DEL MAR, Calif. -- At some point in Saturday's $350,000 Del Mar Oaks, trainer Barry Abrams will have the field bookended. He starts the expected pacesetter Lethal Heat and the closer Bel Air Sizzle.
It's the fillies in the middle that will be the biggest concern for Abrams.
The Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks for 3-year-old fillies has drawn a strong field, including the multiple stakes winner Storm Mesa, the French stakes winners Oceane Music and Satan's Circus, and the California-based stakes winners Million Dollar Run, Missit, and Misty Ocean in a field of 10.
Both of the Abrams-trained fillies are having outstanding seasons. Lethal Heat, who beat statebred males in the Real Good Deal Stakes at seven furlongs on Aug. 8, is after her fifth stakes win of the year. Bel Air Sizzle won the Melair Stakes for statebreds in April and is seeking her first graded stakes win.
"I like them both," Abrams said. "One will be in front and one will come from off of it. Lethal Heat hasn't shown her best race. She'll be out there. The instructions will be to go to the front and let her run. If she gets beat, I hope Bel Air Sizzle wins."
The Del Mar Oaks, at 1 1/8 miles on turf, will be the longest race of Lethal Heat's career, which includes 6 wins in 8 starts and earnings of $384,528. She was also cross-entered in Sunday's Solana Beach Handicap.
Extending her speed going 1 1/8 miles on turf will be a test for Lethal Heat. She will be stalked by such capable fillies as Storm Mesa, who won the Grade 2 San Clemente Handicap in her turf debut on Julyo26, and Oceane Music, who was unbeaten in three starts in France.
Storm Mesa, who may go favored in an open betting race, is seeking her sixth consecutive win for owner Rick Davis and trainer Bret Calhoun. Storm Mesa overcame trouble on the backstretch of the San Clemente to win the one-mile race by 1 1/4 lengths.
"She's doing unbelievably," Calhoun said. "She's not a need-to-lead kind of horse. A perfect position would be sitting just off the leaders. I think she could be in a good position. I believe if she runs back to her last several races, she's good enough to win this race."
Oceane Music, recently acquired by Marsha Naify, is making her first start since winning the listed Prix Amandine at about seven furlongs in France on July 12. Oceane Music is in need of a start, according to new trainer John Shirreffs.
"The timing of the race seems pretty good," Shirreffs said. "She's pretty chippy right now."
Satan's Circus has started once in this country, finishing second in the Grade 1 American Oaks at 1 1/4 miles on turf at Hollywood Park on July 5. She was third in the stretch of that race, a half-length off the lead, and finished three-quarters of a length behind Pure Clan.
Following that race, Satan's Circus was transferred to trainer Christophe Clement. The filly has been based with his assistant trainer, Nicholas Bachalard, in California since the race.
"We breezed her twice and she's put on some weight," Bachalard said. "I think she's doing well."
Bachalard said the six weeks between the American Oaks and Del Mar Oaks has given Satan's Circus ample time to recover from a tough race. "I don't think that's too much of a concern," he said.
Appropriately for a Grade 1, all 10 of the entrants have won or placed in a stakes.
Million Dollar Run is the only filly making her turf stakes debut. Trained by Marcelo Polanco, Million Dollar Run won the Grade 3 Railbird Stakes on the main track at Hollywood Park on May 11, finished fourth behind Lethal Heat in the Grade 2 Hollywood Oaks on June 8, and rebounded to win an optional claimer on turf there on July 13.
Wins by Ginger Pop or Magical Fantasy would be upsets. Both placed in one-mile turf stakes earlier this year.