The Fourth of July weekend brings about a bunch of good stakes racing across the country, including the Grade 1 American Oaks at Hollywood Park on Saturday. Since its inaugural running in 2002, the American Oaks has seen winners such as Megahertz, Cesario, Wait a While, and last year's Gozzip Girl. Let's take a look at the runners in this year's edition.
I'd love to post the morning line odds for this race, but Hollywood Park has still not published them (either that or Equibase has yet to update their data). I'll put them up as soon as they are available.
UPDATED: ML odds are out, as well as an early scratch of Cozie Rosie. The scratch of the likely favorite serves to thin out the field and drop the odds on my pick, Harmonious.
In what is not at all a surprise, City to City and Andina (IRE) are pegged as the top two choices on the morning line. I'm guessing that if Cozi Rosie had stayed in the race she would have been pegged in the 5/2 range, bumping everyone else up a good deal. Harmonious would have made a decent play at 5/1 odds, but I've got reservations about taking 3/1 on her.
Grade 1 American Oaks
1 ¼ miles (Turf)
Post time: 4:35 PDT
1-Riviera Chic showed speed for the first time in her career when she set the early pace in a N1X Allowance event last time out. She faded to third that day and it's difficult to see her taking this field all the way around the track. It's also difficult to see her outrunning the rest of her rivals. The pedigree is decent on stamina (sired by Medaglia d'Oro out of a Thunder Gulch mare), but she's light on class and comes into this one for a trainer that is 0-for-25 at the current Hollywood meet.
2-Antares World seems to be a little bit of a tweener in this race, and what I mean by that is she is solid Allowance/Listed stake competitor but struggles against graded company. This race isn't stocked with Grade 1 fillies, so it's wouldn't be a huge stretch for her to step-up and fire a big race, but I think there's enough talent in this field to keep her on the outside looking in.
3-Weekend Magic will try the grass for the first time, as well as make her initial foray into graded stakes company. It took her four times to shed the maiden tag but perhaps she needed to taste success before she was ready to take a big leap forward. Weekend Magic's sire, Ecton Park isn't known for producing horses that thrive on grass, so it may be asking a bit much for her to make her debut on the lawn in a Grade 1 race. The upside is intriguing but she does appear in over her head.
4-Harmonious will also make her first try against graded company, but unlike the #3, this filly has won back-to-back races on the turf course and recently scored in a 1 1/8 mile N1X race. Trainer John Shirreffs has gaudy numbers with horses that have won their last start (37-for-108, 34%, $2.05 ROI) and in graded stakes (37-for-122, 30% WIN, 57% ITM, $2.57 ROI,) and he appears to have this filly ready to go. Throw in the fact that she's doesn't appear to be too far away from the top contenders in this race and you have an intriguing possibility.
5-City to City has been right with Cozi Rosie in her last two starts, finishing third by a length in both the G2 Honeymoon and the G3 Senorita. This filly really appears to be on the upswing as she's stepped up and ran well when promoted to listed stakes, Grade 3 and Grade 2 races. Conniption tended to show much more early speed in some of her older races but following her first try on grass this past January she's started to sit back more. Given what looks to be a light pace scenario in this spot, it would probably be good If Rosario can get her close to the lead early on. If she has that type of tactical ability then she will be a handful in the lane.
6-Andina (IRE) gets a rider change due to regular jock Joe Talamo riding I Want Revenge at Belmont Pak in the Suburban Handicap; Rafael Bejarano picks up the mount. This filly didn't run all that bad in her last start, the Grade 2 Honeymoon, even though she finished in a deadheat for fourth. The pace was really slow that day and she was trying to stalk the lone speed and odds-on favorite Evening Jewel. After a half in 50.29 and six furlong in 1:14.52 it was unlikely she was going to be able to run by the winner. She was passed in deep stretch by of her rivals in this race, Cozi Rosie and City to City, but she won't have to chase a filly the caliber of Evening Jewel in this spot which could make a big difference.
7-Conniption (IRE) is a filly that didn't do a whole lot in Great Britain before shipping to California to begin her career in the States. She's started two races here in America, both N1X events and both at a mile on the grass. This filly has missed the break or been away slow in four of her six lifetime starts. If the pace is light in this race, which it should be, Conniption can't afford to meander well behind the leaders in the early stages. He troubles leaving the gate make it tough for me to back her for the top spot.
8-Cozi Rosie is the likely post time favorite based on her defeat to Evening Jewel by a head in the Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap in her last start. She didn't get a whole lot to run at that day and it doesn't look like she's going to get much in this race. She finished up very nicely in the Honeymoon, however, running the final 1/8 of a mile in 11.05, according to the Formulator interactive charts. She's beaten City to City and Andina in her last two races after finishing behind both of them in the Grade 2 Providencia three races back. On current form, she appears to be the one to beat. (UPDATE: Cozi Rosie has been scratched from the race.)
I think the race appears to boil down to one of City to City, Andina, or Cozi Rosie, since all three ran well against each other in graded company last time out. But while I think the likely winner is one of those three I'm going to look for value in this race with the Shirreff's trained 4-Harmonious. While she's got a bit of a class jump to make, this filly hasn't run into the toughest field around. The top three are solid fillies, but there doesn't appear to be a Wait a While, Cesario, or Megahertz among them. Harmonious has show good tactical speed in her last two efforts and the stretch out to a mile and a quarter shouldn't be an issue for a daughter of Dynaformer out of a Storm Cat mare, as both are good sources of stamina. And finally, Shirreff's is red hot in graded stakes races over the last five years and I think he has to be respected, even with a lightly raced filly like Harmonious.
If the odds on Harmonious are 6/1 or higher, I'll play her to win and in an exacta with City to City, Andina, and Cozi Rosie (and maybe a small tri, depending on what the exacta probables are looking like prior to the race).