A field of eight will line up in Saturday’s $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) with the Todd Pletcher trained Zaajel having an upset chance.
Most of the attention will go to the one-two finishers of the Rachel Alexandra (G2), which was won by Clairiere by a neck over Travel Column. The third-place finisher Moon Swag and sixth place finisher Souper Sensational also return out of that race.
The Fair Grounds Oaks is a Road to the Kentucky Derby Oaks points race, with 100-40-20-10 points up for grabs.
The Steve Asmussen trained Clairiere was able to run down her rival Travel Column inside the final furlong last out to win the Rachel Alexandra, the margin a length.
“The trip worked out perfectly for us in the Rachel Alexandra,” Asmussen said. “At a mile-and-a-sixteenth, I think the fillies are competitive. It’s the same distance on Saturday. We feel really good about our prospects going forward.”
Asmussen has won the Fair Grounds Oaks three times, the most recent with Untapable in 2014.
The Brad Cox trained Travel Column got the best of Clairiere in the Golden Rod (G2) last November at Churchill Downs and they will now meet for the third time in a row.
“I think she should get a good stalking trip from our post,” Cox said. “There’s no pace in the race. We’re not going to sit back there and give someone the race. We didn’t win (the Rachel Alexandra) but we were very, very pleased with the comeback and we expect her to move forward off that return. She’s a very, very good work horse and she’s been training great since that race.”
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2021 Forward Gal Replay
Meanwhile flying under the radar is the Todd Pletcher trained Zaajel, who will be making his first start around two turns. She won the Forward Gal (G3) at Gulfstream Park in her last outing. She is bred to get the added ground and her 8-1 morning line looks generous.
Pletcher has won the race twice, with Unlimited Budget (2013) and Ashado (2004).
There are eight stakes on the Saturday card at Fair Grounds highlighted by the $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2), a Road to the Kentucky Derby points race.
Let’s head out to Fair Grounds for Saturday’s featured race of the day:
Fair Grounds Race 13 The Fair Grounds Oaks 5:14 CT
1 Zaajel 8-1
8 Travel Column 5-2
6 Clairiere 2-1
3 Souper Sensational 15-1
The Pletcher trainee appears likely to offer some decent value in this spot. The filly ships in from Florida where last out she won the Forward Gal (G3) in her stakes debut going seven furlong as the heavy favorite. The third-place finisher Wholebodemeister came back to win the Davona Dale (G2) in her next outing by 6 ½ lengths on Feb. 27 improving her Beyer by 22 points. Our top pick’s last Beyer seems light at 66 after she broke her maiden in her debut with a 73 where she won by 7 ¼ lengths. By comparison, the BRIS numbers for our top pick was a last out 85 and her debut number was an 84. This gal is bred to go long, by Street Sense out of a stakes placed Daaher mare. The barn is 23% winners moving runners from sprint to route. She draws the rail and there is not much early speed signed up. There is no guarantee Irad will send her, but she should be forwardly placed.
This gal was the beaten favorite in the Rachel Alexandra (G2) last out, a race four of these exit. The Cox trainee tracked the early pace, took over the lead and was headed inside the 1/16ths and came up a neck short. Perhaps Geroux moved a bit too soon and she should have every chance to turn the tables on Clairiere. She was making her first start since winning the Golden Rod (G2) last November at Churchill Downs where she beat Clairere by a length. She has worked sharply since her return effort and should move forward off that outing.
The Asmussen trainee made a good late rally to win the Rachel Alexandra in her first trip over the main track here. She broke her maiden in her debut at Churchill Downs going two turns and then was a good second in the Golden Rod in her first start against winners. Not much separates her with our second choice in here although she likely will be a slightly shorter price and will have more ground to make up when they turn for home. She has put in three good breezes over the main track since her return and is eligible to move forward off her last effort. The main knock is her likely short price. She is by Curlin out of the multiple Grade 1 stakes winner Cavorting ($2 million), this her first foal to race.
WIN: Zaajel to win at 5-1 or better.
EXACTA: 1 / 3,4,6,8 and 1,8 / 1,6,8