(#, Horse, Jockey, Trainer, Churchill Morning Line/My Morning Line)
1-Silsita, Gary Stevens, Todd Pletcher, 20-1/25-1
Strengths: She has experienced connections in Stevens and Pletcher and has also trained on the grounds since her win in the Bourbonette Oaks at Turfway. Macho Uno progeny like the surface at Churchill and she should figure to be a longshot with a reasonable chance on a fair track.
Weaknesses: She appears to be inside speed in a race with the 2,3,4,9 and 11 as likely pressers of the pace. The rail is often a death trap at Churchill going long on big days, and has been so far this meet for the most part. Also, her lone dirt race was a lackluster 4th. Of Pletcher's 4 runners, I rate her the lowest of the 4 in the Oaks.
Overall: Likely to fade in a speed duel on the fence. Might rate a chance in races like the Test or Acorn down the road, though.
2-Midnight Lucky, Rafael Bejarano, Bob Baffert, 9-2/7-1
Strengths: She won her prep at Sunland, which saw Plum Pretty find the winner's circle in 2011. Bejarano and Baffert also tend to do well on the big days. Should be fresh to fire after not having raced since March. While she shows lots of speed early in races, she did pass a horse to win both career starts.
Weaknesses: Inexperience could hurt her, especially in a big crowd atmosphere. She may not get to clear the pace easily in the Oaks with the plethora of early speed in the race. Daddy won back to back BC Sprints in 2007-08, which might hint at distance problems going 1 1/8 miles. Though Real Quiet, her grandsire, won the '98 Derby.
Overall: She will have to likely be farther behind than she's been before to win this race. I would rate her chances better if she had a post in the outer half of the track, as outside trips have fared well in most recent runnings of the Oaks. I may use her on top of Pure Fun in exactas, but don't like her that much to win at her value.
3-Beholder, Garrett Gomez, Richard Mandella, 7-2/5-2
Strengths: She can handle the big stage, as she won the BC Juvenile Fillies in 2012. She is also 3/3 in 2 turn races in her career. Garrett Gomez is one of the better money riders around, and she might be able to pull a Bodemeister and clear all the speed and have something left.
Weaknesses: She has only passed to win a race once, and that was at 5 1/2 furlongs at Del Mar sitting 2nd. The abundance of pace could do her in the final 1/4 mile of the Oaks. Her two defeats occurred when on or near fast paces. A third could await her if the pace is kicked up to ludicrous speed.
Overall: I fear her the most of my non-picks in the race, as her best effort would scare off everyone not named Dreaming of Julia. Gomez has good ability with getting horses to conserve energy, so I'd rate her as 3rd best in the race. If she had a post from 7-10, I'd have put her 2nd best.
4-Unlimited Budget, Javier Castellano, Todd Pletcher, 7-2/5-1
Strengths: She looked good in the Fair Grounds prep circuit that saw Rachel Alexandra and Believe You Can win recent runnings of the Oaks. Also, she's already won at 1 1/8 miles, something 7 of her rivals can't claim yet. Street Sense won the 2007 Derby and 2006 BC Juvenile at Churchill. Has shown past ability to pass rivals when needed.
Weaknesses: I'm skeptical of her back class as a 3 year old. While beating Emollient was impressive in the Demoiselle at 2, that was a 4 horse field in a slow-ish time. She may not offer the value I'd like to see in the race. Beating Beholder or Dreaming of Julia is hard enough. Beating both would take a career best and then some.
Overall: Appears to be underlaid in this race, as the Pletcher effect drives down the price. I rate her as the 5th best in here for value, though on talent, she may be 3rd best. If she does go off 5-1 or better, she's worth using to me.
5-Seaneen Girl, Rosie Napravnik, Bernie Flint, 30-1/30-1
Strengths: Has local trainer in Bernie Flint and won the 2 year old stakes that saw Rachel Alexandra show signs of promise before her Oaks win the following year; lightning could strike twice, though Rachel was more accomplished headed into here. Rosie won last year's Oaks and was narrowly beaten in a photo in 2011's Oaks when in the saddle.
Weaknesses: Hasn't shown her past form as of yet this year, though she's only ran 1 prep before the Oaks. She appears a bit overmatched on her past form and got a 91 Beyer mostly off the back of the two fillies that bested her that day. Otherwise, her numbers are a bit low, even for 2 year old filly form--the form that is most under-numbered.
Overall: Might be worth a piece for 3rd or 4th in keys for tris/supers. She would have to improve massively to win this one.
