Upset pick in Delaware Oaks
Anticipation runs high for upcoming meets, with Del Mar less than a week away and Saratoga opening July 24, but some notable racing action is still on tap this weekend.
Unraced since a 2 ¾-length victory in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), Lovely Maria brings star power to Saturday’s $300,000 Delaware Oaks (G3), which serves as a prep for her next engagement, the $600,000 Alabama (G1) on August 22.
A convincing winner of Keeneland’s Ashland Stakes (G1) two back, the Larry Jones-trained Lovely Maria has separated herself on the main track but Lady Eli is making a serious divisional push on turf, improving to three for three this season with an outstanding performance in last Saturday’s Belmont Oaks (G1).
Despite the positive attention Lady Eli’s garnered, Lovely Maria would boast an impressive resume if she enters the fall campaign off consecutive wins in the Ashland, Kentucky Oaks, Delaware Oaks and Alabama.
It may be tempting to go ahead and concede her the Delaware Oaks – Lovely Maria is listed as the even-money choice on the morning line, with seven rivals expected to receive a trouncing in the 1 1/16-mile race – but I’ll offer a contrarian view.
This year's sophomore filly division, at least on the main track, lacks quality at the top but give Lovely Maria credit for getting hot at the right time this spring. However, her BRIS Speed ratings are not overwhelming and the same can be said for her competition, with Ashland runner-up Angela Renee recording unplaced finishes in her next two outings; Oaks runner-up Shook Up being only a maiden winner from seven attempts; and Oaks third-placer I’m a Chatterbox needing to prove herself outside of Fair Grounds (zero-for-three).
Lovely Maria is coming off a near 2 ½-month freshening and doesn’t figure to be cranked for her best – I’ll play against the likely odds-on favorite.
Bar of Gold is my upset pick. The John Kimmel-trained filly is a New York-bred, winning her first three starts against restricted rivals before stepping up in the Acorn (G1) last time, but you would never know it by looking at her pedigree.
By Medaglia d’Oro, who stands for a $125,000 fee at Darley near Lexington, Kentucky, Bar of Gold is out of the Lemon Drop Kid mare Khancord Kid, a Grade 3 winner whose dam is a full sister to Yankee Gentleman, the broodmare sire of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.
Bar of Gold, who won her two previous starts by a combined 15 ¼ lengths, took some early action in the Acorn before drifting up to 13-1 at post time but lost all chance at the break. She was slammed from both sides when the gates opened, being forced back from a massive body blow, and then tried to rush forward into traffic, with jockey Junior Alvarado nearly falling out of the saddle as he slammed on the breaks.
The dark bay filly was checked three times before the opening quarter-mile was completed but still offered a solid middle move, putting herself in position to challenge entering the stretch drive. It was no surprise to see her flatten out in the final furlongs but she tried hard to the wire, finishing a respectable sixth among 12 runners.
Bar of Gold shows a recent four-furlong bullet work at Belmont and is receiving six pounds from Lovely Maria. And she's 10-1 on the morning line.
I'm expecting significant improvement off the Acorn and will take a swing at the upset.