Oaklawn Park kicks off its 68 day meet with a nine race Friday program, highlighted by the $150K Advent Stakes, for two year old sprinters. The exciting gelding, Tyler’s Tribe, is looking to rebound from a disastrous effort in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, a race in which he bled badly while not being permitted to race with raceday Lasix. Rafael Bejarano, Nik Juarez, and Isaac Castillo are some of the new faces that are looking to challenge David Cabrera for the riding title this year. Steve Asmussen was a handy winner of the training title last season, and he’s starting off the meet with horses entered in seven of the nine races on the card. Bill Mott and his son, Riley Mott, who recently started training on his own, are both new faces that will be seen at this meet. The younger Mott has his first starter at Oaklawn, Peace Cruiser, running in Race 3. First post today is 12:30 local time (1:30 ET).
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|
|2||1||1,5||8||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||7||7,9,12||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|6||2||2,3,4||8||10||DBL, PK3, PK4|
The meet kicks off with a $20K maiden claimer for three year olds and upward going six furlongs. All seven runners that entered are three years old. This race is a total puzzle to me for a variety of reasons. Many of these runners have faltered several times throughout their career, and I’m not sure if this distance is the right trip for some. Remington Park shippers struggled at the beginning of the meet last year, but I think the three horses that last ran there are contenders here. I ended up on Shakedown Street (#5) as the top pick today. His last three races have been in Kentucky, going two turns. He debuted in June at Churchill at this distance, running a respectable second when facing $50K maiden claimers. His sire, Klimt, won all of his races at seven furlongs or shorter, and his dam won her only race at this distance. Her two foals that have won races, have done so in one turn sprints. Lindsay Schultz won her first career race as a trainer last season at Oaklawn and she went on to have a productive meet at Monmouth this past summer. She reached in and claimed him for $15K at Churchill last month and sends him South, while cutting back in distance. Isaac Castillo rode very well here last April when trying to figure out if he could spend the winter here. He gets the call on this one who has more upside than many of the others. Despite being 8-1 on the morning line, I think Acehigh Royal (#3) will likely go into the starting gate as one of the favorites for Ron Moquett. He was a promising debut runner with maiden allowance company at this meet last season. He’s failed to come close to that effort in his five subsequent starts though. He takes a considerable drop in class this afternoon for his return to Hot Springs. I do worry that there is not enough pace signed on for him to run the race that he wants to run. I’ll cover him, but if his odds get too short (under 4-1), I feel like there is value in trying to beat him. Message Discipline (#2) comes in with two slow races on his brief resume. However, I do think that he has more ability than he showed on raceday. He debuted at Belmont in June in the mud where he was sent off as the post time favorite. He showed some early interest, before backing out to be 4th. He resurfaced last month at Remington for Steve Martin after being sold by Klaravich Stables in a private purchase. He was a part of an aggressive pace that day, while being out in the four path for the majority of the race. He looked like he was coming with a solid run, but when the 4-5 favorite, who also had rail position, found another gear, he backed up sharply. I do think he could show more in his second race off the layoff, and I don’t see much competition for the early lead. We’ll have no idea how the track is going to be playing, so I do think he may be worth including, in case inside speed runners have an advantage, like they did in sprints early on in the meet last season. Still On the Books (#6) is another runner that is cutting back in distance after three straight two-turn route races. He’s hit the board in three of four career dirt sprint races, all coming in Southern California. He ran two competitive races at this level there before Diodoro shipped him to Oklahoma. His two efforts at Remington don’t inspire a ton of confidence, but he’s another one that has a shot in this wide open affair.
Conditioned filly and mare $10K claimers sprint six furlongs in the back end of the early double. This race is restricted to horses that have never won three times or horses that have not won a race at this tag since May 8th. Costanarmandaleg (#5) remains eligible because her three recent victories at Delta came in races with a lower claiming tag than she’s running for today. I thought Catechism (#1) was interesting enough to use as a top pick here. She returned at Keeneland from a four month break in a race where she was second best when facing open $16K claimers. She’s a horse that is streaky that goes on and off form quite a bit. She drops in class and returns to Oaklawn where she ran some decent races last season, especially in sprints. She was excellent at the beginning of the meet last year and while she doesn’t look as sharp as she did this time last year, I think she is eligible to improve off her last start. She has rail speed and a class edge over the majority of these. While Kentucky shippers dominated the first month of the meet last year, I still think there’s a case to be made for Costanarmandaleg, shipping in from Delta. She’s had a very productive meet there thus far, winning three of four races, and losing in a photo in her one defeat there. She is moving up in class, where many of her rivals are dropping, however, no one is in better current form than she is. She did break her main at Sam Houston last spring, while racing on a more traditional track (one mile oval compared to the ¾ of a mile oval at Delta). This seems like the right time to take a swing on a bigger circuit. I feel Girls a Bullet (#8) is a better play underneath in the vertical exotics, as opposed to using her on top in the horizontals. She’s making her 12th start of 2022, while searching for her first win. She has hit the board in eight of those eleven starts though, making her a must use in the exactas and trifectas. Her four starts here last season were good, finishing second twice and third twice in four tries. Catechism was a little better than her in that common race at Keeneland last out, so it makes sense to make sure that both are covered.
