How to Bet the Coaching Club American Oaks

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TwinSpires Staff

July 22nd, 2016


This initial assignment for Saratoga “How To Bet” columns is the Coaching Club American Oaks, where it strains credulity to make a case for anyone other than Songbird or Carina Mia.


The CCA Oaks has been run six times since it was moved upstate from Belmont Park in 2010. So far, the only two trainers to have won it here are Todd Pletcher (four times including Curalina via disqualification last year), and Kiaran McLaughlin (twice).

Once around the Spa's 1 1/8-mile track, the typical six-furlong split is right around 1:12, and final times have averaged 1:49.90.

Those par times are mentioned in the hopes we'll have some context after Songbird (#1) and Carina Mia (#2) hang up something like 1:10-something and 1:48-something, because they break from the two inside stalls and seem sure to go at it early and often.

On paper, they are close by whatever numbers handicappers care to consult. And yet it's hard to watch Songbird's races and not come away struck by the fact that Mike Smith hasn't come close to asking her a probing question. He hasn't even thought about it through eight wins from as many starts - by better than 42 lengths. What's more, she does not need the lead, although lots of luck to anyone looking to run with her early.

All that said, Carina Mia is the most worthy opponent Songbird has run into so far. Carina Mia is fast – and getting faster, judging from her Acorn win - and versatile enough to win from on or off the pace.

Neither filly has been the distance nor run over the track. An edge might logically be accorded to one or the other based on those factors:

  • While it's true Songbird has shipped out of her home state only once, that Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies win was awe-inspiring, and it's also true she has easily handled 1 1/16 miles several times. Carina Mia has won that far just once, when loose on the lead in the slop.
  • However, it's true as well that Carina Mia has been based at Saratoga since May, and if anything her workouts have improved since she ran down Off the Tracks and Cathryn Sophia in  the Acorn. Such an accomplishment is nothing to sneeze at, as Off the Tracks returned to win the Mother Goose, and Cathryn Sophia was a decisive Kentucky Oaks winner before that.
  • So what am I telling you that isn't already known? Not much in this case, other than it is sound counsel to map out a day at Saratoga ranking the races by degree of difficulty and going from there.

    This one doesn't seem terribly hard. Covering both fillies probably gets you through multi-race exotics something like 90 percent of the time. Once in a while, though, a suicidal pace can develop, as happened in the Ashland, where the heavy-heads are so busy with each other that no one sees a deep closer like Weep No More (#4) coming.

    So, I can understand the idea of using Weep No More as a “C” just in case everything goes right in the surrounding legs of the late pick four, which all have overflow fields.

    In terms of win betting, whenever a race boils down to two obvious contenders, the percentage play is to take the odds – every time. If Carina Mia is 5-2 or better, that could be construed as fair value.