The Sunday card at Oaklawn is a nine race program with several starter allowance races. The featured race is for Arkansas breds, going two turns. First post this afternoon is 12:35 (ET) and the featured race goes off at 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!
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|2||4||4,6||7||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||3||1,3||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|6||7||2,7||1||DBL, PK3, PK4|
A half dozen, time restricted $8K claimers start the afternoon at Oaklawn. Emityaaz (#5) is the longest shot on the board in the morning line, but I believe she has a solid chance in the opener. Her last two starts have been bad, but she was given time off after her race in November and she returned against a significantly better group of fillies and mares last month in starter allowance company. She was very good at Thistledown, winning some allowance races there over the spring and summer. Kim Puhl’s horses tend to improve in their second starts off layoffs. The back class is there to be a factor in this race. Mumblebee (#2) was a winner here two back, beating conditioned $7,500 claimers. She struggled last out when facing a more talented starter allowance group, so the return for a tag makes sense.
State bred $16,000-$12,500 claimers are sprinting six furlongs here. All in Good Time(#4) comes back a one turn race after faltering badly at two turns last time out. He also is taking a significant drop in class to a level where he should be more competitive. David Cabrera rode him well with open $15K maiden claimers two back, and he’ll get the return call today. Singing Groom (#6) will likely appreciate the dryer footing this afternoon after struggling over off tracks in his last two starts. He’s also cutting back in distance and he should benefit from the jockey upgrade to Francisco Arrieta. The morning line favorite is Hacker (#7), who I will use as backup in this spot. His last two races with open maiden claimers have been poor, and nowhere near the races he was running in some of his prior efforts. At short odds, I’m concerned about the regression, but I still think that he has a pace advantage in this spot, which will be why he’s included on some of the tickets.
Six fillies and mares are set to go one mile in this open maiden special weight race. There’s not really any serious speed signed on, so this feels like a good spot for Ratified (#2) to try to stretch out to two turns for the first time. She’s sired by Constitution out of an unraced Candy Ride mare, so I think the added distance will be welcomed. She was up close to a hot pace with restricted maiden special weight runners in her last start. I think Bejarano will be able to ration her speed on the front end today. Opening Night (#4) makes her first start since May and her first start for Brad Cox. She doesn’t have much speed, so I’m not sure she’s going to get the trip she’ll need in her return. However, the barn does well off layoffs and with new acquisitions. She’s been working well for her first start of 2023, and she finds a below average field for the condition to do so.
This $12,500 starter allowance race is for horses that have run for a $12,500 tag or less in one of their last two starts. Three of the seven in this spot could be fighting for the early lead, and the two of the shorter prices, Colton’s Dream (#2) and Lighting Struck (#4), have big figures on wet, sealed tracks in their last starts. I see both of them as vulnerable while getting a fast track today, so I’ll try Junior Bug (#6) on top in his first start of the year. He was claimed by Thomas Van Berg at Turfway at the end of 2022 and now makes his debut for this barn. He likes the distance and should sit a comfortable trip while tracking the early leaders. He’s a versatile type that has won races on dirt, turf, and synthetic. Espionage (#7) is a popular claimer that has been claimed eight times in 13 career starts. He could be part of the trio that battles for the lead, but he runs his best races when he sits just off the early speed, and his outside post could easily allow him to work out that kind of trip. I will back up with Lightning Struck here, because I like that Cristian Torres is taking the mount for Timothy Martin. Martin has had a tough meet so far, but he has good numbers in the limited times that Torres rides for him. He’ll likely be rolling late from the back of the pack, and if closers look they are able to make up ground in the first few races, I’d consider upgrading him
This is another starter allowance with some restrictions as this race is for horses that have started for a $10K tag or less in one of their last two starts and have not won twice since November 26th (excluding races for a $10K tag or less). I think there’s a lot of speed signed on here, and the two closers in the field are both owned by End Zone Athletics and trained by Karl Broberg. I’ll give the edge to Ego (#3), coming off a pair of second place finishes. He moved early two back and flattened out when Cash Rocket powered home in a nine furlong race. Broberg, who had claimed this eight year old gelding once before, re-claimed him last out, and moves him into a protected spot. Take Charge Gent (#1) didn’t finish last out when stopping abruptly in a similar race in the mud. He was a winner on a fast track two starts back and the fact that he remains protected is a positive sign for me. I think he’ll definitely get a pace to close into if he’s good enough.
