Oaklawn Park Racing Preview – 2/27/22 – By Eric Solomon

We saw some strong performances yesterday on the Rebel Card, but the most notable performance might have come from the filly, Secret Oath. She dominated the Grade 3 Honeybee for her third consecutive romp over this course. She’s found trouble in both of her last two races, but she has casually overcome them, while drawing off late to win like a horse that has a huge future in front of her. She’s trained by the Hall of Famer, D. Wayne Lukas, who saddled the filly, Winning Colors, to win the Derby in 1988. He also trained Serena’s Song, who defeated the boys in the Grade 1 Haskell in 1995. In the Rebel Stakes later on the card,  Lukas’s other horse, Ethereal Road, probably ran the best race, but came up a bit short, as Un Ojo blew up the tote board at 75-1. After seeing that, I’d have to think that he’ll be thinking long and hard about giving the filly a shot against the boys in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby at the beginning of April. Today’s nine race program is highlighted by the 8th race allowance where I have some strong feelings about the longest shot on the board on the morning line. 

 

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 9 5,6,9 DBL, PK5
2 2 1,2 7 DBL, PK3, PK4
3 7 7 1,2,3 DBL, PK3
4 2 2 7 DBL, PK3
5 10 2,10 3 DBL, PK3, PK5
6 4 4 1,12 DBL, PK3, PK4
7 2 1,2,9 3,7 DBL, PK3
8 2 2 4 5 DBL
9 9 1,8,9 4,14

 

 

Race 1:

The Sunday opener is a $30K-$25K N2L claiming race at six furlongs. I’m going to try Fay Dan (#9) on the cutback from two turns in this spot. While he’s unproven at this distance, his best race was a one turn mile at Churchill where he broke his maiden this spring. He was well back in a route race at this level last month, and he made a nice middle move before running into traffic on the turn. Blinkers go on to try to keep him a little more engaged in the early going. I think he can sit the right kind of trip off the front end speed in here. Ernie Banker (#5) was another one that was well-backed at this level last time, however, he misfired a sprint race when he was in tight between horses down the backstretch. He likes to come from behind and he likes to be in the clear, so post five might not be ideal. However, he’s capable of a better effort than he showed last out when facing a better field at this level. Big Boss Ben (#6) is the morning line favorite after a pair of solid, on the board efforts here. He’s a three year old taking on older horses, so that is something to keep an eye on. However, he was less than a length behind the winner in January at this level against older runners. He ran second last out against straight three year old, $40K claimers. His trainer, John Ortiz, continues to roll at this meet.

 

Race 2: 

The morning line favorite and second choice in this maiden special weight contest are both 0-13, so it’s hard to feel confident using either here. Candywrapper Crazy (#2) is worth a look in this spot, making her second start off the the layoff and her 4th career try overall. She debuted behind future stakes winner, Carribean Caper last year at the Fair Grounds, finishing a distant 5th that day. They stretched her out to two turns, where things just didn’t go her way. She was on the shelf for almost a year before returning here last month. She was wide that day, but turned in a more competitive effort. I think she’ll benefit from an inside draw here, while facing a softer bunch. Pray Gloria (#1) makes her second career start today after a slow start in the same maiden race. Ortiz hit with 19% off good second time starters last year, so I’d give her a look in this race. Mun Luv (#7) is still worth covering since she has gotten close so many times. She is second off the layoff and making her second start for Maker. Her last effort was solid, and she’s held her own against some sharp fields. Perhaps this is finally her day, but 9-5 (ML) just feels too short for me.

 

Race 3:

How you handicap this $30-$25K claimer depends on what you think of Colonel Bowman (#2) resurfacing in this spot. Two races ago, he was the 5-2 second choice in the Ellis Park Derby, where he was in front before being caught by Super Stock and fading then fading to 4th. He returned three months later with a dull effort against older rivals in allowance company at Churchill. He’s beautifully bred, sired by Curlin out of the G1 winning mare Dubai Escapade, but he was gelded since his last start. While Godolphin is a breeding organization, I still think if this horse comes back as the same horse we saw in 2021, he could be a useful earner. However the steep drop is a bit concerning to me, suggesting that they’re willing to part with him. I’ll cover with him on some backup tickets, but I think this race sets up very nicely for Marvin (#7) while making his first start off the Steve Asmussen claim. He was beaten by Devil’s Tower last out, who came back to win earlier this week. He makes his third start off an extended layoff, and definitely took a step forward last time out. He was in very good form throughout the spring and summer last year and should be able to close into a decent pace. I think he’ll get the job done. I’ll also back up with both Greg’s Time (#1) and Big Thorn (#3). Greg’s TIme was going very well in his first three starts this summer. His last three have been spaced out and not nearly as effective though. He failed at two turns at Canterbury and then struggled at Churchill and then again on this oval. He might have the best early foot though, and even though there is a decent amount of speed signed on to this race, early speed is dangerous, especially when this track is drying out. Big Thorn is another one of those horses we see at this meet that might be better at the one turn middle distance races. He was claimed at this level when going the two turn mile here last out. He set the pace before fading to 5th late. His only start at this distance was his maiden breaking score at Gulfstream West in 2020 when he closed well to pass and defeat a runaway leader. I’ll use him on some backup plays and I could play him at odds higher than his 3-1 morning line. 

