Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Weekend Recap: Kentucky Derby & Oaks Days

Whew, Derby Day has come and gone, and what a good day it was! Orb’s win in the 139th Kentucky Derby wasn’t the only cause for celebration over the weekend, however. Let’s recap.

The Kentucky Oaks and Oaks undercard provided some memorable moments for Friday:

So Many Ways, winner of the Schuylerville (Gr. III) and Spinaway (Gr. I) stakes at Saratoga last year rebounded from two losses this year to win the Eight Belles (Gr. III). The blaze-faced bay beauty, a daughter of the prematurely deceased sire Sightseeing, has been on my radar since her wins at Saratoga.

Authenticity, a daughter of a personal favorite stallion, Quiet American, defeated On Fire Baby, winner of this year's Apple Blossom (Gr. I), and Believe You Can, winner of last year's Kentucky Oaks (Gr. I) in the La Troienne (Gr. II).

Take Charge Indy, half-brother to Kentucky Derby entrant Will Take Charge, handily won the Alysheba (Gr. II) under rider Rosie Napravnik, prompting me to wonder if it was a sign for Derby Day.

The finale of the day was the Kentucky Oaks (Gr. I), which boasted one of the deepest fields in years, talent-wise. Dreaming of Julia, the runaway 21-length winner of the Gulfstream Oaks (Gr. II) was the favorite, but she had to contend with Beholder, winner of the Breeder's Cup Juvenile Fillies (Gr. I) and champion 2-year-old filly, Unlimited Budget, undefeated winner of the Fair Grounds Oaks (Gr. II), Midnight Lucky, the speedy winner of the Sunland Park Oaks, and Princess of Sylmar, who broke her maiden by 19 lengths last year before winning the Busher and Busanda Stakes at Aqueduct.

I liked three fillies in this race--Dreaming of Julia, Midnight Lucky, and Princess of Sylmar. I felt the latter was grossly underrated but wasn't sure if she could get the win. The night before the Oaks, my husband and I went to the barn together. He jokingly asked Miss Limerick who would win the Oaks and I said, without thinking, "She says Princess of Sylmar." We had a good laugh over it.

As it turns out, Miss Lim was right. When the fillies turned for home and Beholder took the lead from fading pacesetter Midnight Lucky, I saw the purple and chestnut of Princess of Sylmar manifesting from the wall of dirtied horseflesh and screamed. I am not a screamer or a crier when I watch horse racing but when I realized that Princess of Sylmer--the long-shot chestnut beauty that I told my husband about months prior--was going for the win, I screamed so loudly that my cats ducked for cover and I'm sure my apartment neighbors heard me. Now that's some good horse racing.

The Derby undercard on Saturday was excellent (click here to read my prior post about the Derby undercard), although there was one major disappointment:

The much-anticipated match-up between Point of Entry and Wise Dan in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (Gr. I) never manifested, as the relentless rains of the day turned the turf course into a bog and Point of Entry was scratched. But Wise Dan more than made up for the disappointment by handily putting away good opponents Optimizer and Silver Max. Hopefully a Point of Entry and Wise Dan meeting will happen down the road.

The Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile (Gr. II) featured a personal big favorite, Daisy Devine. Marketing Mix was scratched prior to the race. Daisy Devine appeared comfortable initially, leading briefly on the backstretch, but around the final turn and down the stretch she appeared to be leaping over the turf course, an indication that she was no longer comfortable with the wet turf. She was overtaken by Hungry Island and Stephanie's Kitten, the winner. I was proud of Daisy Devine's effort, nonetheless.

As for the Kentucky Derby (Gr. I), you may read my post about Orb's historic win for trainer Claude McGaughey and the Phipps and Janney families here. The other contenders I liked were a mixed-bag of results. Verrazano was up close to the suicidal pace set by Palace Malice and faded to 14th in the homestretch. Goldencents failed to fire and finished 17th, perhaps disliking the sloppy track. Mylute and Oxbow finished 5th and 6th, respectively. I was particularly impressed by Oxbow's performance--of all the horses to be close to the fast early pace, he was the only one to hang on gamely and finish better than 10th. I'm telling you--he's a tough horse and one to watch down the road! And Revolutionary--he with the Farish-bred dam line--finished a very good third.

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