06/06/2006 11:00PM

Recent trend points to Seductively


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Picking the winner of the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, to be run Sunday, was easy the past few years, if you simply went with the winner of the most important Oaks prep, the 1 1/16-mile Selene Stakes.

Each of the last three winners of the Selene, an open event, returned to capture the Oaks, a nine-furlong race for Canadian-breds. They were Gold Strike (2005), Eye of the Sphynx (2004), and Too Late Now (2003). Ginger Gold, victorious in the 2002 Oaks, was coming off a runner-up placing in the Selene.

Over the last 10 years, 24 Selene starters came back to contest the Oaks, producing four winners, five second-place finishers, and a pair of thirds.

This year's gate-to-wire Selene winner, Seductively, should be the Oaks favorite. She brings the highest last-start Beyer Speed Figure, an 87, and should be extra tough if the track is favoring speed. Front-runners have taken five of the last 10 runnings of the Oaks.

This year's Selene was postponed three days, and Seductively will be returning on 2 1/2 weeks' rest. The Grade 3 race was run three weeks prior to the Oaks in 2004-05.

Fillies going straight from the seven-furlong Fury Stakes to the Oaks were victorious in four consecutive runnings, from 1997-2000. They were, in order, Capdiva, Kirby's Song, Touch Dial, and Catch the Ring. Capdiva, Touch Dial, and Catch the Ring all scored without ever having been around two turns.

Strike Softly, third in the May 7 Fury, has made all three of her starts at seven furlongs and will be running for just the second time this year in the Oaks. No filly has won the Oaks after having started just once in the same calendar year.

Strike Softly's owner, Sam-Son Farm, has won the Oaks a record seven times.

Woodbine has been hit hard by a virus this spring, which has affected a large chunk of the horse population, including the Fury runner-up, Like a Gem. She caught the virus on top of what was going to be her final prep Oaks tune-up, in the Selene, and had to be scratched. It leaves her without a two-turn race this year, but she did finish a close second in the 1 1/16-mile Ontario Lassie Stakes in December.

Like a Gem missed some training because of the virus, but has started three times this year, and managed to beat Seductively in her April 15 allowance triumph.

The Lady Angela Stakes, a seven-furlong sprint for Ontario-sired fillies, has been a poor Oaks prep over the years. This year's winner, London Snow, has a never run beyond seven-eighths, but possesses some stamina in her pedigree.

The 37 fillies exiting an allowance race since 1996 have a record of 1-3-5 in the Oaks. The lone winner in the group was Silent Fleet in 1996.

The top two finishers in a May 13 allowance - Sweet Breanna and Kimchi - could have an impact in the Oaks.

Sweet Breanna won that 1 1/16-mile allowance by 5 1/4 lengths after stalking a rapid pace, earning an 84 Beyer. Kimchi was rank in the early stages, and should settle better in the Oaks without blinkers, which she has worn in each of her five outings.

Wedded Woman is returning from a two-month layoff after placing in a pair of grass allowances at Gulfstream.

Just four Oaks starters since 1996 were exiting a turf race. One of them ran third, and the other three were unplaced.

From a historical perspective, Seductively is the most likely Oaks winner. The possible spoilers include Sweet Breanna and Kimchi, both of whom appear to be coming up to the race in peak form.