The first really big day of racing at the Oaklawn Park meet is here with a strong, 11 race program, which is headlined by the $750K Grade 3 Southwest Stakes for three year olds going one mile and 1/16. In addition, we’ll see three year old fillies compete in the Martha Washington Stakes in Race 5 and older sprinters dash six furlongs in the King Cotton Stakes, which is the 8th race of the afternoon. Note that with the extra race on the program, there is an additional Pick-5 wager, starting in Race 3 and an additional Pick-4 wager starting in Race 5. First post for this larger Saturday card is an earlier 12:00 (CT).
I’ll be covering this exciting meet on the ITM Blog, along with posting some updates and thoughts from time to time on Twitter @EricSolomon718. Feel free to reach out!
|Race||Top Pick||A||B||C||Exotics Menu|
|1||5||5,6||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||1||1||2||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|3||2||2,5,7||3||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|5||5||5||3||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|7||8||8||1,4||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|8||3||3||1,7||DBL, PK3, PK4|
This loaded card begins with an overflow field of Arkansas bred fillies and mares, looking to break their maidens. I’ll try First Rate Romance (#5) on top in her second career start. She went off at almost 30-1 in her debut and was a beat slow from the gate, which then caused her to get shuffled to last. She did move up willingly along the rail, advancing through an opening inside, before flattening out late. Her sire has only three horses in training, but Tarpy’s Surprise was sired by Into Mischief, and she’s the first foal from a Maclean’s Music mare that won on debut. I think we’ll see more speed from her today, which could lead to an improved performance. The logical favorite is Bennykayandsuzytoo (#6) who is coming off a strong effort in her debut race last month. She was close to the lead and battled gamely to finish third, beaten less than two lengths, putting a Beyer speed figure that is significantly higher than what anyone else has earned here. She will be facing older runners for the first time, but with this group, I don’t see that as much of a concern.
A field of eight has come together for this optional claiming/conditioned allowance race at six furlongs. Having this race on the same day as the King Cotton Stakes may have cost that race a few runners, and I do wonder if the connections of either One for Richie (#1) or Kavod (#2) have any regrets about opting for this spot since there’s not a dedicated frontrunner signed on for that stakes race today. While both of these horses are at their best on the front end, I was looking for a viable alternative, however, while other runners in this race have run competitive races that would put them in conversation here, I just don’t trust any of them. I made One for Richie the top pick here. He squared off against Kavod in the Ring the Bell and he didn’t break well that day. He was flat-footed and was never able to make the front end, which is never a good sign for him. The track was also sloppy that day, and he’s struggled to be the best version of himself on off tracks. There are some scattered showers in the forecast today, but with this race carded earlier in the day, I don’t think they’ll impact the track for this race. I think he’s quicker than Kavod early and can hold him off late. Kavod will be where I back up, since he is a gutsy four year olf that still could be getting better. He was chasing a hot pace last out, which softened him up, allowing for Tejano Twist to roll by them all late. I think his best move is to stalk One for Richie, and hope to outfinish him late. It was a little telling to me to see Arrieta end up on One for Richie instead of Kavod as he had ridden them both.
Three year olds are set to go 1 mile and 1/16 in this maiden special weight contest. I’m going to try a bomb here and make Texas Pride (#2) my top pick for D. Wayne Lukas. He was purchased for $400K at the Keeneland September Sale in 2021. He debuted in a turf sprint and didn’t run a step at Saratoga. He came back 16 days later and ran into Loggins at Churchill on the day that one broke his maiden. Lukas gave him a few months off and brought him here where he had a miserably wide trip at this level in December. I think he ran a better race though, suggesting that there is more there to this well-bred son of Curlin. There’s not much speed signed on this spot, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Martin Garcia try to take advantage of an inside draw to possibly steal this one on the front end. There’s no mistaking that he’s never been close to winning a race, so 20-1 or better feels fair to me. Ken McPeek brought several two year olds here for the 12/31 card where juveniles were featured in every race and he came home with four wins on the afternoon. He has two runners today, including Interlock Empire (#5) who debuted that day. He’s stretching out to two turns, which based on his pedigree, should be a plus. The dam was sired by Curlin, but she didn’t show much on the racetrack. However, this Classic Empire colt did sell for $190K at the same Keeneland September Sale in 2021, so I do think there could be some upside. King Russell (#7) was second last out behind Sun Thunder, who we’ll see in the Southwest Stakes later on in the day. He’s had some less than ideal trips in his last two races. He was very wide two back from an outside stall at Keeneland. He drew post two last out and was shuffled to last early one. He moved up willingly, but was no match for the winner that day. He was clearly second best despite a wide move into the short stretch and he finished with a lot of interest. He’ll need a better trip today, but I could see him being a factor in this spot. On deeper tickets, I’ll cover with Talledega (#3) for Roldolphe Brisset and Flavien Prat. I sense this one could be overbet after running 5th behind a promising colt in Shopper’s Revenge. He didn’t have a great trip that afternoon, but he did show improvement. I prefer others, but I’d back up with this one on some deeper plays.
