Banking on Proven Route Runners in 2021 Woodbine Oaks

Fans at Woodbine keep a close eye on the action in this file photo. (Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing)

A Triple Crown of sorts gets underway on Sunday at Woodbine, when Canada’s signature racetrack hosts the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks Presented by Budweiser.

weekend TV schedule

Friday, July 30: 1 p.m.-6:30 p.m. ET on FS2; post time varies on TVG

Saturday, July 31: 1 p.m.-7 p.m. on FS2; post time varies on TVG

Sunday, August 1: 1 p.m.-3:30 p.m. on FS2; 3:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. on FS1; post time varies on TVG

Held at a distance of 1 1/8 miles on Woodbine’s synthetic Tapeta Footings surface, the Woodbine Oaks serves as the first leg of the Canadian Triple Tiara, a series of three important races for Canadian-foaled 3-year-old fillies. It’s Canada’s equivalent to the Grade 1 Longines Kentucky Oaks, with a roster of winners featuring such standout stars as Dance Smartly, Sealy Hill, and Lexie Lou.

The 2021 Woodbine Oaks has drawn a field of 10 fillies and a competitive race should be on tap. Many bettors figure to favor #4 Lorena, and understandably so. The dark bay or brown Souper Speedy filly is undefeated in three starts at Woodbine, including a front-running score in the July 10 Fury Stakes sprinting seven-eighths of a mile. With her abundant tactical speed, Lorena looms as a formidable front-running threat with proven form on the main track at Woodbine.

But Lorena is stretching out significantly in distance for the Woodbine Oaks. She’ll be running a quarter-mile farther than ever before, and she’ll be racing around two turns for the first time. On the bright side, trainer Stuart Simon wins at an impressive 40% rate with horses running long for the first time, but the added distance is still a meaningful question mark for Lorena.

That’s why I’m more inclined to favor #1 Curlin’s Catch (3-1), who is arguably the most accomplished filly in the field. True, the daughter of Curlin has gone 0-for-3 on the Woodbine main track, but two of those losses came last season and Curlin’s Catch has clearly improved in the interim.

Indeed, Curlin’s Catch showed promising form during the winter in Florida. After wiring a one-mile maiden special weight race at Gulfstream Park, the bay filly shipped to Tampa Bay Downs and promptly rallied to a 4 1/2-length triumph in the one-mile and 40-yard Suncoast Stakes on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks.

Curlin’s Catch wasn’t quite as sharp in her next two starts, finishing fifth against tough competition in both the Grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes and the Grade 1 Central Bank Ashland Stakes. But after taking three months off, she returned with an encouraging effort in the Fury Stakes. Despite cutting back in distance for her first start off the layoff, Curlin’s Catch rallied gamely to finish third, beaten only 1 1/2 lengths by Lorena.

With this prep run under her belt, Curlin’s Catch figures to take a step forward in the Woodbine Oaks. She’s bred to relish racing 1 1/8 miles, so the distance shouldn’t be an issue. Trainer Mark Casse has already won the Woodbine Oaks three times (including with Sealy Hill and Lexie Lou), and jockey Rafael Hernandez (a 25% winner when teaming up with Casse) is named to ride.

Taking all of these positive factors into account, I expect Curlin’s Catch to turn the tables on Lorena in the Woodbine Oaks. We’ll bet the race accordingly and play Curlin’s Catch on top of all our tickets.

But who should we use for second- and third-place in exacta and trifecta wagers? That’s a tricky question. Lorena is a logical choice, but if she falters at the longer distance, the minor awards could be anyone’s game.

#10 Munnyfor Ro (9-2) is certainly worth respecting. The chestnut Munnings filly has spent most of her career racing on turf, but she handled the Woodbine Tapeta Footings surface just fine when rallying to finish second in the 1 1/16-mile, Grade 3 Selene Stakes last month. She risks a wide trip while breaking from post-position 10, but her speed ratings are fast enough to challenge against this caliber of competition.

#2 Jilli Marie (8-1) is another accomplished contender after winning her first three starts at Woodbine in determined fashion, including the South Ocean Stakes. But like Lorena, Jilli Marie has yet to race around two turns and her most accomplished sibling was best as a sprinter. Stretching out in distance isn’t guaranteed to be a winning formula for Jilli Marie.

At least we don’t have to worry about the distance capabilities of #3 Miss Marie (10-1). A pure stretch runner, Miss Marie was impressive in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight race at Woodbine on July 10, rallying explosively from behind a slow pace to win by a neck. The daughter of Carpe Diem gained 5 1/2 lengths in the final furlong alone to catch the pacesetting runner-up #6 Emmeline (12-1) and still has plenty of upside for improvement.

#9 Il Malocchio (8-1), third in the Suncoast Stakes and fourth in the Fury Stakes, is also worth including on deeper tickets.

Depending on how much budget you’ve allocated for betting the Woodbine Oaks, here are a couple of different wagering strategies to consider:

Wagering Strategy on a $24 Budget

$15 to win on #1 Curlin’s Catch

What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 8th race, $15 to win on 1

$3 exacta: 1 with 3,4,10 ($9)

What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 8th race, $3 exacta 1 with 3,4,10

Wagering Strategy on a $48 Budget

$24 to win on #1 Curlin’s Catch

What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 8th race, $24 to win on 1

$4 exacta: 1 with 3,4,10 ($12)

What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 8th race, $4 exacta 1 with 3,4,10

$1 trifecta: 1 with 3,4,10 with 3,4,6,9,10 ($12)

What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 8th race, $1 trifecta 1 with 3,4,10 with 3,4,6,9,10

Good luck, and enjoy the race!

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