Eight Fillies Set to Battle in Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks
Category : News
Tue 22/03/2016 - 22:47 EDT
Amid a bevy of graded stakes action Saturday, March 22 at Fair Grounds, the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks features a field of eight three year-old fillies in a race that will leave plenty to the imagination of handicappers around the country.
At the beginning of the year, Stage Play (5/2) looked poised to become one of the top three year-old fillies in the country - perhaps even a suitable contender to knock off Songbird in the Kentucky Oaks, but things took a detour when the Steve Asmussen-trained filly finished a dull fifth February 20 in the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra Stakes. The gray or roan daughter of Curlin has looked far less impressive racing around two turns than expected, but is still certainly eligible to move forward with just five career races under her belt. The three-time winner retains jockey Florent Geroux and will break from post 4 in a race that will likely determine whether she competes in the Kentucky Oaks on the first Friday in May.
Escaping the shadow
Speaking of Songbird, Land Over Sea (3/1) ships all the way to New Orleans from her base in southern California for trainer Doug O'Neil just to escape the freakishly fast filly. Land Over Sea has lost to Songbird in five straight races, including a pair of runner-up finishes in here last two starts and another second in the Grade 1 Chandelier in September. Land Over Sea appears to be a very formidable runner, but must prove she is able to win races and will likely be overbet based on the company she's been keeping.
Speed horses can surprise
Midnight On Oconee (9/2) and Adore (5/1) are talented runners with the former being the more experienced and the latter stepping up in class following consecutive wins at Oaklawn Park. Both project near the early pace and either could hang around long enough to pull the upset if things just right.
There will always be Kentucky Derby entrants that would be much better suited to skip the race entirely and find a better spot if not for the gusto of their well-meaning owners, but the Road to the Derby point qualifying system has been remarkably efficient at making the race more of a level-playing field since its inception four years ago.
On Saturday at Keeneland, the featured race is the $250,000 Dixiana Elkhorn Stakes. Scheduled to be run at one mile on the turf, the Grade 2 event has drawn a field of eight colts and geldings.
With a largely underwhelming, and thus far, slow, group of three year-olds set to contest the 2016 Kentucky Derby, logical handicappers searching for a pick outside of the undefeated and likely highly-favored Nyquist may have already begun the hand-wringing process.
On Friday at Oaklawn Park, the featured race is the $600,000 Apple Blossom Stakes. Restricted to fillies and mares, the Grade 1 event will be contested at a mile and a sixteenth on the main track and has drawn a field of six.