The TDN Oaks Top 10 For July 16

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Swiss Skydiver winning the Santa Anita Oaks | Benoit

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It was a busy Saturday at Keeneland for the nation’s top 3-year-old fillies, as a field of five contested the GI Ashland S. and Swiss Skydiver (Daredveil) ventured outside her division as her connections boldly took on males in the GII Toyota Blue Grass S. At the end of the day, the deck was shuffled some, but not much. Speech (Mr. Speaker), already a highly regarded Oaks contender, won the Ashland and Swiss Skydiver was terrific in a second-place finish against the boys.

With the Oaks less than eight weeks away, the number of meaningful preps for the race is starting to dwindle. Most of the action will be in Saratoga, where the meet includes the GI Coaching Club American Oaks, the GI Test S. and the GI Alabama S., races that should have an impact on the Oaks picture.

1) SWISS SKYDIVER (Daredevil–Expo Gold, by Johannesburg)
O-Peter J Callahan. B-WinStar Farm (KY). T-Kenneth G McPeek. Sales History: $35,000 yrl ’18 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: MGSW, 8-4-2-1, $677,980.
Last Start: 2nd GII Toyota Blue Grass S., KEE, July 11
Next Start: GI Kentucky Oaks, CD, Sept. 4
Equineline PPs. KY Oaks Points: 310.

We keep flip-flopping between Swiss Skydiver and Gamine for the top spot and return Swiss Skydiver to No. 1 after her second-place finish against males in the Blue Grass. Considering that she ran that well against the boys and had reeled off three straight graded stakes wins against fillies prior to that, she’s done more than enough to deserve top billing in the Oaks. She’s as solid as they come and there are no knocks against her. It’s going to take a freakishly talented filly to beat her, and Gamine may well be that good. But she’s going to have to prove it on the racetrack.

Still amazing to think that trainer Kenny McPeek found her at the sales for just $35,000. Would be fun to see her in the GI Kentucky Derby and she has enough points to get in, but McPeek and owner Peter Callahan have said she is likely to go next in Oaks.

2) GAMINE (Into MischiefPeggy Jane, by Kafwain)
‘TDN Rising Star’ O-Michael L. Petersen. B-Grace Thoroughbred Holdings LLC (KY). T-Bob Baffert. Sales History: $220,000 yrl ’18 KEESEP; $1,800,000 2yo ’19 FTMMAY. Lifetime Record: GISW, 3-3-0-0, $234,600.
Last Start: 1st GI Longines Acorn S., BEL, June 20
Next Start: GI Longines Test S., SAR, Aug. 8
Equineline PPs. KY Oaks Points: 50.

Considering that she turned in one of the best races by a 3-year-old filly in decades when destroying the opposition in the GI Acorn S, Gamine very well could turn out to be a superstar. As good as Swiss Skydiver is, Gamine may just be better. No one knows what the ceiling is. But she definitely has more to prove, most importantly her ability to win around two turns or at a mile and an eighth. She did win her only two-turn race, beating Speech in an allowance race at Oaklawn, but wasn’t nearly as explosive or impressive that day as she was in the one-mile, one-turn Acorn. Trainer Bob Baffert has said the GI Longines Test S. at seven furlongs may be next for Gamine, which make for an unusual route to the Kentucky Oaks. Is it an indication that he believes her best distance is shorter than nine furlongs?

3) SPEECH (Mr SpeakerScribbling Sarah, by Freud)
O-Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners. B-Gail Rice (FL). T-Michael W. McCarthy. Sales history: $65,000 ylg ’18 OBSWIN; $95,000 RNA ylg ’18 FTKJUL; $190,000 2yo ’19 OBSMAR. Lifetime Record: GISW, 7-2-4-1, $353,840.
Last Start: 1st GI Ashland S., KEE, July 11
Next Start: GI Kentucky Oaks, CD, Sept. 4
Equineline PPs. KY Oaks Points: 160.

If ever a horse were due for a big win.

Speech came into the Ashland having finished second in four straight races. She kept running into tough customers, whether it was Swiss Skydiver in the GII Santa Anita Oaks or Gamine in the Oaklawn allowance. The betting public thought it would happen again. Speech was the 4-1 second choice in the Ashland, while Venetian Harbor was sent off at 3-5. Venetian Harbor got the trip, getting a comfortable early lead. But Speech had no problem going by her. The losses to Swiss Skydiver and Gamine suggest that she will have a tough time beating the top two in the Oaks. She might just be a good filly who came around in the wrong year.

4) VENETIAN HARBOR (MunningsSounds of the City, by Street Cry {Ire})
O-Ciaglia Racing LLC, Highland Yard LLC, River Oak Farm & Dominic Savides. B-Colts Neck Stables LLC (KY). T-Richard Baltas. Sales History: $110,000 yrl ’18 KEESEP; $205,000 RNA 2yo ’19 OBSAPR. Lifetime Record: GSW & GISP, 5-2-3-0, $323,400.
Last Start: 2nd GI Ashland S., KEE, July 11
Next Start: To Be Determined
Equineline PPs. KY Oaks Points: 90.

This is a very talented filly, but probably not a Kentucky Oaks winner. The question with her all along has been how far does she want to go? After the Ashland, it’s pretty obvious that nine furlongs is a stretch for her. She made the lead easily and the pace was not fast, but she had no answer when Speech came to challenge her. The story was the same when she cleared the field in the Fantasy only to be run down by Swiss Skydiver. Her connections must now decide if they even want to try the Oaks or look for shorter races like the Test.

