Oaklawn Park Racing Preview – 3/16/23 – By Eric Solomon

The week starts off with an exciting four year old that is making his first start since finishing 8th in last year’s Kentucky Derby. Smile Happy was the Future Book favorite for last year’s Derby after a dominating performance in the 2021 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. His abbreviated three year old campaign didn’t go as expected, as he finished second twice in a pair of prep races before having a tough trip in the Derby. He’ll be the morning line favorite in the 8th race today, which is an optional claiming/N2X allowance contest at nine furlongs. The first post this afternoon is 12:35 (CT), with that fascinating allowance race scheduled for 4:22 (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 1 1,3 7 DBL, PK5
2 1 1 2 DBL, PK3, PK4
3 2 2,6 5 DBL, PK3
4 7 7 1,2 DBL, PK3
5 3 3 2,8 DBL, PK3, PK5
6 7 7 6 DBL, PK3, PK4
7 7 5 7 4 DBL, PK3
8 6 3,6 8 2 DBL
9 1 1,5,9




Race 1:

An uninspiring field of $10K maiden claimers get the week started. Soddy Daisy (#1) looks like the main speed threat in this paceless race. She’s dropping in class to face the softest field that she’s been up against in her career. She is 0-11, so it’s hard to get too excited about her prospects. However, the table is set as well as it’s going to be for her. Sweet N Salty (#3) is a four year old Street Boss filly, making her career debut today. This is about as soft as a field as she could ask for in her maiden voyage. Her works aren’t terrible, and an aggressive ride to try to steal the lead wouldn’t hurt her chances. Keen Contender (#7) is another professional maiden, making her 18th career start. She’s been close, hitting the board in 10 of those starts, but she often leaves herself with too much work to do. She’d be worth covering, but at 6-5, I have to try to beat her. 


Race 2:

I like New Dice (#1) a lot in this $7,500 N2L claiming race. He’s run well on a wet track in the past, and there are some definite need the lead types here that should ensure a lively first half. I like the rider upgrade back to Cabrera, who gave him a nice ride when he was a hopeless longshot against a much sharper $12,500 N2L claiming field here two starts back. There’s only one race before this, so it’ll be tough to establish how the track is playing, especially when the first race appears to be the polar opposite of this one in terms of race shape. However, I’ll take my chances here, especially if he hovers around his 5-1 morning line figure. Saint Pio (#2) is a Diodoro claim and drop runner that will be where I’d back up in this race. He’s been gelded since his last start, when he was claimed for $16K. Blinkers go on as well in an effort to try a bunch of things to get him to improve off his last effort. I don’t love the wholesale change angle, however, I think he makes the most sense as the alternative to the top pick from a class and connections standpoint. 


Race 3:

The second division of the $10K maiden claimer that started the card is a little better than the first race. Flash of Cherokee (#2) wasn’t terrible when debuting against better last month. She drops in class and retains the services of Ricardo Santana Jr., who continues to ride well at this meet. Finishwhatustarted (#6) showed some zip with slightly better two starts back, when she faded in the final stages to be third. She was no match when moving back up the class ladder to face state bred maiden special weight types. She was checked significantly in that race, which certainly hindered her performance. I expect her to run better in this spot. Sheza Cat (#5)was about five lengths behind Finishwhatustarted in her last start. She was swung wide, but leveled off in the stretch that day, in what was her third career start. She has moved to Danny Pish’s barn, who is a higher percentage trainer than Daniele Durham, despite the fact that he’s gone the entire meet without a win so far. 


Race 4:

This $10K starter allowance is for horses that have started for a $10K tag at least once in the past two years and have not won twice this calendar year. Home Run Trick (#7) has made a living at this condition, winning his most recent start here in the mud last month. He was aided in victory when Little Demon (#2), who was the heavy favorite that day, started slow and conceded inside position. He loves the local oval, winning 8 of 22 times and finishing in the money in 7 more starts. He’ll have to navigate a trip from a wider post today, which could prove tricky if Cristian Torres can hustle Little Demon out of the gate. The weather is the main concern for me with Little Demon. He has won on an off track, but that was on a course labeled good. He’s had some dull efforts on some soupy tracks, and with rain in the forecast again today, that may be what he’ll be up against. Colosi (#1) was an upset winner when breaking from the rail at this level back in December. His last few starts haven’t been as successful though. He was moving well late in his last start, while closing into the third. Drawing the rail should set him up with a better spot early in this race. 


Race 5:

This is another example of where keeping notes about these starter allowance conditions could pay dividends down the road. This is another $10K starter allowance race, and in the PP’s it will look very similar to the previous race. However, this race is restricted to horses that have started for the $10K in their last two starts. Arthurian (#8) crushed a field on President’s Day at this very condition, winning by over 7 lengths, in gate to wire fashion. Cristian Torres has been very aggressive when riding him to his two local victories, and he’s responded well, running his best two career starts on this oval. After hitting a new career top, one has to be a little weary of bounce though, While his Tomlinson numbers are good, a wet track will be a new adventure for him as well. With Ojitos (#4) added to the mix here, there might be enough token pace pressure to soften him up as well. I’ll use him on the A line, but I’ll look to beat him by taking Drena’s Star (#3) on top. He was in chase mode last out, instead of trying to relax off the aggressive tempo Arthurian was carving out. He was more effective as a midpack closer when he was having success last season. He’s an eight year old gelding, so he could be losing a step, however, I do think he fits with this group. Smileforme (#2) may be the most interesting of the longer priced runners in this spot. He moved from the Wong barn to the Jacobsen barn and made his local debut at this level last out. He was a little keen in the early stages, and faded late to be 7th. He has better races in running lines, so there’s reason to believe that he could move forward in his second try at Oaklawn. 