6-Princess of Sylmar, Mike Smith, Todd Pletcher, 20-1/25-1
Strengths: Has A level connections in Smith and Pletcher. She has 4 wins, which is only trailing the 3 and 9 in career victories. Didn't run that badly in her runner-up effort in the Gazelle. Has shown the ability to pass in the past.
Weaknesses: She appears to be better in New York than elsewhere and has yet to travel away from the Eastern circuit. I'm not certain she's in the class level as some of the other contenders, since most of her wins are listed company or condition races.
Overall: Also worth using in tri/super keys, but a doubt for much better. If you like Close Hatches, using her in exactas makes sense. I might have her underneath Dreaming of Julia in plays.
7-Pure Fun, Julien Leparoux, Ken McPeek, 30-1/20-1
Strengths: Connections ran her against boys, which seemed strange, but it got her race experience. This pick is somewhat futures related, as we have her in futures exactas with DoJ. She ran lights out in a mile race at CD last year at two and has spun her wheels so far, but she appears to be better on the dirt, as her dad won one of the last dirt Kentucky Cups. If the race falls apart, she could even win. Daddy sired Pure Clan, who ran 3rd in the '08 Oaks before winning 2 G1s on turf. I will probably lean pretty heavily to her and DoJ in most of my plays. I might not hit the two of them that hard at the window the day of, since the future pools have DoJ at $35/win and the exactas at $250-300 either way. More likely, I'd bet Pure Fun to win as a saver in case DoJ flops.
Weaknesses: Has yet to win this year, even if just in 2 starts. To be fair, those were polytrack races, a surface she is more ordinary on. Cushion track at BHP plays more like dirt, and that was her win on synthetics, so I rate her chances on dirt. Even with that, I’d feel a little more confident in her chances with better showings this year. In the futures, she actually had a lower price than Dreaming of Julia. Obviously, she’s not in that league as of yet.
Overall: I like her second best on value, especially considering her Churchill dirt win and her Hollywood Starlet win on a synthetic surface that is most dirt-like of all the synthetics. Should figure to be a high price compared to her potential.
8-Dreaming of Julia, John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher, 3-1/5-2
Strengths—As much as Gulfstream can lead to romps at 2 turns, this one looked legitimate a la Rachel Alexandra's stomping in the 2009 Oaks. She does have two losses, but otherwise has been stellar. That, and my dad and I having a 16-1 win bet on her in futures, makes her the pick to click.
Weaknesses—She lost to Beholder w/o Lasix on a speed track in last year's Juv. Fillies and was a bit short her first back at Gulfstream, so she’s not invulnerable. She also set a record for Sheet Numbers in her last start, though that’s self-fulfilling when you run a fast race with a wide trip. She could bounce off a 114 Beyer, though her 1 1/8 race from Gulfstream could trounce these even with a 5-10 point regression.
Overall—We (father and I) have her at 16-1 in futures. That’s much better than the 2-1 to 3-1 range you’ll see in the live betting. Even at that price, considering she could be the next big 3 year old filly star if she isn’t already, that could be a bargain. I am leaning towards her way above the others in the field.
9-Rose to Gold, Calvin Borel, Salvatore Santoro, 15-1/12-1
Strengths—She has Calvin Borel, even if the trainer isn’t a large barn trainer. Flashy Gray was a dark horse candidate before her scratch, and she beat her on the square in March. Of the longshots not named Pure Fun, I rate her chances the best to light up the tote board.
Weaknesses—Her worst race ever came in Grade 1 competition, albeit on Polytrack. Last I checked, the Oaks is a big deal as a Grade 1. The Calvin factor could make her an underlay on the tote. I fear that she may be involved in a crazy speed duel.
Overall—I would use her underneath some favorites and perhaps to some Derby favorites in Oaks/Derby doubles. While she’s not my top choice, or even a top 4 pick, she’s live.
SCR 10-Flashy Gray (get well soon!)
11-Close Hatches, Joel Rosario, Bill Mott, 6-1/9-1
Strengths—Joel Rosario has NBA Jam flames shooting out of his saddle at the moment. Already has 10 winners at Churchill and broke the meet record at Keeneland in the Spring. She showed she can pass rivals in her debut race. Flute won the Oaks on 3 starts in 2001, so light seasoning isn’t as bad of a fear factor historically as it could be.
Weaknesses—Having the far outside could force her hand into a speed duel. I am also not sold on the form of the Gazelle, as Princess of Sylmar might not be good enough on class to handle this field. She seems a candidate to be a steam horse in the Oaks (for newbies, that means she takes more money than expected). I like the 3, 7, and 8 better than her.
Overall—She’s my fourth pick in the race.
Ice-cold super high five: 8-7-3-11-4