5) SHEDARESTHEDEVIL (Daredevil–Starship Warpspeed, by Congrats)
O-Flurry Racing Stables LLC, Qatar Racing Limited & Big Aut Farms. B-WinStar Farm, LLC (KY). T-Brad Cox. Sales History: $100,000 wlg ’17 KEENOV; $20,000 RNA yrl ’18 KEESEP; $280,000 2yo ’19 KEENOV. Lifetime Record: MGSW, 9-4-2-2, $501,768.
Last Start: 1st GIII Indiana Oaks, IND, July 8
Next Start: To Be Determined
Equineline PPs. KY Oaks Points: 90.

Rather than tackle the best of the division, trainer Brad Cox has been picking easier spots for Shedaresthedevil, a strategy that has been working. After winning an allowance at Churchill Downs by six lengths, she came back in the GIII Indiana Oaks, where she romped by five lengths. It’s gotten her back on track after she was a distant third in the GIII Fantasy S. at Oaklawn. She’ll need to step it up to be able to win the Oaks, but has at least proven she knows how to win. Her resume also includes a victory in the GIII Honeybee S.

6) TONALIST’S SHAPE (TonalistHitechnoweenie, by Harlan’s Holiday)
O-Slam Dunk Racing, Doug Branham & Legacy Ranch, Inc. B-Sabana Farm (KY). T-Saffie Joseph, Jr. Sales History: $45,000 RNA yrl ’18 KEESEP; $60,000 RNA 2yo ’19 OBSAPR. Lifetime Record: MGSW, 7-6-0-0, $357,425.
Last Start: 1st Hollywood Wildcat S., GP, May 15
Next Start: GI CCA Oaks S., SAR, July 18
Equineline PPs. KY Oaks Points: 60.

She was scratched out of the Ashland to go in the Coaching Club American Oaks. That’s a smart move by trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr., who, no doubt, figured out that the CCA Oaks was going to come up weak this year, a lot weaker than the Ashland. At six-for-seven lifetime, she has a remarkably good record. The lone defeat came in the Gulfstream Park Oaks, where she was a distant seventh to Swiss Skydiver as the 19-10 favorite. She came back to win the Hollywood Wildcat S. at Gulfstream, but didn’t face much that day. She will need to win the CCA Oaks convincingly to be considered a serious contender for the Kentucky Oaks.

7) SPICE IS NICE (CurlinDame Dorothy, by Bernardini)
‘TDN Rising Star’ O-Lawana L. & Robert E. Low. B-B. Flay Thoroughbreds LLC (KY). T-Todd Pletcher. Sales History: $1,050,000 Ylg ’18 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: GSP, 4-2-1-0, $106,080.
Last Start: 1st Alw/Opt. Clm., BEL, July 3
Next Start: GI Alabama S., SAR, Aug. 15
Equineline PPs. KY Oaks Points: 20.

A $1.05-million yearling purchase trained by Todd Pletcher, she fell out of the top 10 after a poor showing in the Gulfstream Park Oaks. She’s back after winning a July 3 allowance at Belmont, her first start in more than three months. She’ll go next in the mile-and-a-quarter Alabama. That means she’d have to come back in three weeks for the Oaks and cut back in distance. That’s not ideal, but neither is it impossible. She’s shown a lot of talent and the seven-figure price tag at the sales stands out. Should be getting better.

8) ENVOUTANTE (Uncle MoEnchante, by Bluegrass Cat)
O-Walking L Thoroughbreds LLC & Three Chimneys Farm; B-Jumping Jack Racing LLC (KY); T-Ken McPeek. Sales history: $250,000 Ylg ’18 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: GISP, 6-2-1-2, $125,748.
Last Start: 3rd GI Ashland S., KEE, July 11.
Next Start: GI Alabama S., SAR, Aug. 15. Equineline PPs.
KY Oaks Points: 20

Among the reasons Kenny McPeek gave for running Swiss Skydiver in the Blue Grass was that he felt he could still win the Ashland with Envoutante. Facing proven stakes horses, it was a tall order for a filly coming of an allowance win, but she didn’t embarrass herself. She finished third, beaten 6 3/4 lengths. She’s a late-developing filly who didn’t break her maiden until April, so she has every right to improve. A good showing in the Alabama could be her ticket into the Oaks.

9) BONNY SOUTH (MunningsTouch the Star, by Tapit)
O/B-Juddmonte Farms (Ky). T-Brad Cox. Lifetime Record: GSW, 5-3-0-0, $343,350.
Last Start: 4th GI Ashland S., KEE, July 11
Next Start: To Be Determined
Equineline PPs. KY Oaks Points: 110.

Unraced since winning the GII Fair Grounds Oaks on March 21, Bonny South didn’t show much in her return in the Ashland. She never seriously threatened and finished fourth in the five-horse field. With Beyer numbers in the mid-eighties, she appeared to be slower than her main rivals at Keeneland. Has more than enough points to get into the Oaks, but she would really have to improve to win a race at that level.

10) WATER WHITE (Conveyance–Uzume, by Unbridled’s Song)
O-E V Racing Stable; B-Richard Forbush (KY); T-Rudy Rodriguez. Sales history: $50,000 Ylg ’18 FTKOCT. Lifetime Record: SW, 7-2-2-1, $270,275.
Last Start: 3rd GI Acorn S., BEL, June 20
Next Start: GI Coaching Club American Oaks, SAR, July 18. Equineline PPs. Kentucky Oaks Points: 64

After you get past the top three or four, the list gets pretty thin. That’s why a horse like Water White makes it into the Top 10. Yes, she was beaten 19 1/4 lengths in the Acorn, but Gamine thrashed everybody that day.  She picked up most of her Oaks points when winning the Busher Invitational in her previous start. Probably not a serious contender for the Oaks.

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