05/04/2012 12:26PM

2012 Oaks Day



12:25 pm: Still fast and clear at Churchill Downs, with a third of the Kentucky Oaks card already in the books. The stakes action (and the pick-6, guaranteed at $200k) is scheduled to begin in an hour at 1:26 pm, when last year's Oaks winner, Plum Pretty, will be odds-on in a field of six in the G2 La Troienne at a mile and a sixteenth. Her opponents inclluude St. John River, who fell just a head short of catching her in the 2011 Oaks but who will be making her first start since August.

One horse I'm particularly looking forward to watching run today is Nates Mineshaft, who earned a whizbang Beyer Speed Figure of 113 winning the New Orleans Handicap April 1st, the highest dirt BSF of the year and second among all U.S. races so far this year only to the 117 that Wise Dan got for his Polytrack runaway in the Ben Ali at Keeneland April 22nd.

I'm still trying to decide which of the multirace exotics to chase today. The pick-6, pick-5 and late pik-4 all end with the Oaks. On one hand, Plum Pretty might be a free bingo square to kick off the pick-6, making it effectively a pick-5, but one with a $2 minimum as opposed to the 50-cent increment available on the Actual Pick Five on races 7-11.


1:35 pm: Carryover into Derby Day? Five races to go in the Pick-6 sequence, but Juanita's 16-1 upset in the La Troienne, with St. John River second and Plum Pretty a tired third at 2-5, must have knocked out most of the world.

"There was no excuse," said Rafael Bejarano, who rode Plum Pretty. "She had a good trip. There was no pressure, but she just quit in the stretch."

I passed up the not-so-free bingo square and the pick-6 so that I could include more goofy horses in the next five at the lower minimum. Here's the pick-5 play:



2:15 pm: Contested ($4.20) looked like an emerging force in the 3-year-old filly division winning the G3 EIght Belles in a runaway and stopping the timer in a sharp stakes-record 1:21.29.

The daughter of Ghostzapper, a $110k yearling owned by Natalie Baffert and trained by husband Bob Baffert, was winning her third straight start after being edged in her debut last September.

The Acorn, a one-turn mile at Belmont May 28, seems like a logical next step for her.

A victory there could make her Ghostzapper's second Grade 1 winner. For loads of extra credit, can you name his only G1 winner so far? I sure couldn't until I looked it up. Hint: It came over Polytrack in 2010.


2:45 pm: Loads of extra credit to commenters Anne and James P. for coming up with Stately Victor, winner of the 2010 Blue Grass. He ran 8th in the Derby.


3:30 pm: Stephanie's Kitten ($4.00), last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Fillies winner, was a comfortable winnerwas a comfortable winner of the Edgewood Stakes, grinding past front-runner Welcome Dance and holding off Firehouse Red. The Kitten's Joy filly, owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey and trained by Wayne Catalano, is being considered for a start at Royal Ascot next month. That would be a sporting and interesting adventure, but I have to think she'd be considered an outsider racing against top Europeans on their own turf.


4:10 pm: Successful Dan ($10.20) wore down Fort Larned to win the G2 Alysheba by half a length, with favorite Mucho Macho Man third at 8-5 and Nates Mineshaft 6th at 2-1. The winner's time of 1:41.04 was the third straight stakes record of the afternoon, and looks pretty good compared to the two other races at the distance today -- 1:44.82 for 3-year-old allowance fillies and 1:42.82 for the La Troienne.

Looks like there will be a new leader in the weekly NTRA "Top Thoroughbred Poll" on Monday: Mucho Macho Man was the top choice of 25 of the 42 voters last week. Might be the Derby winner.

With $77k in the win pool (all ontrack) -- well under 1 percent of the likely nationwide total by 6:30 pm tomorrow -- Union Rags is the 6-1 favorite, followed by Bodemeister, Gemologist and Hansen all at 7-1 and Take Charge Indy at 8-1. If you're wondering why Take Charge Indy (15-1 ML) is such a low price among the very casual Oaks Day bettors who play the race a day in advance, remember who's riding him.


4:32 pm : It was just announced over the PA system that "A thunderstorm with heavy winds is approaching Churchill Downs" and that "As a result we are currently in a weather delay."

The infield is being evacuated. The storm is expected to hit around 5 pm but forecasters say it should move through quickly.


5:00 pm: Weather Delay still in effect as the fast-moving storms pass through Louisville.

Coverage of the Oaks, scheduled for 5 to 6 pm, just beginning on NBC Sports Network (consult your local listings -- it's Channel 146 here on Cablevision on Long Island.)


5:10 pm: Post time for the 10th, the American Turf, has been reset for 5:30, suggesting the Oaks should go sometime between 6:15 and 6:30 pm.


5:45 pm: Silver Max (5-1) wired the American Turf in a repeat of his front-running Transylvania at Keeneland last month.

The race had some scary moments after Javier Castellano fell from Star Channel at the top of the stretch. The NBC cameras cut away from the stretch run to show a motionless Castellano on the turf course, and some viewers probably thought the worst then and for aminute after the race because nobody pointed out that riders are always told to remain motionless until medical attention arrives. Castellano was sitting up a few moments later, though, and smiling a minute later when he stood up -- shaken up and with an abrasion on his left cheekbone. Castellano is scheduled to ride Grace Hall in the upcoming Oaks and at the moment is reportedly asking to keep the mount. Star Channel finished the race on his own and appeared to gallop out and pull up uninjured.


6:05 pm: Looks like 8 of the 14 Oaks runners are covered in the Pick-6 -- #'s 1 through 6 plus 8 and 10. If one of the six others win, there will be a $268k carryover into Derby Day.


6:40 pm: Believe You Can's upset victory in a virtual match race of a Kentucky Oaks means that there's a $268,897.40 pick-6 carryover into Derby Day.

Believe You Can stalked Broadway's Alibi from the outside from the start, wresting the lead for good in midstretch and holding off a very game Broadway's Alibi to the wire under Rosie Napravnik. That messed up my multirace bets but not as badly as it did for the six people who would have gotten $44k for 6-of-6 had Broadway's Alibi won.

First post tomorrow is 10:30 am and most of the day's racing will be available on tv -- NBC Sports Network coverage runs from 11 am to 4 pm, with NBC preoper taking over from 4 to 7.