07/11/2013 3:51PM

Weekend Warrior for July 13: Picks for American Oaks, A Gleam, American Derby

Barbara D. Livingston
Emollient has shown hints that she will adapt well to racing on turf for the first time in the American Oaks.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – All over the country Saturday, there is money up for grabs – more than $3 million in 11 graded stakes. And that means good stakes betting for horseplayers, with sizable fields on tap for many of those lucrative races.

Belmont Park has the richest race of the day, the $600,000 Man o’ War, but it is Betfair Hollywood Park and Arlington that offer the most graded races on their cards. And the Warrior will focus his gaze on those.

American Oaks

California has some elite horses in many divisions, but the 3-year-old grass division for fillies does not appear to be one. Throughout the spring and summer, these fillies have largely taken turns beating one another in stakes races, all the while running speed figures far below the norm for graded stakes events.

When one left town this spring – Birdlover, winner of the China Doll at Santa Anita and runner-up in the Providencia – she subsequently finished seventh in the Edgewood at Churchill Downs and sixth in the Hilltop at Pimlico.

That evidence suggests the American Oaks is ripe for a shipper to win. And that shipper is Emollient.

Although unraced on turf, the surface on which the American Oaks will be run at 1 1/4 miles, Emollient did stylishly win the Grade 1 Ashland on Keeneland’s synthetic Polytrack, a surface that many believe is a “tweener” between grass and dirt.

A Juddmonte Farm homebred, Emollient has been highly inconsistent over her career, but one could argue that has been due to racing mostly on dirt. If turf and not dirt proves her calling, she could start to turn in her ‘A’ race with more regularity.

A daughter of Empire Maker out of a Touch Gold mare Soothing Touch, Emollient’s pedigree doesn’t leap out as calling for the grass, but call up her entire pedigree page and there is no shortage of turf blood several generations into her pedigree.

Her dam, winless over six races, was essentially a grass horse, too – though not a fast one. She hit the board in three of four starts on turf before remaining a maiden after her sixth race.

Emollient seems to have relished the grass in recent works at Belmont Park, traveling swiftly over the surface.

With a 21-length thumping in the Black-Eyed Susan tarnishing her past performances, her price should be palatable in the 5-2 range. And remember, that last-race failure came after she stumbled at the start.

As evidenced by her Ashland triumph, she seems suited to racing freely on the lead – and against a field of turf horses, who go off at a slow tempo, she should have little trouble grabbing such a position.

Look for Emollient to lead throughout and withstand the rally of Starlet Strike, seemingly the best of the California fillies.

A Gleam Handicap

A race before the American Oaks on the Hollywood card is the A Gleam Handicap, a seven-furlong sprint for older fillies and mares on Cushion Track.

Teddy’s Promise and Byrama are the obvious favorites, with Teddy’s Promise at 5-2 on the morning line and Byrama listed at 3-1. But the A Gleam is not a two-mare race.

Rumor, who ran down Teddy’s Promise to win the Las Flores in March at Santa Anita, has an upset chance over a track where she has a win and a second in two starts.

She is 6-1 on the line, a nice price perhaps caused by a relatively dull performance when fifth in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff on Derby Day at Churchill Downs. But bear in mind that race was run in the slop, and Rumor, who had never raced on a wet surface, seemed uncomfortable over it.

She was even paced, and just seemed to go through the motions. But here’s the thing – she only lost that Grade 1 race by 2 1/2 lengths. So one is left to imagine what Rumor might do on a track she likes.

As for not having raced in slightly more than two months, she’s a filly who runs well with time between starts. Her trainer, Richard Mandella, gave her some easy works at Santa Anita through the middle of last month before picking things up with her in her last two works.

Sporting a record of 2 wins, 2 seconds, and a third in 5 races on synthetic tracks, Rumor has every reason to run as well as she did in winning the Las Flores on dirt at Santa Anita in March.

American Derby

Among the stakes at Arlington on Saturday, the American Derby holds the most wagering appeal because Dorsett seems likely to get overlooked, judging from his 8-1 morning line.

Facing many of the same runners as when he was competitive in the Arlington Classic, a race in which he crossed the wire third, only to be placed fourth for interference by the stewards, he now has the benefit of an additional start. Racing June 15, Dorsett kicked into gear late to win against a first-level allowance field of mostly older horses.

He seems on the upswing, and given that he was only a length behind General Election and a head behind morning-line favorite Admiral Kitten in the Arlington Classic on May 25, he doesn’t have a lot of ground to make up on his rivals.