April 23, 2010

Should She Oaks or Should She Derby?

The Devil is down in Kentucky, she is looking for a classic to win…but which classic? Devil May Care, my personal top pick for the Kentucky Oaks, is also being considered for the Kentucky Derby according to trainer Todd Pletcher. As the horse I am looking forward most to seeing in the Oaks, the news was a little disappointing.  But with the recent successes, against the boys in our classics, of Rags to Riches, Rachel Alexandra, and Zenyatta, it should come as no surprise. The daughter of Malibu Moon will be evaluated by Pletcher in the coming days, and then he and owner John Greathouse of Glencrest Farm will make the decision. This big decision raises many questions.

Ultimately who makes the final decision on where she runs? Usually that is the owner, but not always. If it is Greathouse, does he value a good shot in the Oaks more than a much bigger roll of the dice in the Derby? I could not blame him if he wished to take the ultimate plunge and go for the gusto on Saturday. If it is Pletcher who decides, does he want to pass on a good shot in the Oaks, and a very possible win in both races, to give himself one more bullet in an already loaded arsenal for an elusive Kentucky Derby win? Devil May Care could raise Pletcher’s entrants to the staggering number of seven, including certain favorite Eskendereya, but she would be his only runner in the Oaks. It would seem that depending on who makes the decision, the answer could be different.

Just how good is the filly, Devil May Care? This question will be a lot easier to answer in a week or so, but I think she may be worth all this talk. Devil May Care had enough class to win the prestigious, Grade 1 Frizette Stakes last Fall. What made the win especially noteworthy was that she was making only her second lifetime start. After two losses with big excuses in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and the Silverbulletday Stakes, she bounced back with an eye catching score in the Bonnie Miss Stakes in her last start. She appeared a bit green in that win, as if she is still learning. Her third race of the year, whether it be the Derby or the Oaks, may be the race Pletcher has her really ready to roll.

Will she appreciate the extra distance found in the Derby? Pletcher maintains that one of the main reasons he and the owner are thinking Derby is because of the longer distance. From the very beginning, Pletcher has said Devil May Care wants to run all day. He was certainly right about Rags to Riches wanting a distance, and what better chance to prove his belief than in the Kentucky Derby.

Another question would be who would ride her.  If she were to enter the Derby, I have strong suspicion that she would need a new rider. John Velazquez already has a fair horse to ride in Eskendereya. Is this a factor in the decision making?

And finally, if she were my filly what would I do? The answer may surprise you, I know it surprised me. As a fan, I want to see her run in and win the Kentucky Oaks, but as an owner, I honestly believe I would opt for the Derby. As I have mentioned, I consider her the horse to beat in the Oaks, and I would not have her in the top five (she would be in my top ten) of my Derby selections. That chance would be good enough, though. A chance at winning the Kentucky Derby is awfully hard to pass up…don’t you think?


Anonymous said...

She has a good shot in the Oaks, but she isn't even favored in that race, that will be a 14 horse field as well. So that's no sure thing. Sh'e not my top pick in the Derby either. I think they will go in the Derby. I also think she will take a lot of money.

Brian Zipse said...

Anonymous, I have not really given too much thought as to what her odds in the Derby might be. You may be right though, she might be overbet on the filly angle, but on the other hand I am sure many will not bet her only because she is a girl...which as we know, could be a mistake!

Ciarán said...

if i owned her i'd go for the oaks...tho she may want the distance, the Ky derby is a tough tough race(not sayin the oaks is easy) but as for getting around, less horses less jostling, wd be oaks for me.

LDP said...

If she really is that good I see no problem with the Derby. My only concern is that because she ran so greenly last out, the Oaks may be a better way to go, since she could get knocked around running like that in the Derby. She is talented, and though I love Blind Luck, I don't see why DMC hasn't gotten that much attention.

Rachel said...

DMC is inconsistant. Since her G1 win, she's only run one really good race. If they want to try the boys, I would wait till the Preakness. Yes it's a shorter distance then the Derby, but not by much. Plus it will be a smaller field (14 horses max).

Katie Konrath said...

I want to see her go in the Derby for the pure reason that people love to see fillies go for the Derby. Anytime a filly runs in one of the Classics races, it gets more attention for the sport than it would otherwise have.

One of the reasons I feel that horse racing has such a hard time connecting with new fans is that it's so hard to form connections with the horses. The colts are a flash of brilliance that is gone in an instant. It makes more economic sense to bring them to the breeding shed than to keep racing.

But a great filly can only create one foal a year, and most of the greats never reproduce themselves. So, it's reasonable to run them to four or longer. (Zenyatta is six!)

We need stars in the sport to keep the public's attention. So, bring the fillies into the big challenges if they have a chance... it could be an incredibly smart move for horse racing!