Oaklawn Park Racing Preview – 12/18/21 – By Eric Solomon

There’s a ten race card this afternoon at Oaklawn Park, highlighted by the inaugural Tinsel Stakes for three year olds and up. There was rain and fog on yesterday’s card, with the races being contested over a sealed track that was labeled muddy. There was more rain forecasted overnight and throughout the day today, so I’m planning for a wet track again. The late Pick-5 sequence is very strong and worth taking a look at today.

 

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 2 2,7,8 4,5 DBL, PK5
2 7 7,11 9 DBL, PK3, PK4
3 9 9 8 DBL, PK3
4 4 4,7 6 8 DBL, PK3
5 10 5,7,10 4 DBL, PK3
6 6 3,6 1 DBL, PK3, PK5
7 4 4,6 5,8 DBL, PK3, PK4
8 1 1,2,7 8 DBL, PK3
9 7 7 2,4 DBL
10 5 5 4,6,12

 

Race 1:

This $10K starter allowance is definitely a challenging start to the Early Pick-5. Lord Dragon (#2) ships South from Kentucky, fresh off the Chris Hartman claim. He benefited from a hot pace to set up his late move when handily defeating $25K claimers last out. He’s one that will move up on an off track and he’s had success on this oval. Colosi (#7) is one of two being sent out by Diodoro in this race. I think his stablemate, Awesome Saturday (#6) is more effective in one turn races, which makes Colosi more desirable here. His last three two turn races are sharp, including a monster effort at Santa Anita with similar company back in May. Knight’s Cross (#8) was a winner here opening weekend, beating open $30K-$25K claimers. He was claimed by John Ortiz, who has brought several live runners here from Kentucky to start this season. Reylu Gutierrez has been riding well when he’s been here and he gets the nod today. On deeper tickets, Pit Boss (#4) is a likely upgrade on a wet course. He’ll need to find his Fair Grounds form from early spring to beat these, but his trainer is red hot to start off the meet. Morocco (#5) was claimed at Churchill last month for $25K, when finishing third. His form has been improving since switching to dirt races last month. 

 

Race 2: 

There are many professional maidens in this Arkansas bred $20K maiden claiming race. Doc Irwin (#7) is an interesting firster by Even the Score. His AM drills have been solid, showing a nice 48 and change effort here on 12/4. His trainer, Ernie Witt doesn’t saddle a ton of horses, but he’s capable of getting a young horse to fire a big effort at first asking. Lord M (#11) is definitely  the one to beat after a strong performance with open $25K maiden claimers at Remington last out. He drops into the state bred ranks where several horses seem vulnerable. On deeper tickets, Dancin Rocket (#9) makes his second career start today after a respectable debut with $10K maiden claimers two weeks ago. He tired a bit late, but he proved that he can compete on a wet track. 

 

Race 3:

Wartime Hero (#9) comes back off the layoff and first off the claim for Karl Broberg, who got his first win of the meet yesterday. This is an interesting horse with a beautiful pedigree, by Empire Maker and foaled by Kentucky Oaks runner up, St. Johns River. Other than his race in stakes company last year at Monmouth, his four other starts have been strong. He’s entered with the waiver here, so he’s not eligible to be claimed. He clearly has had some physical ailments, but if he’s right, he’s probably just better than these. Most Sandisfactory (#8) has been in good form in Ohio of late, while facing allowance foes. Ohio shippers have struggled at this meet, but he’s been a consistent runner that is usually involved from the start. He has only two wins in 28 starts, but has another 18 starts where he finished in the money. He might be a better underneath play, but if the favorite falters, he’s got a live look. 

 

Race 4: 

Seeing as how the Brad Cox barn has been heating up at this meet, winning twice yesterday, it might be a fool’s errand to play against race favorite, Pure Rocket (#8) in this $30K maiden claiming race for two year olds at one mile. However, despite taking the drop from maiden special weight to maiden claiming, the maiden special weight fields he’s been facing have not been very deep. He did run fairly well two back when having a rough go of it into the first turn. However, his last was a bit discouraging. He was purchased for $460K and he’s a half to G2 Remsen winner, Maximus Mischief, but he clearly doesn’t seem to have that kind of ability. I’ll use him on the deeper multi-race  tickets, and I’ll try to beat him vertically. Exit (#4) is an interesting longshot possibility, making his second career start after being claimed for this $30K tag at CD last month. He was wide, but showed some early interest before backing up, finishing 6th beaten 19 lengths. Norman Cash claimed him, and his horses have been very live in the early stages of this meet. He adds Lasix and will definitely benefit from a better post and the one start with two turn experience. Despite only seven days of racing in the books, three of the nine winners yesterday already ran once at the meet. Three of the nine in this race are making their second start of the meet, and the one that is most interesting to me is Popster (#7). He ran two weeks ago, while making his first start since the end of September at Remington. I thought his effort with $40K maiden claimers was solid and he is getting some class relief dropping into this field. That was his first effort at two turns, so I think he’s definitely eligible to move forward off that race. Galactic Empire (#6) was up the track in two seven furlong maiden special weight races in Kentucky for D. Wayne Lukas. He drops in class and goes two turns in his third career try, which, based on his pedigree, is what he might prefer. He’s sired by Pioneerof the Nile and his dam was graded stakes placed in dirt routes. I believe he’s the horse in the field that is getting the most class relief, and I think he could run a better race with this group today.