Older fillies and mares go one mile in this N1X allowance contest, Several of these runners met in an interesting race on 12/18 where a full field went 1 mile and 1/16. There were trouble lines in that race where some longshots set an aggressive early tempo, while some of the shorter prices in that race were left with a lot of work to do. There doesn’t seem to be as much pace signed on here, which I feel may tilt the advantage to Enchanted Nile (#6). She was 4th in that 12/18 race where she got first run on the pacesetters before folding up when Sunny Isle Beach came over the top. She was a gate to wire winner under Ramsey Zimmerman two weeks ago with $40K claimers. She has improved since Hartman claimed her in November and she could be tough to catch with the short stretch of the mile run here. Let’s Duet (#3) likes to be a little closer to the front end than she ended up last out. She drew a wide post that afternoon and went to the back of the pack in order to save some ground. She rallied four wide to get into second place that afternoon. If she can get the same kind of trip that she did two back when beating $30K starter allowance types at Churchill, she’s going to be tough in this spot. Broberg has two runners, and Cristian Torres typically winds up on the better runner. He gets the call on Pretti Xtreme (#7) who was third in that race where the trouble line insinuated that she was stuck in traffic. I don’t think the trouble really caused her to run such a flat race that day. Her best races have been elsewhere, so as a shorter price, I’ll be trying to beat her. I do like his other runner, Squillions (#4) though. She has been very consistent, winning four of her last five races. She has improved since Broberg claimed her at Remington in October. She cleared the N2X condition there, but remains eligible for the N1X condition here due to the purse structure in Oklahoma. She started her career on the turf and has never finished out of the money in her seven dirt starts since.
Race 5: The $200K Martha Washington Stakes:
I see the two shorter prices as being the ones to beat in this six horse contest for three year old fillies. Olivia Twist (#5) gets the call in her fourth career start. She’s been flawless racing at Remington,winning all three starts while never really being challenged. She’s a stakes winner at the mile distance, so I can’t see the extra 1/16 of a mile being a hindrance for this improving filly. I think she’ll be forwardly placed, which is probably a good thing in this race. Defining Purpose (#3) is the morning line choice and the logical alternative on this ticket. She was an open lengths stakes winner on this course last month, winning the New Year’s Eve Stakes with ease. Her two wins were dominating, but her two losses were forgettable. She may be due to regress a bit off her strong effort last month. I’ll use her, but I’ll be a little cautious, especially if the price gets too low.
This is another N1X allowance race for older runners sprinting six furlongs. There’s a lot of speed signed on which may prove to be helpful for Torontotoro (#11), who has scratched out of two different races so far at this meet. He was a strong winner last out at Mountaineer and he’s won five of his last nine starts. He runs well just off the pace and with a lot of cheap speed signed on, I think he can sit the right trip from his high draw. I’d like him more if the spotty showers that are in the forecast turn into something a little bit more than that, creating an off track. American Pure (#3) is a longer priced runner that could also benefit from a solid early pace. He’s run two sharp races since he was claimed by Lindsay Schultz. He just missed at this level against a softer field for the condition last time out, however he’s run on with interest in both of those races. He looks like an under the radar type of runner that could be a player here. Ninja Warrior (#5) is coming off a monster effort with starter allowance company here last month. He controlled things on the front end that day, assuming command early and never looking back. Diodoro has done well with this runner since claiming him for $75K in a two turn turf race at Churchill back in June. While the other speed may cause problems here, I respect what he’s done on the track and think this a runner that could move forward off his last.
The third and final Pick-5 wager of the afternoon starts with this maiden special weight sprint for three year olds. It’s going to be hard to look past the favorite, Easy Action (#8) in this spot. He was second at this level last out when a Brad Cox firster, Eyeing Clover, got the job done. He’s been a part of some challenging maiden races, facing nice horses like Loggins and Bromley in his first two starts. He finished in front of Ben’s Legacy, who came back to win his last race at this condition last Saturday. He feels single worthy in this race. Underneath and on some deeper tickets, I might consider taking a small shot with Clay’s Black Opal (#1) for Ronald Westermann. He’s sired by Not This Time, who wins with 21% of his dirt sprinters in their debut. The dam has had six horses to race and three of them were winners at first asking. The works aren’t jumping off the page and Westermann hasn’t had a debut winner since March of 2021. However, that winner was a 27-1 longshot that sprinted on the dirt on this oval. At 30-1 on the morning line, he’d be worth a small shot and including underneath in the vertical exotics. Commerce Comet (#4) appears to be the main threat to the favorite. Santana rode him to a narrow defeat at Churchill Downs on debut back in November. He opts to ride the favorite in this spot, which is interesting to me, since his business with Asmussen is up from last year. Cristian Torres taking over is no slouch, as he is the leading rider at the meet, however, I’d have to think that Santana had the choice of mounts.
