Updated on 09/15/2011 1:38PM

Tale of two Oaks: Where are the stars?


ELMONT, N.Y. - Even though 22 hopefuls were entered for Saturday's pair of 3-year-old filly stakes at Belmont and Delaware Park, you will not get to see any of the top five divisional leaders from the Watchmaker Watch in either Oaks race.

In fact, after the defection of Flute from the Delaware Oaks, only two currently among that top 10 list are running: Starrer, the morning-line favorite for the Coaching Club American Oaks at Belmont; and Caressing, last year's juvenile filly champ, who is barely on the radar screen at No. 10, and looking to rebound in the Delaware Oaks after a disappointing effort in the Acorn.

This year's running of the CCA. Oaks came up exceptionally light, with Starrer and Tap Dance the only graded stakes winners in a field of eight. Considering that Tap Dance was up the track in the Mother Goose at 20-1 last time out, Starrer deserves to be favored because she brings some class and sharp recent form to the table.

If Starrer runs back to her Princess score at Hollywood Park last out, everyone else is running for second money. The $64 question is whether she can handle the stretch to 1 1/2 miles. That is an unknown with the others too, but the distance issue with Starrer may be troubling to students of form, who wonder if one lifetime route race followed by one local workout is sufficient preparation for a once-around Big Sandy.

"She seems to like the track at Belmont. The tracks in California are a lot firmer than those back east," said Starrer's trainer, David Hofmans, who sent out the tender-footed Touch Gold to derail Silver Charm's Triple Crown bid in the 1997 Belmont Stakes. "Belmont is deeper than any track she's run on, so I wanted to get her a work over the track to see how she'd handle it."

Starrer's main foe is Exogenous, an improving filly who has the benefit of three races over the track. After graduating from the maiden ranks last fall at the expense of two-time Grade 1 winner Fleet Renee, Exogenous wintered in Florida without running, and returned at Belmont this spring with a pair of allowance wins, followed by a third-place finish in the Mother Goose despite a less-than-perfect trip. In the Mother Goose, she was jostled around while lacking room in the upper stretch and was beaten less than a length for second while running on the deeper inside footing.

Caressing a tough filly to figure out

A dozen will be left in the Delaware Oaks, which, at 1 1/16 miles, features a short run to the first turn. Considering their post positions, that could mean that Poetically is in an ideal spot to reverse a one-length loss to Quick Blue in the Canadian-bred Bison City at Fort Erie three weeks ago.

Poetically, who ran Queen's Plate and Woodbine Oaks winner Dancethruthedawn to a half-length decision in just her second career route attempt last fall, breaks from the inside post and drops three pounds off the Fort Erie race. Quick Blue, who had the benefit of the rail post and an easy lead last time, is stuck out in post 12, and must pick up eight pounds for the rematch. Edge to Poetically.

The nagging question in the Delaware Oaks is: What happened to Caressing last time out? After overcoming a rough start for a last-to-first score in the La Troienne in her seasonal bow, she backed up badly through the final quarter of the Acorn as the 5-2 second choice. If she runs back to her best figures, she's in the mix, and this will be her first time back in a two-turn route since winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

A pet peeve

Simulcast bettors keeping score at home, take this multiple choice pop quiz:

What do these three races from last Saturday - Monmouth's Inside Information Stakes, Calder's Carry Back Stakes, and Belmont's ninth race [the anchor leg of a pick four] have in common?

A: They all ran simultaneously.

If you said "A - they all ran simultaneously," you are absolutely correct! Your prize is continued indifference from racetracks across the nation. Thanks for playing our little game!