 

Race 4: 

I’m not loving the short prices in the $50K-$45K N2L claiming race for fillies and mares. Lady Valentine (#8) feels like a favorite to try to beat in this spot. She was recently sold at auction for $37K, a far cry from the $385K that she was originally purchased for. She started her career with three solid efforts on the NYRA circuit before turning in a pair of duds at Belmont. She did break her maiden at Parx in December with a weak maiden special weight group prior to being sold to her new owners. While the class level might be about right, I’m thinking she’ll need a start or two before her new connections figure her out. I do like Montgomery Park (#2) quite in a bit in this spot. She returned from an eight month hiatus with a strong second place performance at this level in December. She tried allowance company and met a very salty field in a race that was won by Joyful Cadence last out. She comes back to Earth in this spot and figures to get a good inside trip in her third try off the layoff. Let’s Cruise (#7) is the other filly I’ll use from this race. She, too, is in her third race off the layoff, and she’s making her third career try on traditional dirt after starting her career in three races on the Polytrack at Arlington. She was overmatched in allowance company in December, but ran a much better race at this level last time out. I can see her making another forward move in here. 

 

Race 5: 

The fourth restricted claiming race in this early pick-5 sequence is a full field of $10K N2L claimers going 1 mile and 1/16. Many of these have squared off against one another recently, so it makes sense that Graves Mill Road (#3) is the morning line favorite. He’s been second in his two tries at this level this meet. However, he’s been beaten by a pair of runaway winners in both those starts, and while he’s finished in front of many of these, I’m not sure how high his ceiling is. I’ll use him, but I’ll try to beat him with a few that might offer better value. There’s no way that we’re going to get anywhere near 20-1 on Loch Garman (#10) for Diodoro, but he makes a lot of sense in this race at 5-1 or better. The post is less than ideal, and the two turns is a question mark, however, he showed enough ability at Prairie Meadows to think he could do well at this level. He returned in an unusually tough race for this condition last month, beaten by next out starter allowance winner, Wobberjod. He didn’t break particularly well that day and when facing a horse that put up an 82 Beyer figure for a win at this level, it’s not surprising that his race didn’t end well. He stretches out to two turns for the second time in his career. His first try at the distance didn’t go well, but he was unraced for three months after that effort, so something may have gone a bit wrong. I’m willing to give him another shot at this level. Mega Max (#2) is another one that I’d consider, getting some post relief after some outside draws in his last two races. Kelsi Harr took him back to try to save some ground into the first turn in both of his last two starts, since he is the quickest horse in the early stages. He ran on late in both starts, but he finished well behind the runaway winners in each race. He showed this summer at Louisiana Downs that he runs his best races when he stays in contact with the leaders in the early stages. He doesn’t want to be on the lead, but I don’t think he wants to be as far back as he’s been in his last two tries either. Post two should allow him to run his race if he’s good enough. At 8-1 or better, I’d be willing to pay to find out. 

 

Race 6: 

The late pick-4 starts with a full field of $30K maiden fillies, where nine of the twelve runners are three years old and the other three are four.  Both Romantic Comedy (#1) and Mandona (#4)  are coming out of the same maiden special weight race where they made their career debuts, and both would be flattered a bit if one of the five runners from that  same race wins the maiden special weight race in Race 2. I think Mandona, who showed some early speed before fading, will run the better race today. Her trainer, Randy Morse, has very good numbers with horses in their second career starts and horses that are dropping from maiden special weight to maiden claiming. She should be more fit for this race and should be tough to beat. Romantic Comedy finished in front of the top choice that day after getting away from the gate a little bit slow. I don’t love the rail for her, as she’ll really need to break clean to have an impact here. However, she showed enough effort with better fillies and mares last time to be a contender at this level. Candy’s Story (#12) draws outside for her second career try. She moved from John Prather’s barn to Chris Hartman’s, which is a positive switch. Hartman does well, winning with 21% of his new acquisitions over the last year. She also gets a significant rider upgrade to Francisco Arrieta, who is vying for the leading jockey honors. She’s another one that is 20-1 on the morning line, and while I’d be thrilled to take that number, I think she’ll go into the gate at least at half that price. 

