05/01/2013 2:31PM

Kentucky Oaks final clocker's report: Midnight Lucky gets the nod


The following are my impressions of the 10 Kentucky Oaks starters, based on what I’ve observed here over the past 12 days.

Silsita was completely overmatched by her workmate, Unlimited Budget, when the pair teamed up Saturday, going five furlongs in a respectable 1:00.05 but while under considerable pressure attempting to keep pace with her undefeated mate through the final furlong.

Midnight Lucky has been nothing short of sensational in her two local works. After breezing what can only be described as an “easy” six furlongs in 1:12.36 on April 22, she returned with an even more remarkable drill six days later, totally dominating her male partner, Code West, while simply cruising five furlongs in 59:04 seconds before “galloping” out six furlongs in 1:11.92 and pulling up seven panels in 1:25.39. She may be short on experience, but is very, very large on talent.

Beholder did the majority of her serious training for the Oaks in California, where she appeared to rate and finish willingly enough in her final work last Thursday. The reigning juvenile filly champ appeared a little stiff in her first visit over the track but got better and better as the week progressed.

Unlimited Budget has looked as impressive as any of the Oaks fillies here over the last 10 days, with her final work Saturday as good as it gets. Going in company with Silsita, she appeared to be doing little more than galloping through a 34.86-second opening three-eighths split, then continued on willingly, without a hint of pressure, completing five-eighths in 59.57 before galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.73. She could not be doing any better.

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 Seaneen Girl  bounced back from a hard-to-explain five-eighths breeze in 1:06 and change April 24 by blowing out an easy and credible looking half-mile under Rosie Napravnik in 48.89 five days later, but she did not do much during the gallop-out.

 Princess of Sylma r has been overshadowed by a couple of her more publicized mates, but she’s trained well here and finished smartly, with a final quarter in 23.87, and galloped out strong after a 48.88 half-mile breeze Saturday. She could be a sleeper, if the pace gets too hot.

 Pure  Fun has  not worked since finishing seventh against males in the Grade 3 Lexington on April 20, but looked fine blowing out over the track Tuesday and better than I remember when seeing her train at Gulfstream this winter.

Dreaming of Julia had her big work April 20 when galloping out very strongly, albeit with some urging, after an extremely easy-looking 48-and-change half-mile and, as a result, was not allowed to do much more than gallop along in hand during her final 50.60-second half-mile breeze the following weekend. The Oaks morning-line favorite exits a huge performance and is hard to fault off anything seen from her here this week.

Rose to Gold has trained very well since arriving here and couldn’t have gone any easier while hugging the fence with jockey Calvin Borel, breezing a half-mile in 47.68 before galloping out a solid six furlongs in 1:13.37 into and around the turn in her final Oaks prep. The Cinderella filly is doing well, but is perhaps a bit overmatched in this spot.

Close Hatches is another one hitting all her marks here over the past 10 to 12 days, so sharp in fact that trainer Bill Mott needed to equip her in draw reins to keep her from being too aggressive and too strong during her routine gallops. She also couldn’t have looked any better while breezing an easy half-mile in 47.56 and galloping out a strong five furlongs in 1:00.73 on Sunday. Unfortunately, she must overcome the far-outside post.

Oaks selections

From top to bottom, this is one of the most quality-laden Oaks fields ever, and it’s tough to separate a handful of leading contenders. But from a clocker’s perspective, I must give Midnight Lucky, who may prove the speed of the speed and the one to catch, a slight edge over Unlimited Budget, followed closely by Dreaming of Julia and Close Hatches (tough post).