Updated on 09/18/2011 1:13AM

Polar opposites clash in Indiana Oaks


There is an interesting dichotomy of contenders in Friday's Grade 3, $400,000 Indiana Breeders' Cup Oaks at Hoosier Park. One group of fillies have come to the fore over the past several months and hope to build on their new-found success. The other group, which includes some nationally recognizable names, are looking to rebound from sub-par efforts that have tarnished their reputations, if only temporarily.

Indeed, the four graded stakes winners entered in the Oaks are equally represented in the two camps. Cryptoquip and Miraculous Miss come into Friday's race in the best form of their careers, while Baghdaria and Wild Fit will each try to reclaim some of their past glory. In addition to those four, the 1 1/16-mile Oaks has attracted at handful of others with a legitimate chance to win, making it an outstanding betting race.

Miraculous Miss, who was cross-entered in Saturday's Cotillion Handicap at Philadelphia Park, has won six of her seven career starts, four of them graded, with her only loss occurring in the slop. She has yet to race beyond a mile, but her powerful stretch kick, showcased most recently in the Endine Handicap at Delaware, suggests she might handle the added ground.

A dearth of pace in the Arlington Oaks prompted jockey Robby Albarado to send Cryptoquip to the lead, which she did not relinquish in the 1 1/8-mile Grade 3 contest. But her trainer, Tom Proctor, doesn't feel she needs the lead. "I think she'll be stalking," he said.

Baghdaria, who earned a 99 Beyer winning the Iowa Oaks in June, makes her first start since a 35 1/2-length defeat in the Coaching Club American Oaks, which trainer Tom Amoss afterwards blamed on the muddy track and the sweltering heat the race was contested in.

Wild Fit, second best among the nation's 2-year-old fillies last year, has not progressed as expected and enters off consecutive last-place finishes in New York. Perhaps a more likely candidate to rebound is Ermine, the Kentucky Oaks runner-up who was also cross-entered in the Cotillion. Ermine makes her first start since a fifth-place effort in the Acorn, a one-turn mile.

A sentimental choice in the Oaks is Maggie Slew, an Indiana-bred and a member of the final crop by Seattle Slew. Maggie Slew was narrowly beaten in both the Iowa Oaks and the Gardenia before checking in last of five in last month's Arlington Matron.

Coolwind, the Arlington Oaks runner-up, and Political Web, recent winner of the Torrey Pines at Del Mar, are improving at the right time and can figure in the mix.

Lady Blue Sky aiming high

Lady Blue Sky, claimed for $5,000 at Mountaineer in June, has a chance to recoup that investment and a lot more in the $40,000 Richmond Stakes for Indiana-bred fillies and mares on Friday.

The beaten favorite in a $15,000 claimer and two starter allowances since being claimed, Lady Blue Sky nonetheless deserves a long look in the 1 1/16-mile Richmond, for she was the runner-up in the race last year and subsequently won the Merrillville Stakes, also for Indiana-breds.

Bright One tops Indiana Derby

Bright One is the likely favorite in Saturday's Grade 2, $500,000 Indiana Derby, which attracted a field of 12 when entries were taken Wednesday.

A dominating winner of three of his four starts, including the Grade 3 West Virginia Derby, Bright One will start from post 9 for trainer Dale Romans and will be ridden by Mark Guidry.

Bright One's stiffest competition may come from Smokeyjonessutton and Lewis Michael, the two-three finishers in the St. Louis Derby, and Dr. Pleasure, who finished a distant third behind Bernardini in the Travers.