Chad Brown obviously holds a very strong hand in this final New York prep for the Kentucky Oaks, the Grade 2, $300,000 Gazelle. His top two-year-old dirt filly, Lewis Bay, ships up from Florida to make her second start of the season, while local terror Clair de Lune is stepping up into her stakes debut after a couple of runaway victories.
The field is filled out by the local fillies that contested the Busanda and the Busher, including the winners of those races, Flora Dora and Mo d’Amour, as well as the troubled Dreams to Reality. They are joined by stretch-out sprinter Behrnik’s Bank and the Louisiana-based Royal Obsession.
The Pace Projector places Behrnik’s Bank just in front of Clair de Lune in the early going. While the pace is not predicted to be fast, the blazingly swift Behrnik’s Bank possesses a ton of natural speed and figures to ensure an honestly run race, which should make it a true test of stamina for the other six fillies.
Let’s go through the field:
#1, Clair de Lune (2/1):
Quite frankly, if she repeats the 115 speed figure that she earned winning that N1X allowance race last time, the rest of these are running for second. That kind of performance would even make her a legitimate contender in the Wood Memorial. However, the issue at hand is whether or not we can believe that performance. She had previously run much slower when beating a fairly weak maiden field. Also, the runner-up last time came back to run 15 points slower next time out when finishing off the board at a short price. Furthermore, even if she is indeed that good, her task still is not simple, since she will have to deal with the early speed of Behrnik’s Bank. Clair de Lune has never successfully rated in her brief career, but she may be forced into that position today.
#2, Lewis Bay (8/5):
The winner of the Demoiselle is a deserving favorite on the morning line. She’s already beaten a few of the runners she faces today, and, though she did get a perfect trip in her return, it’s no disgrace losing to Cathryn Sophia. Lewis Bay actually improved to earn the fastest speed figure of her career last time despite just barely getting up for second. Now she stretches back out to nine furlongs, the distance of her Demoiselle victory. However, despite the fact that she won that race, we still wonder if she’s a true mile-and-an-eighth type of filly, or if a moderate-to-slow pace masked any distance limitations last year. She’s the horse to beat, but there isn’t that much room for error.
#3, Mo d’Amour (6/1): She worked out an absolutely perfect trip last time in the Busher and was able to hang on for the victory. She was no match for Lewis Bay in the Demoiselle last year, but she appears to have taken a step forward since then. That said, an honestly run nine-furlong race may still be a stretch for her. She’s worth using underneath, but a win may be just out of reach.
#4, Dreams to Reality (20/1):
She has been a frustrating horse to watch over her last few starts. She clearly has ability, but she’s been her own worst enemy. That was never more evident than last time, in the Busher, when she seemingly resented racing inside of horses and reacted badly to almost every cue from Kendrick Carmouche. Despite all of this, she still came with a strong late rally through the lane to get up for second. Prior to that, she took herself out of the race midway through the Busanda, and then rebroke in the stretch as if she still had plenty of run. She finishes off her route races like the added distance should be no problem. Carmouche would probably be best off just taking back to last place and trying to make one wide run with her. If the pace materializes and Dreams to Reality can get past her mental issues, she has a real chance here. We would need a pretty big price to throw our support in her direction, but we will likely get it.
#5, Royal Obsession (5/1): We saw Tom’s Ready return off a wide trip on that Risen Star day card at the Fair Grounds to run much better in the Louisiana Derby. This filly worked out a similar trip last time, racing three-wide for much of the way. However, despite the fact that she may have been best last time, we have serious doubts about the quality of the races she’s exiting. We’ll be using her underneath, but we prefer others on top.
#6, Behrnik’s Bank (15/1): In terms of raw ability, she’s a standout. However, flashing speed at six furlongs and sustaining it for a mile and an eighth are two completely different things. She figures to have an impact on the pace of this race, but we see sprint races in her future.
#7, Flora Dora (10/1): The winner of the Busanda disappointed next time out in the Busher. It’s not as if closers were up against it that day; she just had little punch in the stretch. The distance suits her, but she’s a plodding type whose best hope may be a minor award.
While we have the utmost respect for the two Chad Brown fillies, Clair de Lune (#1) and Lewis Bay (#2), they are likely to dominate the wagering and go off at very short prices. Perhaps they are indeed the two most likely winners, but we think this is more than just a two-horse affair. Ultimately, we cannot resist long shot DREAMS TO REALITY (#4), who we think would offer great value at a price of around 15/1 or higher. She must overcome her own issues to win this race, but we think the ability is there.
Exacta Key Box (Primary): 4 with 1,2
Exacta Key Box (Backup): 4 with 3,5,7