It’s hard to feel sorry for a multiple Grade I-placed filly who has earned more than a quarter of a million dollars, but when it comes to Land Over Sea, I can’t help it. The poor girl owns the distinction of being the filly to finish behind champion and division leader Songbird the most — five times — in her seven-race career. In any other season, Land Over Sea would probably be an early favorite for the Kentucky Oaks (GI), but she had the unfortunate luck to be born in the wrong year.
Though she has a sole win — versus maidens, no less — to her credit, she’s hardly a slouch. She has four second-place finishes, two in graded stakes, and a third in another graded event. She’s run well at a bunch of different distances and even broke her maiden on turf, so she’s versatile, and she always seems to give it her all. Props to her connections for finally giving up (or giving in) and shipping her to Louisiana for the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) where she will face a talented field, but also one she’s more inclined to defeat than in her last four races.
The Doug O’Neill trainee has never been much of a morning glory, always posting solid — if not spectacular — works, but has never missed a beat and sports some solid speed figures heading into this event. She gets a big jock switch (not to throw shade on regular rider Mario Gutierrez as he is a Derby-winning jock, among other things) but she can only benefit from a big-event rider like John Velazquez, who has won more than 5,100 races and reigns as North America’s all-time leading money-winning jockey.
Land Over Sea drew the outside post in the field of eight, but she likes to close into a pace a little bit so it shouldn’t be much of a concern if she breaks well and gets good position early. With a little luck and the lack of her nemesis, maybe Land Over Sea can actually earn her first graded score.
Venus Valentine defined what it means to drop a bomb and light up the tote board with her last victory at nearly 75-1 in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (GII) last month. It’s easy to see how she was so overlooked in the wagering, failing to hit the board in three starts while sprinting, on a synthetic surface and on turf since breaking her maiden at Ellis Park last summer, but it all came together for her when she was stretched out around two turns on a fast dirt track last out. The Tom Amoss trainee has three decent works since her last, will carry jockey Corey Lanerie again and has every right to improve in her third start this year.
Stageplay was installed as the early 5-2 morning line favorite off a very wide fifth-place finish in the Rachel Alexandra as the 3-5 favorite. She was legitimately favored that day off two stakes wins and another second in graded company, so there is no doubt her connections are hoping for a better outcome in this race. She’s bred to like the added distance, is trained by Hall of Fame nominee Steve Asmussen and will be ridden again by hot jockey Florent Geroux. So, she has everything going for her and, with a clean trip from just behind the pace, may get the job done and head into the Kentucky Oaks as a top contender.
Asmussen also sends out Adore after a pair of wins in maiden and allowance company and the Winchell Thoroughbreds daughter of Big Brown seems ideally bred for the nine furlongs. She’ll need to improve a lot to have a chance at a top-three finish, but stranger things have happened. Just ask Venus Valentine’s connections.
Midnight On Oconee has been nothing if not consistent and another typical run from the daughter of Midnight Lute puts her right in the thick of things. She may have some pedigree concerns, being by a champion sprinter, but she’s got top trainer Larry Jones in her corner, so her connections sincerely believe she’s got a legitimate shot.
The race has been carded as the 9th on the day with a post time of 5:27 p.m. EDT.