Race 8: The $150K King Cotton Stakes:
The third and final Pick-4 of the afternoon begins with a stakes race for four year olds and upward going six furlongs. Gunite (#7) makes his four year old debut in this race for Steve Asmussen. He’s a Grade 1 winner as a two year old and he went on to win four stakes races last season, including the Grade 2 Amsterdam at Saratoga back in August. He’s never finished off the board in a sprint race, struggling twice in his two races going one mile. He was a little flat last season when he was returning from a layoff, so if there’s a time to try to beat him, it might be right now. I think Flash of Mischief (#3) is going to be very hard to beat here. He dominated the Ring the Bell Stakes in the slop at the beginning of the meet, proving his monster effort at Remington three starts back was no fluke. He struggled at long odds two back in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, but I’m not sure he was quite ready for that level of competition. Broberg has him at six furlongs now, which appears to be what he does best. I think the lack of early speed in here should play nicely into his hands for the race he wants to run. Tejano Twist (#1) is in search of his fourth straight victory this afternoon. He’s been excellent when reeling off three straight wins, all of which were races where he was coming from off the pace. There isn’t much early speed signed on today, so that might hinder his chances a bit here. However, his current form is too good for me to completely ignore. He’ll be a saver for me in this spot.
We have yet another N1X allowance, this one for older horses going 1 mile and 1/16. Barber Road (#5) is the familiar name in this race. He made his first start last month since his 7th place finish in the Belmont Stakes last June. He finished in the money in each of the four Derby Points races carded here last year, and I thought his 6th place finish in the Kentucky Derby was a very strong effort. He definitely needed his last and the runner up that day, Winterwood, came back to win in his next start. He’s definitely the class of this field, but he hasn’t won a race since November 2021. He’ll be on my tickets, but I’ll look for coverage, making the Hawthorne invader, Megan’s Honor (#1) my top pick. Speed often plays well on big race days in general and he has good speed and a rail post. Tyler Baze, who has struggled at this meet, should be able to get him on the front end if that’s what they want to do with him. Scott Becker wins a ton of races in Illinois and while his percentages drop outside of the Land of Lincoln, he still wins his fair share. Tonka Warrior (#12) might have been my top pick had he not drawn post 12. However, his late running style shouldn’t completely compromise his chances with that high draw. He was a close third behind Winterwood last time out and he’s never finished off the board in nine career dirt starts. On deeper tickets, Heir to Greatness (#6) caught the eye when crushing a field of $30K maiden claimers two weeks ago. Broberg claimed him and wheels him back at this tougher level in hopes of striking while the iron is hot. He only has three career starts on the dirt, so maybe that’s closer to who he is. The bounce potential is certainly there, but if he hovers around that 8-1 morning line figure, I’d be willing to take a small risk.
Race 10: The $750K Grade 3 Southwest Stakes:
I wrote about this race in depth on the ITM blog and I’ll link the horse by horse analysis below. While I think both Arabian Knight (#6) and Corona Bolt (#2) are major players in this race while stretching out to two turns for the first time, I see value in making Red Route One(#7) my top pick in this race. He never had a chance to run in his last race and should be eligible to take a decent step forward today.
The day concludes as it began with state bred maiden special weight fillies and mares sprinting six furlongs. The first division of this race featured Bennykayandsuzytoo and a strong effort from here would certainly flatter Lassie My Girl (#2). She will be the heavy favorite after a strong effort in her debut, when she finished in front of that filly. She led every step of the way before being nailed on the wire. There’s a lot of other speed to contend with in this spot though. She’ll be on the A line for me, but I’ll try Tiz a Strategy (#11) to take a step forward in her second career try. She broke near the back of the pace, and gained ground to get up into third along the rail in her debut. She was 4 and ½ lengths behind the second choice in the morning line, Kokomo Starlet (#7), who should also be a part of the pace battle in this one. I think the pace scenario here favors her and I believe she can make up that ground after an educational debut. Be Bo (#6) debuts for Moquett off several four furlong drills. She might need this one, as I’d prefer to see a few five furlong works thrown in there. However, the dam was a stakes placed on this oval and she won her first three races of her career.
Meet Statistics: Top Pick 37/165 (22.4%), $260.80 $1.58 ROI
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