Race 6:

I think Super Wonder Girl (#7) makes a lot of sense in the N1X allowance race for fillies and mares sprinting six furlongs. She’s been very good in three starts at this meet, winning twice and narrowly missing at this level two back. The 5-1 morning line figure seems high and perhaps the recent efforts from Princessdreamcess (#2) will keep her close to that figure. I think she’ll get a nice setup with that out winging it on the front end. If closers are able to get home, she should have every chance, assuming she gets a fair trip. Tales of Home (#6) is the second choice in the morning line after coming up a bit short as the 7-5 favorite as the favorite last out. She came with a wide bid, but needed a little more to get the job done. She was excellent when breaking her maiden two starts back. She is the logical alternative, and as long as they’re betting Princessdreamcess, I think there should be a little value with her as well. 


Race 7:

We have another paceless race in this $40K maiden claiming contest that will begin the final Pick-3 wager of the afternoon. Windy Bay (#7) could wind up on an easy lead while making her first start off the Cipriano Contreras claim. This barn doesn’t have great numbers first off the claim, but she does seem to be trending in the right direction. She made her first local start in a tough $30K-$25K maiden claiming race where there was a contentious pace. She was chasing the leaders that day and wound up being no match for a runaway winner. I think Francisco Arrieta can put her on the lead and then nurse her early speed. Lady With a Cause (#5) drops in for a tag for the first time. She’s been competitive with restricted maiden special weight fields in Kentucky and New Orleans. McPeek has very good numbers with horses dropping from maiden special to maiden claiming company. She doesn’t have a lot of early foot though, and could be pace compromised here. Wreaking Havoc (#4) is one that I’ll save for my deepest plays. She was not good in her first start off the Brad Cox claim eleven days ago. She’ll stretch out to two turns for the first time, which is a strong angle for this barn. Perhaps the class relief along with the distance change will help her cause. I’d proceed with a decent amount of caution though, especially if her odds drop. 


Race 8:

The featured allowance this afternoon is a good one, featuring two prominent four year olds that are both trained by Ken McPeek and that are both slated to make their first starts as four year olds. Smile Happy (#3) is the morning line favorite and perhaps the bigger name. He earned a lot of hype last year on the Derby Trail, despite not winning a race in 2022. I thought he ran very well in the Risen Star last season, but he had a few factors working against him, including the fact that he was facing Epicenter. He may have moved prematurely in the Blue Grass in April when Zandon came over the top with a powerful late kick. Things didn’t work out in the Derby and afterwards, he went to the sidelines. He’s been working well at the Fair Grounds for his return, while racing with Lasix for the first time today. He was a winner on debut and ran a big race off the bench last year, albeit with a much shorter layoff. Francisco Arrieta will ride him for the first time today. I prefer him to his stablemate, Creative Minister (#2), who was the third place finisher in last year’s Preakness. He had some big races last year, but there were some other dull races in that stretch. My gut is telling me that he needs this race from a fitness standpoint more so than Smile Happy. I’ll use him as a saver on deeper plays. I do see that there is a dearth of early speed in this race, and that may work out well for Presidential (#6). He was narrowly defeated in the Texas Derby last May. He ran well in a softer spot at this level in the mud at the end of January. It looks like he’ll have to navigate another wet track today, which shouldn’t be an issue. While I don’t see him as the frontrunner, I think he has more tactical speed than most, and he could find himself in a very comfortable spot. Seize the Night (#8) might need a hustling ride from his outside draw, but he was very good when leading gate to wire two starts ago. He took a swing in the 5th Season Stakes where he wasn’t going to be able to with the likes of Ginobili in that race. Lukas is coming off a strong week and he trains this son of Carpe Diem who could be upset minded.


Race 9:

Eleven Arkansas bred fillies and mares will go 1 mile and 1/16 in this $20K maiden claiming race that will close out the program. These races are so tough because there are so often several horses routing for the first time at this level. That is the case here as 10 of the 11 are going two turns for the first time. The only horse with route experience is the even money morning line favorite, Reaux Bina (#5). She’s a logical horse to use in the A line, and while her speed figures make her tough to ignore, it’s worth noting that was beaten by double digit lengths in those last two races at one mile. She’s facing softer here, but the potential for someone else to step up at long odds is certainly there. I’ll try Sophie’s Star (#1) on top, breaking from the rail. Her effort two back with state bred $30K maiden claimers wasn’t bad, earning herself a career best fourth place finish. She has enough speed to possibly make the front end in this race.This barn has had success getting horses to stretch out, so I think she may be in a good spot here. Be Bo (#9) drops in for a tag after a pair of tries in state bred maiden allowance company to start her career for Ron  Moquett. She’s by Mor Spirit out of a Giacomo mare, so there’s reason to believe that she could improve while adding some distance. Bejarano has ridden the majority of Moquett’s runners at this meet and he retains the mount here. 

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