The BEL Oaks (Grade 1)- $750.000 Purse
BEL- For Fillies Three Years Old
One Mile and One Quarter on the Inner Turf
July 11, 2020
The starting gate is full as this very important Grade 1 event, the BEL Oaks, is set to take place on Saturday. It is a race that allows three year olds to race among themselves, and will likely be talked about quite often when we discuss the BC Fillies and Mares Turf four months from now. This will be the 18th time that the race is run, starting in 2003 when a horse named Majesty won what was only a $250.000 purse. Times have changed for the race, and at one time its purse peaked at $1,000.000 before dropping to its current level in 2019. That year, the race was won by Hopewell Tradition, who remained on great form all the way to the BC, but then did not run well in that race. She is still active and running fairly well, which given she is from the Cherokee Sunset bloodline and still owned by Team 7 Illusions, could be a little surprising. Other recent winners of this race include Quiver Pond, Good Line, and Ghost Runner. Let’s look at who our contenders are to add their names to the list!
#1- Yuhwa (Aer Stables, ridden by A Beschizza)- Starting on the rail, this filly will be looking to pick up her second career win, and could just be wanting a little more distance. Her consistency in hitting the board is why she cannot be overlooked, and she comes off a runner up finish at the Grade 3 Honeymoon six weeks ago. How good was that, though? As she was three lengths from the winner, and in HRP, that’s noteworthy. Speed figures are lower compared to most of her rivals here.
#2- Beggars Benison (Team 7 Illusions, ridden by J A Vargas Jr)- With a win, Team 7 Illusions can join Chili King Stables and Riggins Racing on the list of stables that have won the BEL Oaks in consecutive years. He will look to do it with the one of the latest talented horses from Cherokee Sunset, Beggars Benison. She is two for seven in her career thus far, and won the $150.000 Joy here a couple weeks ago. She has not had a lot of time to rest, but like we saw from Pennies on Monday, that does not seem to matter anymore.
#3- Lovin Spoonful (Nakamura Stables, ridden by A T Gryder)- This filly is just beginning to make presence known in the division, with three wins in five career starts. She has also never failed to hit the board. After winning the $100.000 Memories of Silver in April, Lovin Spoonful made her graded debut in the Grade 2 Nassau at WO, and ended up placing second. The distance is going to be a test for her on paper, but her efforts a mile give me the confidence that she won’t have a problem carrying that speed over to ten furlongs.
#4- Pirate Petranella (Diablo Diablo, ridden by D Davis)- The winner of the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf might be rolling back into form as evidenced by her last two races. Not that she was ever out of it, but look for her to begin reminding people that she is a champion if this trend continues. In her last two starts, she has scored back to back third place finishes, which includes the Grade 1 Gamely out at SA against older horses. One of the horses she beat in that race was Hopewell Tradition, who won the BEL Oaks last year. With speed figures improving, and her now able to get a little more distance, expect to see her continue to roll off good finishes, if not wins.
#5- Hash Tag Hash (Estero Farms, ridden by J K Court)- Here is another horse that has simply done a great job for her trainer thus far. In seven starts, Hash Tag Hash has been either first or second in all of them, and four of them are wins. She was productive in ungraded stakes a few times, before getting the chance to make her graded debut in the Nassau at WO, much like Lovin Spoonful did. While that one was second, Hash Tag Hash made her way to the winners circle. She will also be asked to run a little longer then she is used too, but can’t see that being an issue with her in any way.
#6- Dawning Ice Age (Maxmillion Farm, ridden by T McCarthy)- One of three in the field for the trainer, who is known for his prowess on the grass. However, she will be the only of them starting from a single digit post position. Maxmillion also has not won this race yet in his career, so certainly he wants to change that. Since arriving with the trainer after a $60.000 private sale last November, Dawning Ice Age has won three of five, and that includes the Grade 3 Here Comes the Bride at GP last Feburary. She has only made on start since then, and was second in the Grade 3 Wonder Again here last month.
#7- Forty Chai (Estero Farms, ridden by Mario Gutierrez)- This filly will be looking to extend her winning streak to five here in the BEL Oaks. They are not all in stakes, but her last two races have been, winning the Appalachian at KEE in April, and then the Edgewood at CD a month later, each of them are Grade 2 events. The talent has always been there, as she did attempt the Grade 1 Natalma as a two year old, and cashed a fourth place check. We’ll see if she can keep stepping up.
#8- Hollywood Greek (Chili King Stables, ridden by J R Leparoux)- If the trainer were to pick up the win, he would become the most successful trainer in this race. His past winners are Know How Causeway and Jawbone, and while those aren’t that long ago, he’d love to have a new winner right now in the BEL Oaks. Hollywood Greek has won five of eleven, but has been more inconsistent in her races going long then she has been while she has been sprinting. If she brings her best, then she can get it done, but against many very consistent runners, she is a little tough to pick.
#9- Mrs Nussbaums Credit (Arindel, ridden by T Gaffalione)- What an incredible story she was in the last race, the Grade 3 Honeymoon! It was another example why I like covering these races because you never really can tell who is going to pick up that win. After taking seven starts to break her maiden, doing so mostly as a dirt sprinter, Arindel changed up pretty much every thing, and sent her nine furlongs on the grass in the Grade 3 Honeymoon. There, she went wire to wire, winning the race by three lengths. She is not going to sneak up on anyone this time, but I am excited to see how she follows that race up.
#10- Unmistakable (Mb Stables, ridden by M Tunon)- The post draw gods were not kind to Mb Stables in the BEL Oaks. He will have three in the field, but all of them will start out here in the double digits. Unmistakable is a Commanding filly that has just two wins in her eleven career starts, but does a better job of hitting the board overall, doing so more then half the time. She comes into the race off of the Grade 3 Wonder Again, a race where she went wire to wire to get the win. That will probably be harder for her to do given this post position, but she will still be a threat.
#11- One Step West (Maxmillion Farm, ridden by R A Vazquez)- We will see a lot of Mb Stables and Maxmillion Farm out there in the double digits as they were the only ones to draw any of these posts. There is not any one better in the game, especially on the grass, in figuring out how they manage it, but it could be an interesting chess match between these two trying to think of what the other is doing tactically. Or, maybe I am just giving the race engine too much credit. One Step West has mainly run on the main track in her career, and did win the Grade 2 Black Eyed Susan at PIM in May. She’s had just two weeks off, but that’s an extended vacation compared to Pennies on Monday.
#12- My Girl Makita (Maxmillion Farm, ridden by R Bejarano)- This Ginger Haggis filly will be making her first stake start of any sort here in the BEL Oaks, so it is a tough assignment. That will not matter for the best of horses, but My Girl Makita will have to prove herself, first. Her last two starts were very positive, but prior to that she shows some inconsistency. Many of the runners here are very consistent, in general, so it’s tough to give her a nod.
#13- Never Enough (Mb Stables, ridden by J Bisono)- This filly won the first three races of her career, and that moved her into the stake level. She has not been able to win since then, but continues to turn in good finish after good finish, and has never failed to get a least some part of the purse. Due to this, she has run in some top races, which includes the Grade 3 FL Oaks. It has been about two months since she was last on the track, running in the Grade 3 Gallorette at PIM, and she was second that day. She’ll be ready to run here, but it is a tough crowd, indeed.
#14- Chances Taken (Mb Stables, ridden by Mar Garcia)- Finally, on the outside, we have the third Mb Stables runner, who’s name may sum up the strategy here for the trainer, given his post draw. Chances Taken has made five starts in her career, winning two of them. She has done very well since moving to the grass, and comes off a win in the Grade 3 Regret at CD about six weeks ago.