Oaklawn Park Racing Preview – 3/19/23 – By Eric Solomon

Three year old fillies grab the spotlight in the feature race on the Sunday afternoon program at Oaklawn Park, in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  A pair of off the board finishers in the Grade 3 Honeybee are dropping into allowance company for a reboot today, but there might be a new shooter setting up to beat them both. The locals might be feeling extra festive after the Razorbacks’ upset win over Kansas last night, so it certainly could be a fun day where the track should be labeled as fast once again. First post is 12:35 (CT) with the feature 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 4 4,8 2 DBL, PK5
2 5 2,5,8 DBL, PK3, PK4
3 2 2 3,7 DBL, PK3
4 5 3,5 4 DBL, PK3
5 11 11 4,10 DBL, PK3, PK5
6 4 4,5,7 DBL, PK3, PK4
7 6 6 7 2 DBL, PK3
8 3 2,3
9 11 9,11 2,4


Race 1:

I’m not sold on the two shorter priced runners on the morning line in this $20K maiden claiming race that starts the card. I’ll use Sparkin (#4), making his third career start for Al Cates. He’s sired by El Deal, who doesn’t have a lot of horses in training, but the ones that are racing know how to win. He gets 20% winners with his runners routing on the main track and 57% of them finish in the money. His first two starts with $30K maiden claimers in sprints at this meet have been respectable. He drops a level in class and could be overlooked by bettors since there are some vulnerable runners coming from high profile barns. Mendelssohn Joy (#8) tried the main track for the first time last out and ran well, finishing a game 4th with $12,500 maiden claimers. He’ll stretch out back out to two turns, this time on dirt for the first time. He was rolling late, making up a lot of ground into a moderate pace. I think he can handle two turns just fine. Born of Fire (#2) makes his second career start today after finishing midpack in an open maiden special weight race at Hawthorne in his debut. Rafael Bejarano sees fit to take this mount for McLean Robertson. There seems to be room to improve for him at this level. 


Race 2:

Conditioned $8,000-$7,500 claimers will sprint six furlongs in the back end of the Early Daily Double. I think Leslie’s Gold (#5) could be a good fit with this field. To play this Turf Paradise invader, you’ll have to be willing to forgive his poor effort on the turf two back and his dull try last out with allowance company as a big longshot. This is a drop in class, despite moving from a lesser circuit. Valorie Lund is a good trainer that wins her share of races in Arizona and at Emerald Downs in the summer. She has brought a small string of horses here, and I think this one could be sneaky in this race. Atras (#2) was 9th at 88-1 last week when facing a much stronger $20K N3L field. He takes a sizable drop in class, which is probably needed after his first two starts at this meet. If he can find his form from the fall in Kentucky, he’s going to be very tough with these. Tillis (#8) should appreciate getting off a wet track and getting back to a fast dirt course. His last two starts were good enough to make him a heavy 7-5 morning line favorite. While I don’t have any interest in him at that price in the win pool or the vertical exotics, he’s been consistent enough to make him a must use in the multi-race wagers. 


Race 3:

I think Raymond (#2) is a player in this $50K-$40K N3L claiming race. He made his first start Jason Barkley and his first start this meet in a N1X allowance race going one mile. That seems like an odd spot for him to have made his first start since October, seeing as how his first eight races were all in one turn sprints. He was sharp when clearing the N1X condition at Remington back in October, and he’s generally a consistent runner. I think we’ll see a return to his better form today. I’m not sure that League of Legends (#7) is going to get the right pace setup in this race, but he is coming out of some tougher races against horses that ran in the Grade 3 Whitmore yesterday. He’s one of only two horses that have a win over this course (with Raymond being the other). I expect him to be a tough customer with this group. Cosmo (#3) is an interesting case. He was claimed from Diodoro for $50K two starts ago. Contreras dropped him in for a $30K tag last out where he ran a decent 4th. Diodoro reclaimed him for that lower number and now brings him back in for another $50K tag. While he’s never won a race on dirt, his better efforts have been at six furlongs. 


Race 4:

Three year old fillies sprint six furlongs in this $20K maiden claimer. Sweet Nellie (#5) makes her career debut in a race where the other seven with experience haven’t shown much. Puhich hasn’t had a great meet, but he does have strong numbers with first time starters debuting in the maiden claiming ranks. Tiz Sweet Candy (#3) was third beaten five at this level two starts back. I’d like to see Medellin be a little more aggressive with her in the early stages of this race as there doesn’t seem to be much early pace signed on. Beer Can Lady (#4)might be able to take advantage of that fact as she was quick from the gate last out against better. She faded badly that day, but she should be more fit in her second start off the layoff. 