Two year old fillies go one mile in this maiden special weight race. I’m going to try to escape this race using only two runners. John Ortiz sends out Madly Dancing (#6) for her debut this afternoon. She’s a daughter of Curlin that fetched $525K at the Keeneland September Sale in 2021. That was prior to her half brother, Creative Minister, finished 3rd in this year’s Preakness. The dam, Tamboz, has been a useful producer of multiple runners that have been graded stakes placed, also including Battalion Runner, Dolder Grand, and Oceanwave. Most of her runners did not win on debut, but most were very competitive. I don’t think this field is very deep, so a competitive effort from this well-meant filly, could be enough to land her in the Winner’s Circle. I’ll also use the New York invader, Peace Cruiser (#5) making her first start for Riley Mott after running for his father in his first two starts. Mott helped oversee his father’s operation prior to going out on his own this fall, so he’s almost certainly been familiar with this Violence filly who has narrowly missed in her first two tries at Saratoga and Aqueduct. Her full brother broke his maiden last month in his 11th career try at Hawthorne, but she’s always appeared to have more talent than he does. Blinkers go one for the first time for the horse I would assume would be the pacesetter here. The short stretch of the mile run here could possibly work to his advantage while trying two turns for the first time.
Open $30K claimers sprint six furlongs here. As long as the rail doesn’t look completely dead in the first few races, I think Home Base (#1) is single-worthy here. He and the morning line favorite, Macron (#5), had multiple victories on this course last season, and both are making their first starts off the claim today. Home Base was claimed by Jonas Gibson for $30K in August at Horseshoe Indiana on a day where he was victorious in an optional $30K claiming/$25K starter allowance contest. Gibson has only started 46 horses in 2022, but he’s won with 12 of them (26%). He’s 2-4 first off the claim and 3-7 off this kind of layoff. The horse likes the course and should sit a cozy trip, just off the leaders here. He was good enough to finish second in the King Cotton Stakes on this course last season. On the flip side, Macron was claimed by Trisha Duncan for $40K last month at Keeneland. He was sharp in all five starts on this course with better fields last season, but did go off form in August and September. His last effort was strong, but now he’s entered in a race for $10K less than his tag. A claim and win would still prove profitable for his connections, but Duncan is 0-3 first off the claim in her young career. I know there aren’t tons of conditions out there for a horse like this, but I don’t love to see him entered for a $30K tag. I think he’ll take more money at the windows than Home Base, but I see him as more vulnerable. I’ll use him as a backup on the deeper tickets, but I’ll be trying to beat him in this spot, in hopes of creating a little bit of value.
On nine race programs, the 5th race concludes the Early Pick-5 and starts the Late Pick-5 here at Oaklawn. There’s a full field of 12 entered in this $10K N2L claimer that will certainly challenge bettors in both sequences. Lansdowne (#7) is the logical play to give the Coach, D. Wayne Lukas, an opening day score. There’s a decent amount of speed signed on in this contest, but he appears to be the speed of the speed. He dueled through some aggressive fractions with better last month at Churchill before fading late to be third. I thought it was a solid performance on the drop in class, and I’m not sure there’s anyone as good as the duo that beat him in here. If speed is playing well in the first few races, I’d upgrade him, but if it’s not, I’d give a long look to both Super Geek (#9) and Cole Spur (#12). Super Geek makes his first start since April, when he finished the meet with a fifth place finish in state bred N2L claiming company. He doesn’t have much early foot and is a prime contender to be last early. If the pace is hot, he could be heard from late, especially if it looks like closers have an advantage. Cole Spur is very comfortable stalking the early lead, which should suit him well from his high draw. He broke his maiden at this track and distance back in March. He should take some money at the windows, and I’m a bit concerned about being a voided claim in two of his last three tries. However, I think he fits well enough to be used on the A line here.