 

Race 5: 

I think D. Wayne Lukas has another live runner in this restricted $30K-$25K claiming sprint. Cold as Hell (#10) comes in after finishing last of nine in a very contentious open $40K claiming race at Churchill when making his first start since August. He drops in class, facing the softest group he’s seen since winning on an off the turf claiming race on a wet-fast track at Churchill in the spring. He has run his best races on wet tracks, winning both of his career races under less than perfect track conditions. Cabrera rode him in the slop when breaking his maiden and he reunites with him here. Sag Harbor (#7) was claimed by Randy Matthews last out at Indiana Grand when he finished second with a field similar to this one. He leaves Indiana in good form, running three strong races in a row. He makes a lot of sense in this spot. U.S. Steel (#5) gets back on the main track after a pair of respectable tries in turf sprints in New York. He ran well on the main track at Monmouth and Saratoga this summer, and this looks like the right level of competition for him. Wayne Potts, who won the training title at Monmouth this summer, looks to get his first win of the meet here with him. I’ll cover with The Rock Says (#4) on deeper tickets, as he makes his first start since last September for Diodoro in this race. He was very good before going away for over a year, and while he’s returning at the lowest level in his career, he definitely is running at the bottom. He’s only finished off the board once in 12 career starts. Maybe watch him for clues in the paddock and as he’s warming up on track. 

 

Race 6: 

The late Pick-5 kicks off with a $10K starter allowance race where I think Exemplar (#6) will be very tough. He was re-claimed for $10K last out by Norman Cash, who is looking to continue his current hot streak. He definitely likes an off track, winning in the slop last time, and winning three of seven times overall on a wet course. He looks to be returning to his better form, and I would consider singling him, however, my only concern is his 0-12 record on this track. It’s not a total deal breaker for me though, as he’s run some solid races locally, despite never finding the Winner’s Circle. I will use Home Run Trick (#3) on the A line as well though, making his first start since being claimed by Chris Hartman. He was a gate to wire winner on a wet rack at this meet last season. He went off form at Indiana Grand this summer, but he’s done that before when leaving Arkansas. His last effort suggests that he’ll continue to run his better races on this oval. Both runners on the A line do like to be forwardly placed, which continues to be a decent place to be in route races in the early portion of this meet. If coverage allows, I wouldn’t mind adding on a horse that can come from off the pace, and the best one in that category would be Tez (#1). He didn’t have the easiest run last out, when he was narrowly defeated by Botswana at this level two weeks ago. He’s been right there in his last two tries though, including a narrow defeat in the slop at Churchill. He’s proven he can take mud in his face and still be effective.

 

Race 7:

Six of the ten running in this maiden special weight for two year old fillies were purchased for over six figures at various sales, so there is a ton of potential in this race. In terms of the Late Pick-4, you’ll have the advantage of seeing how the race is being bet, and if any of the first time starters here are going to take money. Public money has been smart money in many of the two year olds races thus far at this meet, so if any of the firsters are taking significant action, I’d be inclined to include them. In terms of the Pick-5, I’d feel pretty good about rolling with the two second time starters, Runaway Wife (#4) and Icy Stare Down (#6). Runaway Wife was well backed at the windows, going off at 5-2 in a seven furlong maiden special weight race on the second Stars of Tomorrow card at Churchill last month. She ran well, but was upstaged by her stablemate, Cocktail Moments, who decimated that field by over 9 lengths, going off at 26-1. Seven furlongs is a tough distance to debut at, so I can forgive her for fading late, especially when the race was won by a runaway winner. She drilled a 46:4 at Keeneland last week and cuts back to six panels here. I think she is very live in this spot for Kenny McPeek, who has been firing on all cylinders with his current group of babies. Icy Stare Down runs for Brad Cox, who is always dangerous with his horses when they make their second career start. She ran well in her debut, finishing 3rd, beaten five on a good track at Churchill. She’s worked well three times over this course, and since she’s sired by Frosted, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her run big on an off track. The two firsters that look the most appealing are The Gang That Sang (#5) and Peace Peddler (#8). The Gang That Sang debuts for Joe Sharp after some solid works. She’s sired by Maclean’s Music, so speed and precocity are definitely evident in that pedigree. Relyu Gutierrez rode very well here in two days at the beginning of the meet, and he gets the nod here. Peace Peddler is sired by Gun Runner, who has had an amazing freshman class of runners this season. Her works are solid for trainer, Richard Baltas. I’ll cover with both on deeper tickets, and if either are bet down off their morning line figures, I’ll use them more prominently in the Pick 4. 

