Coaching Club American Oaks (07/18/14)

In-depth analysis of the Coaching Club American Oaks including Pace Figures and Form Cycle Pattern of each starter. Please refer to the Legend or Pattern Guide for back-up definitions and patterns.

It's the 98th running of the Coaching Club American Oaks and while the race distance and host track has varied over the years, the race conditions have remained the same – 9 furlong Grade I, $300,000 purse for 3 year-old fillies.

Get the Pace Figures and PP's for the CCA Oaks here.

#1 Stopchargingmaria (8-5)

The winner of the Black Eyed Susan on Preakness Day (siser race of the Preakness for three year old fillies), “Maria” is the clear class of the race having earned $874,000, more than the entire field combined! Todd Pletcher and Javier Castellano, the top trainer and jockey in the country, team up as a formidable pair on this expected heavy favorite.

Castellano rode a brilliant race in the Black Eyed Susan staying on the rail until the stretch. It's logical to think that race took something out of the horse as Pletcher gave her 65 days rest, the most time off in between starts of all runners in the field. Looking at her work pattern, he gave the filly three weeks rest after the Black Eyed Susan and then worked her every 7 or 8 days leading up to the CCA Oaks with a “bullet work” (fastest work of the day signified by a bullet point) on 7/14. This pattern of works suggests a runner who is coming into the race in excellent form after being given an appropriate amount of time to recover. One other note, it looks like the connections of “Maria” have done a good job of avoiding Untapable, currently considered the best three year-old filly in the country by a big margin and running against the colts next week in the Grade I Haskell.

Turning to her Pace Figures, it is not surprising to see her last race effort of 73.4/62.8 (final/4f) as the 73.4 was a lifetime top supporting the notion that the Black Eyed Susan was an all-out effort. Her 2014 Final Pace Figures of 67.9 – 72.6 – 73.4 combined with an improving dirt spread (Final Pace Figure minus 4f Pace Figure) of -4.6 to even to + 10.6, indicate a runner who is continuing to learn how to manage its energy.

The Play: The Favorite - The logical 8:5 morning-line favorite has marginal value on top.

#2 Unbridled Forever (9-5)

The second leading money earner in the field, she's earned $308,000 in six starts with two wins and three thirds. Unfortunately for her connections, two of her last three starts have been against Untapable, the amazing 3 year-old filly that has been proven unbeatable and some say, the best 3 year- old in the country, even against the colts (like California Chrome and Belmont winner Tonalist).

From a Pace Figure perspective, she has the highest two Final Pace Figures on dirt in the field, a 78.9 on 11/30/13 and 77.1 on 5/2/14 (the Kentucky Oaks against Untapable). Note that both of those races did occur at Churchill Downs which could indicate a horse that likes one surface. Regression has followed each of those tops going from 78.9 to 71.5, then a forward move to 73 (3/29/14). The 77.1 was followed by a 73.9 in her most recent effort on 6/7 only a -3.2 regression. This improvement in the Final Pace Figure following top races show a runner who is maturing and getting stronger each start. The biggest concern is the inconsistent timing of her last four workouts combined with what looks like a lackluster performance in each and not one work at Saratoga.

The Play: Regressor – a tough horse to figure, she could improve off her most recent final figure though the workout pattern and first effort at the SPA combined with 9:5 morning line odds make her tough to back.

#3 Miss Besilu (6-1)

Purchased for $2.6 million (that's right, $2,600,000) as a weanling in 2011, it was the highest price ever paid for a filly under one-year old. On the track, she has yet to prove her value earning $86,000 in 7 starts. Her three best finishes have all been on grass, though her two most recent workouts on 7/4 and 7/13 were both the fastest of the day.

Looking at her Pace Figures, her best Final Pace Figure is 77.4, but that was on turf supporting the notion that she might like the grass better. Her last race was a 71.2/72.3 (final/4f) which is a New Pace Top (NPT), meaning she ran her fastest 4 furlong figure while maintaining a consistent final figure (and a very good sign from a Form Cycle Pattern perspective). However, in reality, if you look at the previous Final Pace Figure you'll see it was a 71.1 on 4/5/14, which means her two most recent races have had the same Final Pace Figure ~71.1. This is called a “paired up top,” and although it is not a formal Form Cycle Pattern, it does usually mean regression is coming.

The Pay: Regressor – Paired up tops and dirt could make for a long 9 furlongs.

Courageous Julie (15-1)

The most seasoned runner in the field, Julie makes her tenth start of her career and seventh in 2014 for legendary trainer D Wayne Lucas. And while she has yet to be competitive in a graded stakes company, her last race was visually interesting. She got banged early and held her ground which shows toughness. Down the stretch she was on the wrong lead, running with her left foot extended first the entire stretch with her head cocked right. This indicates a runner that is still “green”, but the fact that she won easily might mean there is more to come.

Turning to the Pace Figures, you'll notice the consistency of the last four races, all within 1.2 points (70.2 to 71.4). This even effort is a good sign of a developing horse who is beginning to understand how to manage energy. Also, notice her last effort was a SOFT Form Cycle Pattern which indicates a runner who won it's last race without full exertion, another positive sign. Based on her workouts, it looks like Julie shipped to the SPA and put in a bullet work on 7/9 at Saratoga in preparation for this race.

The Play: Price Play – Improving runner with a positive pattern, if she can mature off her last race Julie could be in the mix.

America (5-1)

Trainer Bill Mott's second runner in the CCA Oaks, America has competed respectively in Graded Stakes company while losing twice to Stopchargingmaria (by a combined 8 lengths) and most recently running into Untapable three weeks ago.

Looking at her Final Pace Figures, they look to be a bit lighter than others though she is sitting on a New Pace Top (NPT), which means she ran her fastest 4f effort while maintaining a consistent Final Pace Figure. And, while she did post a 75.2 4f Pace Figure, which is the fastest of this group, it was aided as Untapable would have been faster but had to really check hard allowing America to basically inheret a forward spot.

The Play: Slow - looks like her Final Pace Figures are a notch down from the top.

Taketheodds (8-1)

The most lightly raced of all starters, she enters this Grade I affair with only four lifetime starts and earnings of $77,000, the least money in the field. Using just the PP's she might look outclassed, but the Pace Figures tell a different story.

First, she has improved every start from a Final Pace Figure perspective (67.7 – 71.3 – 71.9 – 74.1 most recent). Even more important is the consistent effort in which she has improved, each jump has been less than 4 points). Also, notice the three patterns of COMP, DTOP and REV in her first three starts. Going from a DTOP (where a runner has its fastest final and 4f by a notable margin) to a Reversal (where for the first time a runner has a faster final figure than 4f figure) shows a young horse who is rapidly learning how to manage and distribute energy. The most recent effort of 74.1/72.3 with two works over Saratoga (one being a bullet work), indicates an improving young runner who looks to have figured things out.

Visually speaking, her last effort looked impressive, as the rider hand-rode her under the wire. Interesting to note that trainer Ian Wilkes keeps jockey Brian Hernandez aboard, a relatively unknown and untested jockey in Saratoga. This shows confidence in both the rider and horse but still has some element of risk associated.

The Play: Contender – Improving Final Pace Figures, solid workouts, a stalking running style and 8:1 morning-line odds make for the the race value.


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