The Late Pick-4 begins with the first opportunity of the year for Arknasas bred two year old fillies to face off against each other. An overflow field of 14 are entered to go six furlongs. Two of the horses are coming off races with open maiden claimers in Churchill in their respective debuts. I think this race runs through both Indian Irish (#2) and Timbavati (#3), giving a slight preference to Indian Irish. Her dam, Indian Clarkie has produced four other starters, with three of them being very useful on the track thus far. Connie K might be the best of that lot, winning five of 12 times in her career so far, most notably winning the Downthedustyroad Breeders’ Stakes last March. She showed early interest in her debut with $150K maiden claimers in Louisville, fading late to finish 5th. Lasix is added today for the first time while finding class relief in the state bred ranks. Timbavati debuted a few weeks ago with $50K maiden claimers in a race where she also showed some early interest before fading late. Her dam isn’t as accomplished as the top pick, but she does get Bejarano for her local debut. Of the first timers, I think Pat’s Gal (#4) might be the most interesting. She’s the first foal from a lightly raced mare, Essie. That one closed well in her debut to finish 2nd at Woodbine in 2018. The works aren’t great, but if there is a duel between the top two, she might be a candidate to be rolling late. Honeycamp (#8) makes her debut for Al Cates today. She’s the first foal to race from the mare, Ferris Wheel, who did very little in her three starts on the track. She’s sired by Gormley, who has connected with 10% of his first time starters in his first two seasons at stud though. I think Coromandel (#10) will take the most money at the windows of the first time starters, in part because she’s a half to The Mary Rose. She won the Downthedustyroad Breeders’ Stakes in 2021 and the Natural State Breeders’ Stakes this year. While her success, especially with fellow Arkansas breds is undeniable, it is worth noting that the dam’s other foal to race, Dover Lights was not nearly as productive, and like Coromandel, he was sired by Tekton and campaigned by Ortiz. I’ll cover with her, but I expect her to be overbet in this race.
This is an interesting N1X allowance race for fillies and mares going six furlongs. Seven of the 12 runners entered in the body of the field have cleared the N1X allowance condition in open company, however, they did so at tracks where they earned less than $23K for their efforts when winning that race. Oaklawn sometimes adds a provision to their N1X condition to allow for horses that have won at this level at smaller circuits to compete here at that condition for a significantly higher purse. The total purse for this race at Oaklawn is $104K, with the winner earning upwards of $60K. Ignacio Correas IV has a Chilean shipper, Picana (#11) that looks like a runner in this race. She’s undefeated in five career starts on the main track and comes in with six straight wins overall. Correas has one well with imports for the Masaiva Corp ownership group. They’ll team up with Le Da Vida tomorrow, who is the morning line favorite in the Mistletoe Stakes here. That mare was a winner in her first two starts in North America, winning at Churchill in September and Keeneland in October. Picana can certainly handle racing in large fields as the smallest field she faced in Chile was a ten horse contest. I’ll wager that she is well-meant while making her first start since April today. Hypersport (#12) ran into some salty rivals here last season after winning on opening weekend. She faced future Kentucky Oaks Secret Oath twice when that filly announced her arrival on the National scene. When she cut back to a sprint, she had to tangle with fast fillies like Happy Soul and Pretty Birdie. She’s following a similar pattern than she did coming into this meet last year. She was freshened up after this meet and returned at the end of the Keeneland meet. She ran a big race last year when making her next start. She is getting class relief today as this field is not as talented as the N1X group she dealt with last out. There are some definite speed horses that should set the table nicely for her to pounce from her outside draw. This race could be ripe for a pace meltdown and there are a trio of fillies that I see being able to take advantage of that. While I don’t love the rail draw for Hazy Command (#1), I do think she’s another one with a big chance in this race. She’s coming off a strong second place finish at Churchill with N2X allowance types. She finished in front of a talented horse, Zainalarab that day at 22-1. She cleared the N1X condition at Horseshoe Indiana this summer and now makes her third start off a layoff for Tom Amoss. If Bejarano can work out an off the pace trip, she could be flying home late. Even though Lofthouse (#10) finished in front of her before and has a better post for the race they want to run, I prefer Hazy Command because she ran a much stronger race than Lofthouse while moving to a tougher circuit last month. I’ll cover with Lofthouse on deeper tickets and underneath in the exotics. She also faced a salty field in Louisville, facing N3X allowance company. She cleared the N2X condition two starts back in Indiana. She’ll need to prove that she can ran her race at a top tier kind of track. I’ll also include the lightly raced Aquila Moon (#2) on some deeper tickets and underneath. She’s starting to figure this game out, winning her last two starts at Remington, while coming from off the pace. This is a definite step up in class, but I liked her effort visually while closing into a hot pace last out. She’ll likely get a similar scenario when coming back to six furlongs today.
