If you’re searching for the speed horses entered in Saturday’s inaugural running of the $750,000 Jockey Club Oaks at Belmont Park, let me save you some trouble—there aren’t any.
Actually, let me backtrack a little bit. While it’s safe to say none of the eight sophomore fillies entered in this 1 3/8-mile grass race have shown any interest in setting the pace, two have shown the ability to run well with pace-pressing trips, and I’m optimistic this tactical advantage will give them an edge in the Jockey Club Oaks.
One of these fillies is #2 Romantic Pursuit, a Godolphin homebred daughter of Medaglia d’Oro out of Questing, the winner of the Alabama Stakes (G1) and Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) in 2012. With a pedigree like that, you might expect Romantic Pursuit to excel on dirt, but she has done her best running on grass. In four starts over the New York turf courses at Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga, Romantic Pursuit has never finished out of the exacta.
Two starts back Romantic Pursuit employed pace-pressing tactics to narrowly win a 1 1/4-mile maiden race at Belmont. She then stretched out to 1 3/8 miles at Saratoga, again settled in second place early and battled tenaciously to win by a head.
Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Romantic Pursuit has drawn post 2 and figures to be sent to the front by jockey Luis Saez. An uncontested lead should be in the offing, though Romantic Pursuit will likely be shadowed early by #5 Love So Deep, who looms as the only other potential frontrunner on paper.
Based in England the Japanese-bred daughter of Deep Impact has shown flashes of talent abroad. Two starts back she cruised to victory in the 1 1/2-mile Chalice Stakes over good-to-firm ground at Newmarket, then she flashed pace-pressing speed in the 1 9/16-mile Prix de Pomone (G2) at Deauville. Despite racing over heavy going and arguably striking the front too soon, Love So Deep fought on gamely to finish second by a head.
Love So Deep earned a career-best 109 Racing Post Rating for her Prix de Pomone effort, which suggests she is on the improve this summer. A return to firm turf should be ideal, because Deep Impact’s progeny have thrived over rock-hard courses in Japan, and with Romantic Pursuit to serve as a target, Love So Deep should be poised for a perfect trip.
I’ll place my faith in the old saying “pace makes the race” and key Romantic Pursuit and Love So Deep on top in the exacta.
$5 exacta: 2,5 with 2,4,5,8 ($30)