Race 5:

Arkansas breds are going six furlongs in this $12,500-$10,000 N2L claiming contest. Both Lord M (#4) and Atta Party (#10) want to be on the front end in this race and they’ll likely have some company with Miri a Coincidence (#6) and Krusin Rocket (#8) breaking in between them. I think this race sets up beautifully for Traffic Control (#11) and Ricardo Santana Jr. He makes his third start off the layoff today after fighting with Lord M for the lead last time out when facing $20K N2L state bred claimers in the mud last time out. He’s better when he’s less aggressive and he has some nice races in his back pocket from last season. You’ll have to be willing to ignore the fact that he’s 0-18 on this course, and that’s not an easy thing for me to do. However, I do think he can let the others battle early and he’s the most likely suspect to be rolling late. At odds of 10-1 (ML) or better, I’ll bite. I’ll use both Lord M and Atta Party as savers, because I think they’re more consistent and are a little bit quicker than the other two. 


Race 6:

The Late Pick-4 kicks off with an open $25K-$20K claiming race at one mile. When I see a horse in a claiming race entered with the waiver, I try to make a case by case judgment on whether or not I see that as a good thing. It can be seen as a positive that a trainer is trying to protect their horse from being claimed after caring for the horse during an extended break. However, there are times where the waiver really just allows the trainer to give the horse an afternoon workout in a competitive wagering event. Allege (#5) is entered with the waiver this afternoon for Asmussen, coming off a three race win streak. He was a voided claim last out when beating a decent optional claiming/N1X allowance field at Colonial back in August. He’s been on the sidelines since and appears ready to return in this race. If he’s the summer version of himself, he’s going to be in the Winner’s Circle. I’ll use him, but I’ll look elsewhere for my top pick. I think there’s value in playing both Thundershook (#4) and Lord Dragon (#7) in this race. They’ll meet up for the third consecutive time on the track. Lord Dragon was the winner two back with $20K claimers, while Thundershook was 5th when making his first start in four months. Thundershook was about five lengths better than him last out when facing a salty bunch of $20K starter allowance types. I liked the effort last out first off the McKnight claim from Thundershook, so I’ll give him the narrow nod. However, if the price gap widens between him and Lord Dragon, I could certainly see the value in playing the latter.


Race 7:

Horses in this $30K starter allowance also must be eligible for the N1X condition to be able to compete. Saqeel (#6) and Greatheart (#7) are the two principal players in this race. Saqeel had the edge last time when they met in a $50K starter allowance race with the same provision. The difference in their finish was that Cristian Torres, the leading rider of the meet, outrode last year’s riding champ, David Cabrera. This gelded son of Daaher has run very well in the two starts since Diodoro claimed him, which is enough for me to make him the top pick. Greatheart still makes a ton of sense, running three sharp races in a row. He breaks outside of Saqeel this time, after having a better post last out. Don’t sleep on Charter Oak (#2) as a live longshot in this spot. He’s a four year old that is going to likely need another forward move to beat this group. However, I like both of his efforts thus far at this meet, and he ran into a buzzsaw last time out when facing Don’t Forget in N1X allowance company. I prefer him underneath, but an upset victory is not out of the question.


Race 8:

Three year old fillies go 1 mile and 1/16 in the featured race of the day. Despite the clever condition, none of the nine fillies are entered for the $100K tag and all would qualify under a N1X condition. The allowance conditions are written to try to attract a horse that might have cleared that condition, but that didn’t happen. Effortlesslyelegant (#2) and Take Charge Briana (#4) are coming off dull efforts in the Grade 3 Honeybee Stakes last out. Effortlesslyelegant was away slow and didn’t seem to respond to having all that mud kicked back in her face, especially while breaking from the rail. Take Charge Briana was last away and widest of all while trying to pass as many fillies as she could. Meanwhile, I think Stellar Lily (#3), coming off a solid maiden score in the mud, might be able to take them all the way in her first try against winners. There’s not much competition for the early lead on paper, and I think she’s eligible to improve on a fast track, despite earning her only career victory on a muddy course. I didn’t think she’d handle the stretch out in distance that day, but she passed that test with flying colors and I think she could do it again. Effortlesslyelegant is more enticing to me than Take Charge Briana, because I think her ceiling is higher. I liked her in the Honeybee, but clearly I wasn’t the only one as she was bet down to a crazy 9-2 from her 15-1 morning line. The conditions and the break did her no favors, so I do think she’s live coming back at this level. 


Race 9:

State bred fillies and mares close out the week in this N1X allowance race. Early Dismissal (#11) is 30-1 on the morning line, but I feel like I can make a case for her. She made her first start since August nine days ago and closed well to be 4th while going off 65-1 in a similar race. The turnaround is a little quick, but she was in pretty good form last season at Louisiana Downs. Her local races weren’t as good, but they were her first two starts, and I think she’s a better horse now. Choctaw Charlie (#9) figured some things out at the end of the meet last season and she’s been a much better horse since. She was a solid third at this level last month and figures to be right back in the mix again while facing a shooter field for the condition. Chai Tea (#4) has often come up short, but her recent sprint races have been good enough to contend with this group. She feels like a logical backup to include on deeper tickets, as does Fly Like the Wind (#2). She was much better in her second career start than she was in her dismal debut. Perhaps that effort was aided by a frontrunning trip in the slop, so I’ll temper my excitement on this filly. However, this race isn’t that deep and at 12-1 or better, I do see her as being interesting enough to use on some tickets. 

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