Race 8: The $150K Advent Stakes
The featured race on opening day is a 5 and ½ furlong sprint for two years. Locals will get to see the very speedy Iowa bred, Tyler’s Tribe (#5) make his local debut here. No one has been close to him in his five career dirt starts at Prairie Meadows. Three of those wins came against fellow Iowa breds, but the other two came in open stakes company where he was still much the best. He tackled graded stakes foes for the first time the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint last month at Keeneland where he walked home, finishing last of 12 after bleeding badly. Arkansas allows their two year olds to race with raceday Lasix treatments, which is quite possibly why a race like this was targeted for this Sharp Azteca gelding. I don’t see anyone running with him early in this spot and the shortened distance should only work in his favor. I think there are plenty of other spots for value in the Late Pick-5 sequence, so I’m comfortable using him as a single. On deeper tickets, I’ll look to Wild Mule (#9) as my backup in this race. I thought his debut at Monmouth was one of the better efforts from a New Jersey bred two year old at the summer meet there. He fought back gamely in a thrilling stretch battle to clear the N1X condition there with open company. His most recent effort at Delaware last month was strong against an above average two year old allowance field. Hollendorfer shipped him here and he drilled a bullet work in preparation for this start. I think the top pick is simply faster, but if that one falters, he’ll be where I’ll land.
Opening Day wraps up with an Arkansas bred maiden special weight race for fillies and mares, three year olds and up. As is often the case with state bred races here at this time of year, many of the runners with racing experience are coming in off a layoff of some kind. Pattern Bet (#2) is the even money favorite, while making her first start since April 29th. She has the distinction of starting five starts and finishing second each of those five times. No one in the field has run speed figures as high as she has. In fact, her lowest Beyer figure is higher than any other runner’s highest mark. On the flip side, she has never crossed the wire first, disappointing as a huge favorite in three of her five starts. Her best efforts have come when she’s closed from off the pace, as opposed when she’s attended the early lead. I do worry that she might be a little keen in her first start in over seven months. She’s been too good to leave off tickets, but I’ll try to get away with using a price. I’ll try Miracle Shoes (#10) on top in hopes that her return effort in Indiana was a fluke. She closed with some interest when finishing about three lengths behind Pattern Bet when debuting in the aforementioned 4/29 race here. She didn’t show much interest early, but finished well enough to believe that she has some ability. Unlike many others in here, she opted to return prior to the Oaklawn meet. She faced a tougher field of maiden special weight runners in Indiana despite racing for a significantly lower purse. She was slow into stride that day as well and was never a factor when beaten by a next out winner. I do think there was some intent to making that start there, in hopes of giving her a fitness advantage against her state bred rivals, many of who don’t run after the Oaklawn meet wraps up. On deeper tickets, I’ll cover with both Delta Moon (#6) and Little Rocker (#8). Delta Moon debuted with open maiden allowance types at Louisiana Downs in September. She showed a little early interest before backing out of the picture late. She’s bred by 2013 Kentucky Derby winner, Orb, who is the most accomplished sire of runners in this race. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her move forward. Little Rocker’s half sister, Indian Irish, runs earlier in the sequence in Race 6. She’s also a half to state bred stakes winner, Connie K, so there’s reason to believe that she has more ability than she showed on debut. She’s sired by the highly successful Louisiana bred, Star Guitar, who has passed on his talents to several Louisiana breds early on in his stud career. Trainer Randy Morse has good numbers second time out, but his horses do typically need a race after a layoff before they’re at their best. I’m more interested in either of these runners as opposed to Gold Strategy (#3) who has never finished in front of Pattern Bet and figures to be shorter odds than both of these fillies.
Favorite Bet Today: Early Pick-5 ($36 Ticket – $0.50 Base Wager)
I like both Pick-5 sequences on the card today and there are two runners that feel like strong singles to me. Tyler’s Tribe in the 8th race should be a heavy favorite, and even though there are some wide open races with big fields surrounding his race, I’m more interested with the early sequence, because I think there’s better value with Home Base (#1, R4) as a single. I think the majority of the money coming in on that race will go to Macron (#5, R4). Home Base is the third choice on the morning line in that seven horse field. He’s trained by a lesser-known, high percentage trainer, Jonas Gibson. I love playing this angle, especially early on in higher profile meets such as this one. My main ticket is above, and I’ll back up with a few tickets with Macron, keying in on Shakedown Street (#5, R1) in the opener.