04/25/2012 9:07AM

A Quick Look at the Oaks


While there has been a lot of discussion over what many feel will be a fast pace in the Kentucky Derby, the Kentucky Oaks seems like it has an even better chance for a hot, potentially destructive pace scenario.

An analysis of the 16 fillies listed by Churchill Downs as candidates for the Oaks through Tuesday suggests that they can almost be broken into two distinct groups in terms of predominant running style demonstrated to date. Let’s take a look:

Speed/Front Runners

Believe You Can – Game winner of the Fair Grounds Oaks after disputing a strong pace; front-running winner of the Silverbulletday.

Broadway’s Alibi – Front-running winner of graded stakes in her last two, both around one turn.

Eden’s Moon – Beaten favorite in the Santa Anita Oaks when denied the early lead she had when she won the Las Virgenes.

In Lingerie – Both of her wins, including the Bourbonette Oaks, came on the lead.

Mamma Kimbo – Front-running winner of the Fantasy after showing speed sprinting in her successful debut.

Yara – Disputed the pace when the upset winner of the Davona Dale two starts back; early pacesetter in the Gulfstream Park Oaks.

Effective Stalking From Close Range

Amie’s Dini – Prompted the pace when she won the Martha Washington and finished second in the Fantasy.

Has Won Or Finished Second Routing From More Than Two Lengths Off The Lead

And Why Not – Came from way back to be second in the Pocahontas over the track last fall.

Grace Hall – Rallied from eighth to be a clear second at Churchill last fall in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies; rallied from closer range to win the Gulfstream Park Oaks.

Hard Not to Like – Won from off the pace on turf last year; rallied from closer range when second in the Ashland.

Jemima’s Pearl – Scored from off the pace in her U.S. debut in March; rallying third in the Fantasy.

Karlovy Vary – Although she posted a front-running upset in the Ashland, she won from off the pace on turf one start before that.

On Fire Baby- Won the Golden Rod on the lead over the track last fall, but rallied from off the pace when she won the Pocahontas before that, and rallied from closer range when she won the Honeybee.

Summer Applause – Won the Rachel Alexandra from off the pace; just missed from off the pace in the Fair Grounds Oaks.

Current Also Eliglbles

Colonial Empress – A maiden after three starts (all in stakes), and has no successful running style yet.

Oaks Lilly – Just broke her maiden from well off the pace.

Quick assessment: Although there are some fine fillies in the speed category (specifically, I think Broadway’s Alibi and Mamma Kimbo are especially nice horses), the strength of this Oaks seems to be in the closer’s group. And the fact that the Oaks might set up perfectly for them makes them look all the more imposing. Grace Hall and On Fire Baby are obvious and will be, I believe, the first two betting favorites. But at this still early stage, I am intrigued with the improving Jemima’s Pearl, and Summer Applause.