The BEL Oaks (Grade 1)- $1,000.000 Purse
BEL- For Fillies Three Years Old
One Mile and One Quarter on the Inner Turf
July 8, 2017
There is a lot of money to be won at BEL this weekend as the meet starts to wind down into its homestretch. The highlights of the day will be two fantastic turf races, and here we will take a look at the race for fillies. It is the 15th running of the BEL Oaks, a Grade 1 event that has a huge $1,000.000 purse on the line. This race has been held every year here in our virtual world, but it’s only been the last three years that both this and its counterpart, the BEL Derby have had such a large price tag. As recently as 2013, this race ran for $350.000. With the purse increase also came a distance increase, as a furlong was added to take it to its current distance. Chili King Stables was an early beneficiary of that increase, winning the race in 2014 with Know How Causeway, and again in 2015 with Jawbone. The BC Fillies and Mares Turf is certainly on the radar for these, and generally the BEL Oaks winner has fared well in that race. In 2017, we will have a field of nine going to the gate. Let’s take a look at them now! At press time, there is a 60% chance of isolated showers at BEL for Saturday. Let’s cross our fingers for no rain (or do a rain dance if you want the rain).
#1- She Needsa Brazilian (Hawaiian Shirt Guy, ridden by D Moran)- The winner of the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf gets to start on the rail for this one. That victory was the exclamation point to a season that saw her win four out of six races, while being second in the two since then. Unfortunately, she has not picked up where she left off this year. She had plenty of time to rest, then came up a bit flat in the FL Oaks in March. After a sprint, she was dropped to an optional claimer, which she won on yielding turf, but was then a non factor in the WO Oaks in her last start. That race, of course, is run on the main track. The results do not seem to be there, but at the same time, she really has not had an ideal chance to show her stuff in the type of race that made her a BC Champion.
#2- General Belle (Mb Stables, ridden by R J Albarado)- One of two entries that Mb Stables will have in this race as he looks to cross this stake off the list of those he has not yet won. General Belle, and her stablemate Good Line have been paired together in a few stakes before, and the two of them seem so equal right now that I would be surprised if Mb Stables even had an opinion that one was better then the other. General Belle has won three out of four races this year, after running seventh in the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf in 2016. I was particularly impressed with her victory in her last start, the Grade 3 Gallorette at PIM where she was pulling away at the end, but this will be a much more difficult challenge. She can handle it though, and is one of the top choices in here.
#3- Oryctodromeus (Blushing Meadows, ridden by J Rosario)- This is one of those horses that it does not make sense to look at any other race then her last one. The trainer has been patient with her, as she has only made five career starts, and has won three of them. The first four starts were all at low level tracks. Sometime after the middle of April, something happened with Oryctodromeus where she pleasantly surprised the trainer with her ability to go long on the grass. Blushing Meadows put her in the Grade 3 Wonder Again on this race track last month, and she stunned the field at odds of 34/1. This will be a tougher assignment, given the quality of the field, but I love that 100 SRF in the last start and the fact that she was pulling away. I’d be very interested in watching the odds board on her, and they start to climb (and I am not sure they will), then she becomes a must-play.
#4- Cinis (John Henry, ridden by R Bejarano)- The BC Juvenile Fillies Turf runner up is now part of a new barn, having been acquired by John Henry in the auction last month for $301.000. That is $1.000 more then prior trainer, Kopites, bought her for. The start of her season was about as disappointing as it was for the BC winner, She Needs A Brazilian. They ran against each other again at the FL Oaks, and again, she was one spot behind her, but they were 7th and 8th. Her last start was a win, running in the $150.000 Providencia (Grade 3), but the field will be much stronger here. Hopefully John Henry can get her back to where she was last fall. For now, I am going to pass.
#5- Good Line (Mb Stables, ridden by I Ortiz Jr)- The other of Mb’s two runners in this field, and as previously mentioned, you can flip a coin between her and General Belle to determine who is the better of the two. She is consistent, having never finished out of the money in six career starts, and has won half of them. Earlier this year, she captured the $100.000 Herecomesthebride Stakes (Grade 3), and comes off a solid second in the Grade 2 Nassau Stakes. Against General Belle, she has a career 1-1 record, so we’ll see who takes two out of three. Both of them can win this race.
#6- Killer Angels (TwinTowersRacing, ridden by J R Leparoux)- After having a fair amount of success on the main track early in her career, Killer Angels has taken her game to the turf, and only knows how to win when on the grass. That’s only been two starts, but its her last two, and she’s on a great run of form. Her grass debut came in here at BEL in May in the ungraded $100.000 Soaring Softly, and handled that small field en route to the victory. Her last start was the more impressive one, coming at nine furlongs at CD last month in the Grade 3 Regret, winning by an HRP-rout of four lengths, and earning the 98 SRF. This is much better competition, but she can handle them.
#7- Tightness (EasyMoney Stables, ridden by G L Stevens)- She is making her mama proud! This filly is out of Tight Pockets, who had a spectacular career for EasyMoney Stables, and came within a quarter length of winning the 2014 Fillies and Mares Turf, where she was second. Tightness is following her lead, proving successful while running long on the grass. She took part in the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf, thanks to a couple of key second place runs, and would be fifth in that race. She would begin her 2017 by winning the CA Cup Oaks for CA-breds in January, and has two more graded stake second places since then. So, unfortunately, we still cannot say that Tight Pockets has produced the graded winner. Though it seems like it will happen soon. This is the longest that Tightness has run, but mom loved it. I’m putting her on top.
#8- Bonkers (Team 7 Illusions, ridden by R Maragh)- Prior to being purchased by Team 7 Illusions in private sales this May for $30.770, Bonkers had not done much of anything. He won his debut at DMR, which had been the highlight to that point. It took five days for Bonkers to run for his new trainer, and she ran second at a mile and a half on the turf at WO. That was an improvement, but still, the SRF number isn’t that high to really impress. She won his last start, an allowance, about three weeks ago. This is a jump, and I’ll have to see it to believe it.
#9- Eastern Sky (Maxmillion Farm, ridden by E Malonado)- This filly has had a strong three year old season, and she was able to participate in the KYO just a couple months ago. To get there, she won the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel at SA in March, then ran fourth (of six) in the SA Oaks a month later. Unfortunately for the trainer, the KYO did not go well, and Maxmillion Farm looked to change things up. That would mean putting her on the grass, right here at BEL for the Grade 3 Wonder Again last month. She ran third in that race, which was won by Oryctodromeus, with that one pulling away from her at the end of a shorter race. The jury is still out on her transition to turf, and I believe this a great spot for her to really see where she measures up.