Apple Blossom Special

The pickings are slim this weekend for Kentucky Derby prep races to preview and handicap.

That said, there is the very competitive, Grade 1 $600,000 dollar Apple Blossom Handicap being run Saturday at Oaklawn Park.  A full field of 14 fillies and mares are scheduled to travel the 1 1/16 mile circuit.

The Apple Blossom is Race 10 on a card of 11 with a scheduled Post Time of 6:16.  Here then is a full-field rundown with Morning Line odds.

1. OLLIE’S CANDY  [12-1]  Trainer: John Sadler.  Jockey: Joel Rosario.  Toss the Beholder Mile (G1) effort, as she faded to 3rd off a layoff.  Prior to that race, she turned in a fine performance in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, finishing 4th after chasing SERENGETI EMPRESS‘ fast pace.  She projects to save ground on both turns in this spot.  But is she fast enough?  Fair question.  But she only finished 1 ¼ lengths behind SERENGETI EMPRESS in the Distaff, and that filly will be the favorite here.   

2. COLDWATER  [50-1]  Trainer: Peter Eurton.  Jockey: Walter De La Cruz.  Given she only Won a starter allowance at Santa Anita by a head in her most recent start, it is hard to understand why her connections think this is a good spot.  Perhaps she has been impressive in her morning workouts?  But based off that last outing, the idea of her even getting up for a bottom share is difficult to fathom.     

3. AWE EMMA  [20-1]  Trainer: Dallas Stewart.  Jockey: Corey Lanerie.  She took a local allowance optional claimer less than two weeks ago on April 5th.   Prior to that, she dumped her rider in the Azeri Stakes (G2).  This filly owns plenty of speed, although she rated a bit to Win that recent optional claimer at one mile.  Stretching back out to 1 1/16 miles will make it difficult to sit off horses.

4. COME DANCING  [3-1]  Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas.  Jockey: Florent Geroux.  This 6-year-old mare loves to Win.  She took the Ballerina Stakes (G1) last summer at Saratoga as well as the Gallant Bloom Stakes (G2) and Ruffian Stakes (G2).  However there are some questions, including whether she can hold form under her new trainer.  As well as how will she handle a two-turn route?  Her runner-up finish in the 1 1/16-mile Ogden Phipps Stakes came around one turn.  Want more trepidation?  She only shows two workouts since the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.  Too many questions for too short odds.   

5. POINT OF HONOR  [10-1]  Trainer: George Weaver.  Jockey: Drayden Van Dyke.  This 4-year-old filly burned money in her return at Tampa Bay Downs.  Sent off at 3/5 in a seven-furlong handicap race, she could only manage a flat 2nd by four lengths.  But she stands to improve in her second start off the bench.  She displayed good form last year when winning the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (G2) and finishing runner-up in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) and Alabama Stakes (G1).  The odds provide enough value to include her in exotics.

6. STREET BAND  [15-1]  Trainer: Larry Jones.  Jockey: Sophie Doyle.  For some reason, the public over-bet this one in her two starts to open 2020.  At 2-1, she hung in the stretch of the Houston Ladies Classic Stakes (G3) and ran 3rd.  Next, she faded to a distant 4th in the Azeri Stakes, 8 ¼ lengths behind SERENGETI EMPRESS.  Her big Win in the Cotillion Stakes (G1) last year came after a suicidal pace up front. She might get another setup like that here, but this a deeper group than those she beat.

7. QUEEN NEKIA  [20-1]  Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr.  Jockey: David Cohen.  Under a new trainer this mare looks reborn.  Back in January, she took a Gulfstream allowance optional claimer with a 106 Speed Figure.  After that, she closed for a solid 3rd in the Royal Delta Stakes (G3) with a 111.  Prior to those races, she only broke 100 three times in 22 starts.  New form with a different trainer, she may turn in another nice performance for a piece at a decent price.   

