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Thoughts on Saturday’s MN Oaks and Derby

by Ron Kuehl

Saturday, Race 6 – MN Oaks (3yo girls, MN only, 1+ miles on dirt). This is always a race with a plot to it. Each year there seems to be one very dominant 2yo and then 3yo filly runner that has to make the tough transition from sprint to route.

· In 2008 it was AJ Bakes, who had won multiple CBY stakes races at 6F, had tried routes (one on grass and one on dirt) without success, but AJ Bakes conquered the MN Oaks winning convincingly (9 lengths).
· In 2007 it was Run With Joy who romped in the 6F Francis Genter and had found previous success in the route; Run With Joy won impressively and also won Horse of the Year honors (unfortunately and like AJ Bakes, she quit racing after her 3YO season).
· In 2006 it was Sentimental Charm, who has won THREE CBY stakes races prior to that (Debutante, Lady Slipper, and Francis Genter) and who had amassed >$120k in earnings; Sentimental Charm hated the distance and was beaten very badly (7th by 10 lengths) by one hit wonder Chasin’ Mason. Sentimental Charm did go on to win several more stakes races as a 4yo before retiring (a recent CBY legend).
· In 2005 it was Glitter Star who at the time was unheralded and a 5-1 favorite who went on to win. Glitter Star went on to win a total of 6 CBY stakes races before retiring before her 6yo season.

This year is no different. Chick Fight comes in as a multiple time CBY stakes winner, having won by 10 lengths and 6 lengths in the Debutante and Francis Genter, respectively. Her dominating performance in the Francis Genter (6 length victory and 82 beyer) should have her as the favorite here, despite not having tried a route to date. Chick Fight’s early running style could be tested a bit here by #1 and #5, but there are no blazers here. Mac Robertson is 24% going from Sprint to Route. There aren’t logical others to play here other than to play against Chick Fight’s stretch out. Both #4 Recording Contract and #5 Khloee’s Dream have run 1 mile before…both with only modest notable success. All the others face the same stretch out as Chick Fight. I for one am hoping she’s ready to fight and becomes a star tomorrow!

Race 7 – MN Derby (3yo boys, MN only, 1+ miles on dirt).

· This race at one point in time produced the future stars of CBY: Crocrock (’00; 9x CBY stakes winner), JP Jet (’02; horse of the year in ’02), Wally’s Choice (’04; $500k career earnings, 7x CBY stakes winner).
· But since that time each of the winners over the past 4 years have amounted to very little: Key Issues with so much talent and promise as a 3yo never won again and seemingly battled injury for his career, Trickyville Dew while getting a championship day win in ’07 never lived up to his potential, Palm Reader after winning in ’07 at 11-1 has been abysmal, Cubfanbudman winning at 20-1 in in the 2nd slowest Derby ever has done very little since of note.

With some real contenders in this year’s race, the hope is that the ’09 winner will go on to be more than a one hit wonder. A logical favorite is heavily run Perfect Bull (15 career starts). Since the ’08 CBY season where Perfect Bull was 1/5 with a maiden special weight win, he’s been running routes and turf races at Tampa and RP (Remington Park?) against seemingly tough fields (he opted into a G3 beating in Tampa) and while positing mid-70s beyers in his best efforts. His last effort was in the Dean Kutz (CBY stakes race, 1m on turf, open field) against tough company where he got shelled. He’s raced tougher, proven himself in routes, is likely the betting favorite. #9 No More Red Wine for Eddie is an accomplished 6F runner (last win the VS Myers CBY stakes race) who stretches out and hopes to do it here. His last race might jump start him to bigger things…he’s proven he can go 70s beyers. #3 A Steel Trap is the only other notable. Steel Trap has traded wins with Eddie and can do 6F fairly competently, and has gotten to 70 beyers. #7 Ice Rocket is the previously 2yo Futurity winner…at 52-1 one hit wonder. Since Careless Navigator in ’04, the Championship Day Futurity race has produced 4 one hit wonders (KB Kid, Sul Lago, Wild Shifter, Ice Rocket). No chance Ice Rocket breaks that trend here.

Only other noteworthy race in the card is race 5, where CBY turf specialist and ’09 Blairs Cove winner Joni’s Justice runs against tough open company in an optional claimer. A decent showing here (not even a win) and Joni is likely the favorite on Championship Day on the turf. I’d expect Wally to go to the Classic and Sir Tricky the Sprint on Championship Day as an FYI.