 

Race 7:

Fillies and mares sprint six furlongs in this open $30K-$25K claiming event. This is a brutally tough race where there are many viable options. There are five horses in this eleven horse field that want the lead and there are another two that aren’t as quick, but they definitely do their best running when they’re right on the lead. I’m using three that have shown the ability to either rate or close. I really liked the effort from Ghaaleb The Great (#2) last time, where she kept coming late in spite of some troubles at the start. She was claimed by Hollendorfer, who has hit with 22% of his runners over the last 14 months in their first race off the claim. She’s a hard trying mare that often gets close, finishing first or less than three lengths behind the winner in 14 of 22 career tries. I like both the Diodoro runners in here, giving a slight edge to Kasserine Pass (#1). She’s entered with the waiver, while making her first start since November. She loves racing here, winning three times and finishing second once in four career starts on this oval. She was an easy winner with $25K claimers in her last try at Churchill and should be very dangerous with this group. Invaluable (#9) makes her first start off the claim for Diodoro after finishing third at this level in her last try. She hasn’t had the same level of success here as her stablemate, but she was in very good form this summer and if she can get back to those races for her new connections, she’s going to be a tough customer in the later stages of this one. On deeper tickets, I’ll use two of the speed threats as savers. Untouched Elegance (#3) has won three straight in Southern California, and now ships east for Richard Baltas. She’s moving up in class, but is in the best form of her career. Miz Blue (#7) drops in class after struggling with allowance foes in her last two tries. She is a win machine, winning half of her 16 career starts. She might be the fastest early in here, but she’ll have to work to beat this crew. 

 

Race 8: 

There’s a six horse field signed on for the feature today, and I’m going to take a swing with the longest price on the board on the morning line and use Blessed Again (#2) on top. She makes her second start after a seven month layoff today. She was a good second at 12-1 with a nice allowance field at the beginning of the month. She gets a smaller field today where three of the six runners, The Mary Rose (#1), Misty Veil (#4), and W W Fitzy (#5) do their best work on the lead. The other short price, Candura (#6) is a stretch out sprinter, and I’m not convinced that she wants to go this far. Blessed Again should get a good trip off the leaders early and could get up in time with a well-timed ride. I like her chances and value at 8-1 (ML) or better in this spot. Of the three front runners, Fair Grounds shipper, Misty Veil probably has the best speed. If she can clear from her post, she might be able to catch a breather down the backstretch. She’s hit the board in her last 8 tries, winning three of them. Her three wins have all been by open lengths, so if speed is carrying on this course, she’d be the one I’d upgrade. The morning line favorite, W W Fitzy is worth covering, as she’s won 10 of 27 career starts. However, when you go back and look at her 10 wins, you’ll see that she’s never been further than 1 and ½ lengths off the lead at first call. She’s drawn wide of two faster horses in the early stages, and I think Arrieta is going to want to keep his position with Wellington Wonder (#3) as well. I don’t see her getting the easy lead she got last out. There’s a good chance that she’ll have to concede some ground to maintain her position or come from off the pace. Neither of those are great winning formulas for a favorite though. 

 

Race 9:

There’s a bunch of stretch out sprinters in the finale, which is a state bred maiden special weight race at 1 mile and 1/16. This race is ripe for an upset, so I’ll roll the dice with I Stan for Love (#9). He ended his 2021 campaign in good form over the local oval, with two solid efforts at this level. He didn’t have a lot of zip in his first race off the layoff, finishing at the back of the pack. His trainer, WIlliam Martin, has had a tough meet, but he has solid numbers with horses second off the layoff and stretching out from sprints to routes. His two turn effort wasn’t awful here last season and he’s one of only a few that has that distance experience. Whelen Springs (#1) is the morning line favorite, and he looks like a horse that will improve when stretching out. He was the 11-10 favorite last out in a sprint, but he left herself too much work to and was beaten by Where’s Randy, a horse that is green, but looks to have a lot of potential. He gets Lasix and a rail post here, which should allow him to settle in a good position. Kilgore (#8) came up a bit short at the 9-5 favorite with state bred maiden claimers last time out. He stretches out for the first time, and might have enough speed to clear them from the eight hole. The Ghostzapper influence on the dam side might be enough to help him carry his speed. Chaleco (#4) is yet another one stretching out for the first time. He debuted with a solid effort at six furlongs, finishing in front of Whelen Springs while finding some traffic in the lane. Travis Wales won 20% of his races in 2021, but he’s been off to a tough start here in 2022. He’s still a crafty veteran rider that can get the job done. If Skyped (#14) draws in off the AE list, he’d be one I’d consider upgraded. He’d have a lousy post if he does get to play in this spot, but his best efforts have been at two turns.

 

Favorite Bet Today: (Late Pick 4 – $30 Ticket, $0.50 Base Wager)

I’m going to take a shot while using the 8-1 longshot in the 8th race, Blessed Again (#2) as a single in this wager, while spreading in the other three legs in hopes of cashing a nice ticket to end the weekend. 

 

The Ticket

Race 6: 1,4,12

Race 7: 1,2,3,7,9

Race 8: 2

Race 9: 1,4,8,9

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