their horses a tad overambitiously, often to say they've competed in Grade 1 stakes races for the sake of their clientele and/or to recruit new clients. At 3-1, she's worth passing on in search of a better price.

Much tougher to analyze is Folk, the third choice on the morning line, who comes off a horrendous run in the UAE Derby, where she took on males and got thumped to the tune of 25 lengths. She bred ok for the distance, but appears to be a need-the-lead type who may get hooked up with Coy Coyote (longshot on the rail) from the outset, softening her up for the end. It wouldn't surprise me to see her run well, but I'll try something else. Instead, let's take a stab with longshots Humble Janet, who's got amazingly obscure breeding but comes off a big effort in her last; and Wow Me Free, who has interesting breeding for the distance but obscure connections. Both should be at least 20-1 and could close into a fairly brisk pace and catch money.

So the call for the Belmont's final Grade 1 until September:

(1) Octave
(2) Humble Janet
(3) Wow Me Free

Enjoy the race! Time permitting, I'll be back tomorrow to take a look at the weekend's most interesting race, the Virginia Derby.

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