03/18/2011 9:28AM

Talking Kentucky Oaks


The total win pool in last weekend’s Kentucky Oaks Future Wager was small, only $63,804, so drawing broad, concrete conclusions from the closing odds in this bet would be a mistake. Nevertheless, it is interesting seeing what even a small slice of the betting public thought about nearly all of the leading 3-year-old fillies in the country.

First off, it should be noted that the segment of the betting public that did delve into the KOFW did not have the opportunity to assess the highly ranked Santa Anita Oaks winner Turbulent Descent. She was not selected to be an individual KOFW betting interest because her connections have announced that she is not being pointed to the Kentucky Oaks. That aside, it was striking how attention was focused on six KOFW individual betting interests at the expense of virtually everyone else. These six fillies all closed at odds of 10-1 or lower, with a huge gap out to the next lowest priced filly, who closed at exactly 23.50-1. These six fillies even performed well against the ever popular “all other” Future Wager option, which closed at 9.90-1. Let’s take a look at them:

KATHMANBLU, closing odds of 3.70-1 – The clear-cut favorite in the KOFW has won three straight, including a blow out win in the Golden Rod Stakes last November over the same Churchill Downs main track the Kentucky Oaks will be run on. That Kathmanblu was the favorite was no surprise, but that she was such an emphatic one was. Although Kathmanblu won the Golden Rod by 8 ½ lengths, she beat little in that race and did not run especially fast (86 Beyer Figure). She had to work harder than expected when she won the Rachel Alexandra last time out on dirt and again did not run fast (83 Beyer). Kathmanblu’s Rachel Alexandra was not as impressive as her win in the Sweetest Chant Stakes on the turf in her first start this year, either visually or against the clock (90 Beyer). That leads yours truly to suspect that while Kathmanblu certainly handles dirt, she is, at least at the moment, better on turf.

ZAZU, 7.00-1 – She handed Turbulent Descent the first loss of her career when she won the Las Virgenes two starts back, and ran that rival to a neck most recently in the Santa Anita Oaks. Zazu has clearly progessed from 2 to 3, but how much, and is it enough? The 89 Beyer Zazu earned in the Las Virgenes is a career best. She received only an 88 in the Santa Anita Oaks.

JOYFUL VICTORY, 7.90-1 – She had a decent juvenile campaign finishing third in the Frizette and fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, and she returned with blinkers on to humble her field in the Honeybee Stakes. But again here, the question is, is Joyful Victory fast enough? Even with the blinkers on and the fact that she romped by almost nine lengths, Joyful Victory’s Honeybee Beyer was only an 82. The sense is she got inordinate attention in the KOFW because her Honeybee performance came during the betting period. She was the only one of this group of six who did race during the wagering period.

R HEAT LIGHTNING, 9.00-1 – A win in the Spinaway, and seconds in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, Frizette, and Colleen last year made her one of the three divisional Eclipse Award finalists, along with Turbulent Descent, and sidelined champion Awesome Feather. But the knock on R Heat Lightning was she was not fast. The 82 she got for finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup was the only time she cracked an 80 in five total starts last year and in her first start this season. But everything changed in R Heat Lightning’s most recent start in the Davona Dale. She turned in by far her best and most explosive effort yet, winning off by more than seven lengths in time that earned her a 98 Beyer. No one knows right now if R Heat Lightning’s Davona Dale was a one-time fluke or the announcement of her emergence. But this was by far the best performance by an Oaks aspirant so far this year, which makes it surprising she didn’t receive more KOFW support.

DANCINGINHERDREAMS, 10.20-1 – She looked every bit a potential Kentucky Oaks winner when she ran off and hid in both of her starts last year, including the Pocahontas Stakes over the Churchill main track. And she lost little standing when she lost for the first time in the Forward Gal Stakes in her first start this year because she was a rapidly gaining second off a three month layoff. But Dancinginherdreams did slip in stature in the Davona Dale. She was completely outrun by R Heat Lightning, and only just got up for second over a weary opponent. What’s more, Dancinginherdreams has a stagnant Beyer pattern, the 84 she earned in the Davona Dale being only two points better than her Forward Gal, and only matching her Pocahontas. I suppose Dancinginherdreams, like any of these fillies, can suddenly break through as R Heat Lightning did in her last start. But given the wide disparity between these two in their most recent starts, I didn’t think they would be as close together in the closing odds as they were.

IT’S TRICKY, 10.80-1 – She is aptly named, because she is a very tricky read. She is 3 for 3, with all her starts coming since late last fall at Aqueduct. She won the Busher Stakes there most recently over nothing, but did so by eight lengths and in fast enough time for an 88 Beyer. But It’s Tricky is also a filly who up until just a few weeks was not a member of trainer Kiaran McLaughlin’s first string in Florida.