Saturday, July 25, Belmont Park
The Low-Down: With Rachel Alexandra, Saturday's $300,000 feature from New York would have had more pizzazz. Without her, however, horseplayers have more to sink their chompers in to. A field of eight very well-matched sophomore fillies will contest the classic distance of 1 1/4 miles, which should be the great separator. All carry equal weights of 121 pounds.
Our Eyes: None of the CCA Oaks runners has attempted the 10-furlong challenge, and quite honestly several have been suspect even at 1 1/8 miles. Outside of UAE Oaks winner Devotee, the remaining contestants are 0-for-4 beyond 1 1/16 miles. But when you evaluate Devotee's performance July 3 against return rival Funny Moon, it's hard to get overly excited about the Godolphin chances.
Funny Moon, despite being shuffled back on the turn, won so easily and was so dominant, that she would have to own the head-to-head edge. Sure, that was a mile, and we're talking 10 furlongs Saturday. And while Funny Moon has yet to race beyond one mile, her pedigree certainly screams for it. Half-brother Throng won at 1 3/16 miles on the Keeneland Polytrack, and this filly is a granddaughter of Belmont Stakes winners (A.P. Indy and Easy Goer) on both sides of her lineage.
The filly who appears best-suited to route, or at least the one who has some experience in the route game, is Casanova Move. Recently transferred from Jimmy Jerkens to Todd Pletcher, this daughter of Langfuhr did run second in the Bonnie Miss and third in the Black-Eyed Susan at 1 1/8 miles. But she has been a bit flat in the late running of her route attempts, and there's enough sprint in her pedigree to make you wonder just how much longer she might go.
Hightap was all over the track with her head high in winning the Grade 3 Dogwood at Churchill Downs around one turn, only mustering a final furlong in a disappointing 13 seconds. Even in victory in the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks June 26, she was extremely difficult for Shaun Bridgmohan to ride on the clubhouse turn and not very push-button. The Iowa race fell apart with a fourth-quarter in nearly 27 seconds, so pedestrian it's hard to respect, and once again the filly had her head high and all over the place coming down the lane. She must get much better to win this race, from this viewpoint.
Livin Lovin lost 8 lengths on eventual winner Gabby's Golden Gal in the opening 10 seconds of the Grade 1 Acorn at one mile. In what was her first race since November, she regrouped well to be fourth in a performance that visually was far superior to Casanova Move. Livin Lovin was soundly bumped in upper stretch and was leaned all over by a rival for the final furlong-plus. Sire Birdstone certainly has made a name for himself as a classic-distance producer.
The Bottom Line: This looks like a two-filly race, Livin Lovin and Funny Moon, with the former being the one to beat. Livin Lovin should be coming into this race perfectly for trainer Steve Klesaris, who has given her 4 workouts (all 6 furlongs or longer) in preparation for the marathon.
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