 

Race 8: 

This allowance contest features the return of C Z Rocket (#8), who won both the Hot Springs and Count Fleet Stakes here last season, beating the local hero, Whitmore. He was last seen finishing 7th in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and has been winless since winning the Count Fleet here in April. He’s been moved to the barn of former Peter Miller, assistant, Rene Amescua. Amescua, for whatever reason, has not been able to emulate the success of Miller just yet, winning only 4 of 49 races in 2021. This horse always tries his hardest though, and is worth covering. However, I prefer three others here. I’ll give the edge to three year old, County Final (#1). He has an interesting running line, competing in several turf sprints. He has four dirt starts though, and has never finished worse than second, winning twice. His pedigree, Oxbow out of a Tapit mare, doesn’t strike me as a sprinter’s pedigree, but Asmussen has been very successful, especially of late, with his sprinters on the main track. He should be able to handle a wet track, and while he’ll likely need to improve to beat these, I think he’s trending in the right direction to do so. Sir Alfred James (#2) is looking to rebound after a dull effort in the Fall Highweight Stakes at Aqueduct. Shipping to New York this time of year, and running on a deep track can certainly be challenging. His Kentucky form in the fall was very sharp, and being sired by Munnings is a plus for a horse that has never run on a wet track. Mucho (#7) is another hard tryer that is in very good form. His last four tries have been very solid, winning once, and losing in a photo in stakes company twice. This spot is not much class relief, but I like what I’ve seen from him, and Reylu Gutierrez seems to be a perfect fit for him.

 

Race 9: The $200K Tinsel Stakes

The feature race on the card might be the spot in the multi-race sequences to find a single. Lone Rock (#2) is the favorite, after running several big races when going 12 furlongs or farther on the dirt. He is definitely the best horse in training in North America at these marathon distances on the dirt. However, this race is only nine furlongs, and there’s a decent amount of early speed signed on while running on a track that will likely have some moisture in it. Lone Rock likes to be be forwardly placed in races where he can be more of a plodder, but I don’t think he can go with Thomas Shelby (#6) or Warrior’s Charge (#7) in the early stages, especially with both of them drawing the two outside posts. I think the race sets up very nicely for Warrior’s Charge. He loves racing here, winning three of eight starts and hitting the board four more times. He should sit a perfect stalking trip, just to the outside of Thomas Shelby. I’m not concerned about his 0-4 record at this distance, as two of those races came here in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap, where he still ran well. Another loss was a second place finish to Maxfield, who finished his career a perfect 5-5 at Churchill, in the Stephen Foster. His only dull race at the distance was in the three turn, Charles Town Classic, which is a race I can definitely forgive. I’ll cover with Lone Rock on some deeper tickets, as well as using Title Ready (#4). I can see a scenario where the front runners are tiring, especially if Lone Rock is used a little harder early on to try to keep up with the speedy duo on the outside. Even though there isn’t a ton of early speed, there is the potential for this race to fall apart, and he might be the beneficiary. He was a strong winner of the Grade 3 Louisiana Handicap at the Fair Grounds back in January. He was overmatched in the Dubai World Cup and went on the shelf until last month. He returned in a one turn allowance race at  Churchill where he finished a closing third. He;s more effective at two turns and should run better in his second try off the layoff. 

 

Race 10: 

More two year olds close the card, this time with a maiden special weight contest at 1 Mile and 1/16. Brad Cox has another second time starter, Quick to Blame (#5), that looks very dangerous. He ran well in his debut at a one turn mile at Churchill last month. He swung five wide and was grinding home when debuting at a challenging distance. He adds Lasix and has a pedigree that (Blame out of a Medaglia d’Oro mare) would be worth upgrading on a wet track. Ethereal Road (#6) is another D. Wayne Lukas horse that has a live look in this spot. Lukas’s horses tend to improve with more starts, and he took a decent step forward in his career try at Churchill last month. He gets Lasix and goes to two turns after a pair of sprints. He has a pair of works on this course and could be a good value play here. Call Me Jamal (#4) has followed the same trajectory as Ethereal Road, finishing ahead of him in the same seven furlong maiden special weight race at Churchill last out, He was closer to the pace, which was lively, but he dug in well when fading a bit to 4th. He makes sense on the stretch out and could be the quickest in the early stages. Chileno (#12) has had five starts and continues to gradually improve for Asmussen. His post makes his job tricky, as he’ll likely need to be used pretty hard to secure position. Having two turn experience does give him an edge though.  

 

Favorite Bet Today: Late Pick-5 ($48 Ticket)

This is a strong sequence with quality races from top to bottom. I feel that Warrior’s Charge (#7, Race 9) is a worthy single that might offer a little value in that sequence, in spite of his high profile connections. I also think that using the two second time starters in Race 7, Runaway Wide (#4) and Icy Stare Down (#6), gives a chance to spread out in the other legs. 

 

Main Ticket ($0.50 Base Wager): 

Race 6: 1, 3, 6

Race 7: 4, 6

Race 8: 1, 2, 7, 8

Race 9: 7

Race 10: 4, 5, 6, 12

 

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