By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman
Another week, another great
slate of racing at Del Mar and Saratoga. Saturday is shaping up to be a
particularly exciting day, with a quartet of graded stakes scheduled to take
place at the two tracks.
The most prestigious event
of the week is the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) at Saratoga, but I'm just
as excited to watch an ordinary maiden special weight at Del Mar, in which a
potentially extraordinary filly is set to debut.
Let's dive in and explore both
Coaching Club American Oaks (G1)
There's a reason why #1 Malathaat (2-5) is the overwhelming
favorite to win the Coaching Club American Oaks racing 1 1/8 miles at Saratoga.
Actually, there are many reasons:
undefeated in five starts, including back-to-back wins in the Ashland S. (G1)
and Kentucky Oaks (G1) during the spring.
Malathaat is facing
just three rivals in the Coaching Club American Oaks, including two fillies—#2 Maracuja (6-1) and #4 Clairiere (9-5)—whom Malathaat
defeated in the Kentucky Oaks.
conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, a seven-time winner of the
Coaching Club American Oaks.
Malathaat will be
ridden by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who has won the Coaching Club
American Oaks five times.
versatile in terms of running style and has won from pacesetting, pressing, stalking,
and closing positions.
I suppose some folks might
be tempted to oppose Malathaat on a price basis, since her 2-5 morning line
odds are unappealing. But seemingly the only candidate with the upside to step
up and challenge is runaway Indiana Grand allowance winner #3 Rockpaperscissors (15-1), who comes in light from a Beyer and Brisnet
speed figure standpoint.
Rockpaperscissors does have
some tactical speed and should enjoy a favorable forwardly placed trip in this
small, paceless field, so I believe the daughter of Distorted Humor offers
longshot appeal for the runner-up spot. But Malathaat seems just as likely to
carve out the tempo while breaking from the rail, and it's worth noting
Malathaat's most dominant victories—including a 7 3/4-length romp in the
Tempted S.—have come when she's set or pressed the pace.
Besides, I believe Malathaat's
overall form is even better than it appears at first glance—which is saying
something, given that an undefeated resume speaks for itself. But consider the
In the Demoiselle S.
(G2), Malathaat appeared to struggle while saving ground over a sloppy track.
She dropped back around the far turn and really didn't engage until shifting
outside for the run down the homestretch, after which she unleashed a terrific
burst of acceleration to rally and beat future Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2)
runner-up Millefeuille by three-quarters of a length.
In the Ashland S.
(G1), Malathaat had every excuse to lose after dropping near the back of the
pack through pedestrian fractions of :24.26, :48.56 and 1:13.00 in her first
start off a four-month layoff. Nevertheless, Malathaat rocketed the final
five-sixteenths of a mile in a blazing :29.54 (per Trakus) to win by a head.
In the Kentucky Oaks
(G1), Malathaat endured a troubled start and raced wide every step of the way,
but still managed to rally and defeat next-out Acorn S. (G1) winner Search
Results by a neck. According to Trakus, Malathaat ran two lengths farther than
Search Results, 4 1/2 lengths farther than third-place finisher Will's Secret,
and eight lengths farther than fourth-place runner Clairiere.
Taking all of these thoughts
together, how can I possibly oppose Malathaat? I believe the daughter of Curlin
is a very special sophomore filly who will keep her unbeaten record intact in
the Coaching Club American Oaks. I can even envision a scenario where she goes
unbeaten through the year and wraps up with a triumph in the Breeders' Cup
Distaff (G1), staking a claim for Horse of the Year honors.
Speaking of exciting fillies...
There's a chance Malathaat isn't
the only star filly slated to race on Saturday. Across the country at Del Mar,
I'm excited to see the well-bred two-year-old Mirasol debut in the day's seventh race, a 5 1/2-furlong maiden
To call Mirasol a well-bred
prospect is really an understatement. Hailing from the first crop of champion
three-year-old Arrogate—the highest-earning American-based racehorse to date—Mirasol
was produced by multiple graded stakes winner Justwhistledixie. The latter has
already foaled six winners from six starters, including graded stakes stars New
Year's Day, Mohaymen, Enforceable, and Kingly.
Mirasol has been cranking
out fast workouts for trainer Bob Baffert, including a swift half mile in :46
3/5 at Los Alamitos last month. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith is named to
ride, so I expect Mirasol to fire a winning shot on debut.
Now it's your turn! Who do
you like this week?
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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, videographer, voice actor, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He is the founder of the horse racing website www.theturfboard.com.