The Derby/Oaks future wager is exactly like buying a lottery ticket—nothing more than a wild-ass chance that you’ve gamble on the right horse—and judging by my past future wagers, it’s more like the kiss of death for a horse’s chances of even making it to the starting gate come early May. So, be forewarned if you are considering Dullahan (26-1) and Avie’s Sense (44-1), as I took a flyer on them in Pool 2 (Pool 1 for the Oaks). I’ve already penned my thoughts on Dullahan, but the filly Avie’s Sense came on my radar as an Oaks contender just before her nice runner-up performance in the G3 Rachel Alexandra. Yes, the Josie Carroll-trainee is a bit green, but this daughter of Street Sense is beautifully bred for the Oaks distance, being out of the Lord Avie mare Fly for Avie who not only won the 10-furlong G1 E. P. Taylor over the Woodbine turf, but was also a stakeswinner going 12 furlongs.
Looking at the final odds, I’m now wishing that I’d put something on Battle Hardened (59-1) and Mark Valeski (38-1), as well as gutsy filly Inny Minnie (66-1). Not part of the individual choices, Sagamore Farm’s Millionreasonswhy made a spectacular 2012 debut at Laurel on Saturday, winning the 7-furlong Wide Country Stakes. Winner of the G2 Matron, she finished just a neck back of My Miss Aurelia in last August’s G2 Adirondack—carrying four pounds more than the subsequent Eclipse winner. Her connections indicated post-race that she’s likely for the G3 Comely (April 1) and then the Kentucky Oaks (May 4). A daughter of Grand Slam, Millionreasonswhy is out of the A.P. Indy mare In Secure, but much of her damline performers were/are sprinters so it remains to be seen if she can get the Oaks’ distance.
One that undoubtedly could have is Stephanie’s Kitten, but last week it was announced that she’ll be aimed for June’s Royal Ascot meet and the G1 Coronation Stakes, with a seasonal return planned for the G1 Ashland at Keeneland on April 7. Unlike previous Ramsey horses, this one has a real chance to dominate her European competition—I’m a big fan of hers.
Another blog favorite headed to Royal Ascot (via Dubai) is Aussie mare Ortensia. Once trained by Tony Noonan, Ortensia’s new trainer Paul Messara plans to contest the Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup day, and then the G1 King’s Stand, avoiding Black Caviar who’ll run in the G1 Diamond Jubilee.
By the way, in case you haven’t been paying attention, the fillies Down Under are rocking this year. Beyond the incomparable Black Caviar, there are also 3-year-olds Mosheen and Silent Achiever, each of whom won G1 open company races this past weekend: the Australian Guineas and New Zealand Derby, respectively. One of the juvenile superstars heading towards the Australian Triple Crown is Samaready, who recently captured the G1 Blue Diamond Stakes (a race, incidentally, where the top three finishers were fillies), but Gai Waterhouse has the excellent Fastnet Rock filly Driefontein aimed that way too. It should be an excellent Sydney autumn carnival.
Speaking of great fillies, on Sunday, Eight Belles’ full-brother Unbridled’s Way made his debut for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and owners Darley, finishing a distant (but promising) second in a 6-furlong maiden special weight at Gulfstream. He got a slow start, lollygagged at the rear of the field and then starting picking horses off coming around the final turn—when it appears he twisted himself around and gawked at the grandstand! Still, without getting whipped, he easily passed all but the winner, and should improve next out (maybe with blinkers?) especially if stretched out farther. Interestingly, he’s not gray.
Last August I wrote a piece on a real grinder, Collect Art, a damline descendent of Foolish Pleasure (through his daughter Idyllic’s son Scenic); in a 6-month period he ran 20 times, winning six and finishing out of the money only five times. Well, after being sold at Tattersalls last October, he’s re-emerged in Qatar where he won the G3 Invitation Cup last week.
And speaking of grinders, how exciting is it that 9-year-old Awesome Gem is being aimed at the $1 million Charles Town Classic on April 14? Honestly, his appearance would totally be worth the trip there. Road trip anyone?