8. SARACOSA  [30-1]  Trainer: Cipriano Contreras.  Jockey: Martin Garcia.  In her two starts this year, she finished 5th by 9 ½ lengths in the Houston Ladies Classic and 3rd by seven lengths in the Azeri.  She did make up some ground in the Azeri and passed a couple of lesser horses.  On paper, SARACOSA appears over-matched. 

9. HOROLOGIST  [15-1]  Trainer: Richard Baltas.  Jockey: Tyler Baze.  This one lost the Nellie Morris Stakes at Laurel Park by just a nose in her most recent start.  That effort produced a lofty 121 Speed Figure.  Earlier in the year, she finished 5th in the La Canada Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita.  That race is forgivable as her first start of the season.  Last September, she posted a nice race in the Cotillion Stakes to finish 3rd after sitting close to the suicidal pace.   

10. COOKIE DOUGH  [10-1]  Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr.  Jockey: Abel Cedillo.  While she ran well to Win the Royal Delta at Gulfstream, her up-front running style will not help her in a race with SERENGETI EMPRESS and AWE EMMA lined up and ready to burn. Consider this speedy filly only if one or both of those rivals scratch.

11. SERENGETI EMPRESS  [4-1]  Trainer: Tom Amoss.  Jockey: Joe Talamo.  After a long losing streak, she finally Won again in the Azeri Stakes against a couple of rivals she sees again here.  The issue with her is that she absolutely needs the lead.  Even her best losing efforts came after setting the pace, as she showed in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and Test Stakes (G1).  Along with some familiar faces, she also meets other speed types in AWE EMMA and COOKIE DOUGH.  While she remains a threat, those two could weaken her enough to allow others to go by.  If one or two of the other speed horses scratch her chances to Win improve.   

12. GO GOOGLE YOURSELF  [12-1]  Trainer: Paul McGee.  Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr. This hard-trying 5-year-old mare recently Won the Bayakoa Stakes (G2) by a head over WHOA NELLIE with a 114 Speed Figure.  Regardless, she has always been a step below the best fillies and mares.  As with many of these, she is capable of hitting the board.   

13. LADY APPLE  [15-1]  Trainer: Steven Asmussen.  Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.  What happened in the Azeri?  After turning in a great effort on January 26th to Win the Houston Ladies Classic by half a length over SERENGETI EMPRESS, she regressed over the slop and finished 5th, 20 lengths behind the same opponent.  Perhaps getting back over fast dirt will help.  This is a tough post for a horse if it cannot clear the field before the first turn.

14. CE CE  [7-2]  Trainer: Michael McCarthy.  Jockey: Victor Espinoza.  This too is a tough Post Position, but CE CE is on the upswing after taking a Santa Anita allowance optional claimer by 4 ¼ lengths easily and the Beholder Mile by 3 ¼ lengths.  The talent is there to overcome the bad post.  With Post 10 or lower, she gets a much stronger endorsement. With this draw, though, it is a tough call.

Conclusion:  OLLIE’S CANDY draws an inside post and offers the right credentials as the Clement L. Hirsch (G1) Winner at Del Mar last summer.  She also offers the right Value, as most of the betting public’s money will go toward SERENGETI EMPRESS and the rising star CE CE.  We expect OC to sit behind the speed and strike early on the far turn.

With that said, CE CE is a talented filly who overcame a wide first turn in the Beholder Mile.  She can also sit behind horses, whereas SERENGETI EMPRESS cannot.

Both OLLIE’S CANDY and CE CE are the horses to use on top, with the former preferred because of the Value and potential to move forward.

The Play:  The Daily Racing Blog will do a Trifecta Key, using #1 on top of the #5-6-11-12-14.  If #14 CE CE has Post Time Odds of 3-1 or better we will use him on top of another ticket- #14 with #1-5-6-11-12.  We’ll also play an Exacta Box with the #1-5-14, and Win bets on #1, 5, 6, 12.

Best of Luck no matter how you play it.

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