04/28/2011 12:22PM

Kentucky Oaks Through Beyer Glasses

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Much has been written about how none of this year’s final Kentucky Derby preps were run fast enough to have received a triple digit Beyer Figure (with a Beyer of 98, the Arkansas Derby was the fastest final prep). But not much has been written about the interesting Beyer Figure situation concerning the Kentucky Oaks fillies. So we’ll try to remedy that.

What follows is the current list of the 14 fillies on Churchill Downs’s Kentucky Oaks website who have sufficient graded earnings to start (yes, like the Derby, graded earnings may be needed this year to cap the size of the Oaks field), with their top two career Beyers on dirt:

R Heat Lightning – 100, 98

Plum Pretty – 99, 79

Arienza – 90, 83

Zazu – 89, 89

Kathmanblu – 86, 83 (she does own a 93 on turf)

Summer Soiree – 85, 73 (she has a 92 on synthetic)

Daisy Devine – 84, 80

Joyful Victory – 83, 82

St. John’s River – 83, 77

Inglorious – 81, 79

Bouquet Booth – 80, 78

Holy Heavens – 79, 79

Delightful Mary – 78 in her only dirt start (she does have an 86 on synthetic)

Lilacs and Lace – 29 in her debut in her only dirt start (she earned an 87 on synthetic)

Obviously, the gap from the top two down to the rest is striking, and might feel even bigger after Plum Pretty is placed under the microscope.

Plum Pretty won her debut last fall, and then finished third in the Santa Ynez and Las Virgenes in her first two starts this year, earning respective Beyers of 75, 77, and 79. She then exploded to that 99 last time out in her 25 length romp at 1-20 in the Sunland Park Oaks. Now, Plum Pretty could easily be an example of a young, lightly raced filly improving suddenly and dramatically, as those with quality will often do. But it is also plausible that the optimal conditions of the Sunland Park Oaks – weak competition and easy trip – enabled Plum Pretty to earn a Beyer that was aberrational, and one that would be difficult for her to approach under more competitive conditions.

R Heat Lightning was in a somewhat similar position after she earned her 98 Beyer when she ran away with the Davona Dale Stakes at Gulfstream in February. That figure was so dramatically higher than her previous best – higher by 16 big Beyer points, to be precise – that it was easy to be skeptical of it, especially since she had already started six times. But the big difference here was, unlike what Plum Pretty trounced at Sunland, R Heat Lightning thrashed some capable graded stakes winners in the Davona Dale.

Of course, the other big difference is that R Heat Lightning returned last time out in the Gulfstream Park Oaks and backed up the big Beyer she received in the Davona Dale. In fact, she bettered it by two points while again scoring by a lopsided margin.

So, depending on what you think of Plum Pretty’s number at Sunland, what we could have with R Heat Lightning in the Kentucky Oaks, from a Beyer standpoint, anyway, is a potential mismatch.