07/23/2009 12:00AM

Wynning Ride intriguing in CCA Oaks


ELMONT, N.Y. - Had Rachel Alexandra run in Saturday's Coaching Club American Oaks, she would've been the same 1-20 she was in the Mother Goose. She awaits a far more ambitious assignment in the Haskell Invitational a week from Sunday, however, so the door is ajar for any among eight lesser lights to pick up a Grade 1 title.

Indeed, anyone who makes it to the starting gate can win this 93rd edition of the CCA Oaks without it being termed a major upset, and I have to admit being surprised at how little firepower it's taken to win the majority of the Oak's most recent renewals. According to the 2009 edition of the "American Racing Manual," 12 of the last 17 winners have not broached the triple-digit plateau of Beyer Speed Figures, including Spoken Fur's low of 88 back in 2003.

An 88 may be about all it takes to win this one: The top figure, a 93, belongs to What a Pear, who received that number for a 10-length score in the Busher Stakes in the dead of winter at Aqueduct; problem is, she has been laid off since finishing up the Polytrack in the Ashland and likewise in a sloppy Bouwerie on the first Sunday at Belmont. Besides that 93, her next-best figure is a 79, and it's hard to imagine she's ready to go 1 1/4 miles Saturday.

Cases for/against the others abound, with all except Devotee having run figures in the narrow range of 87-91.

Consider that:

* The connections of Funny Moon, the 5-2 morning-line favorite, are praying to the Mau-Mau for rain, because the daughter of Malibu Moon has won on good, muddy, and sloppy tracks but has lost both of her starts on fast dirt, including an abysmal performance in the Acorn at 4-1.

* Second choice Livin Lovin has run exactly once since winning the Grade 3 Tempted nearly nine months ago.

* Casanova Move, the 4-1 third choice, is still eligible for first-level allowance conditions.

* Hightap, the most accomplished member of the group with two Grade 3 wins in the Dogwood and Iowa Oaks, was hard-pressed to win the latter race with a figure of 82.

* Besides Hightap, the only other entrant to have won a graded stakes this year is Florida Oaks winner Don't Forget Gil, another New York-bred who has been idle since a last-place finish in the Black-Eyed Susan the day before the Preakness.

Talk about opportunity knocking.

I had to pick someone, and clearly it wasn't about the talent level, so I deferred to Bob Baffert, who has a knack for reading the condition book, and went with the stranger Wynning Ride in her first start on conventional dirt.

Admittedly, this is a filly I had never heard of until a few days ago, but that is totally understandable, because she has lost all four of her races since a winning a debut (at 19-1) on Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface last fall.

After winning first out, Wynning Ride was a rallying fourth behind Evita Argentina, who has since won the San Vicente against males and the A Gleam against older fillies and mares. Wynning Ride was then second to Laragh in the Hollywood Starlet in her third and final start as a 2-year-old. Returned five months later on Cushion Track at Hollywood Park, she ran second against a slow pace at 6 1/2 furlongs; 24 days later, she ran fourth in the Woodbine Oaks behind Milwaukee Appeal, who came out of that race to lose photo finishes against the boys in the Queen's Plate and the Prince of Wales.

The knee-jerk reaction is Baffert-trained runners are overbet in high-profile races. Yet, Baffert, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in a couple weeks, currently boasts a 29-percent win rate and $3.95 return on investment in graded stakes, with Gabby's Golden Gal ($28.40) contributing to those totals with a front-running upset in the Acorn.

New frontiers

With DRF racing head-long into the world of blogging and race-of-the-day videos and what-not, life for yours truly these days is all about downloading and uploading, clicking and double-clicking, browsing and highlighting, and passwords and usernames. I've got so many wires wrapped around my chair, that one false move could cause the whole thing to fade to black.

As all this develops, it was hard not to chuckle at Tuesday's "Brevity," a one-panel cartoon that is one of my favorites.

On top is the banner, "If Newspapers Just Came Out Now:"

Below the banner are two hipsters.

Hipster 1: "You don't have to get your news online . . . They print it out for you!"

Hipster 2: "Dude!"