The third of four starter allowances on the program is for horses that have started for an $8K tag or less and have not won two races since November 26th (races with an $8K tag or less excluded). Conditions like this are written to keep the same horses from dominating starter allowance races throughout a meeting and as a result, only three of the eight entered have won a race of any type at this meet. Town Champ (#7) is the one for me in this race. He gets away from Arthurian, who has beaten him in his last two starts. He was a comfortable winner with $10K claimers three starts back and loves racing here, winning six of 17 times and finishing in the money 13 times overall. Chapel Barn (#2) is another familiar face at Oaklawn, making his ninth career start on this oval. He’s been on a steady diet of start allowance races at this meet, and he’s eligible for most of them after being claimed for $5K at the end of the Remington meet last year. I like the rider change to Santana, replacing the apprentice rider who has been aboard for his first five starts at this meet. He’s better on a fast course, so I believe he;ll rebound off his latest effort. Violent Gigi (#1) is a consistent runner that is making his second start off a three month break. He was closing well to finish second to Colton’s Dream last out. If that one runs another strong race in the 4th, that would certainly flatter him. I do think he’s typically a better fit for underneath in the vertical exotics, as opposed to on top, especially as the second choice in the wagering. It is worth noting that he’s caught sloppy tracks in his last three and he may appreciate the dryer footing today.
I love when trainers can ship and work a condition book to their advantage and that’s the case with Matt Shirer, who sends out Going the Distance (#2). This is a restricted maiden special weight race for three year old fillies that have sold for $75K or less at auction. She’s a Tapwrit filly that sold for exactly $75K at the OBS April Sale in 2022. She debuted with open maiden special weight sprinters at the Fair Grounds, going off at 18-1. She battled on the front end and was a very game second. She ships to Oaklawn where the purse of this race is $15K more than the Fair Grounds race, but she is getting class relief while doing so. Shirer is a smart trainer that has won with five of 20 starters at this meet and 75% of those runners have finished in the money. Blinkers go on today, so I’m thinking she makes the lead and doesn’t look back. Dawny (#7), who is the morning line favorite is my backup plan in this race. She has two solid tries in open maiden special weight races on this course. Larry Jones has had a tough meet, winning only one time, but finishing in the money with 11 of his 21 starters overall. If the top pick misfires, I think she’ll benefit.
Eight Arkansas breds will go 1 mile and 1/16 in the featured optional $50K claiming/conditioned allowance race. The distance is certainly going to be the question here as there are a few nice sprinters that are stretching out in distance. I think the gutsy six year old, Man in the Can (#3) will turn the tables on Macho Ronnie (#4), who was the upset winner when they met last month. Unlike most of the runners in here, I like Man in the Can is better suited for two turns as opposed to one turn. He’s lost a step since his strong three year old campaign, but he’s still a very useful runner. Macho Ronnie was given a great ride by Chel-C Bailey last time out to sprint for the lead from his outside draw and then moderate the pace on the front end. Cristian Torres takes over, and I don’t think he’ll allow the same fate to happen here. I do think Macho Ronnie ran well enough in the third race of his form cycle last time to make sure that he is covered in this spot today. I’m also a little interested in One Ten Stadium (#1) making his first start at two turns. His dam was better sprinting and her only other foal to race has only run in sprints. However, he is sired by Race Day who does get 20% winners with horses routing for the first time. I can see him sitting a nice trip from his rail post while facing some other runners that have beaten him in sprint races, but don’t seem to want to run this far.
The week will wrap up with another dual conditioned starter allowance race, this one for horses that have started for a $35K claiming tag or less and have not won twice since November 26th (excluding races with a $30K tag or less). Decision Maker (#6) was better than the other shorter prices in this race when they met at the beginning of the month. He was narrowly defeated that afternoon, coming up just short, finishing clearly in front of both Zoomer (#2) and Eastside Cool (#3). Zoomer is 0-8 on this course, and Eastside Cool, despite having a much better record on this oval, appears to be trending in the wrong direction. Decision Maker is very consistent and should get the right trip to win at short odds in the nightcap. I’ll back up with Digital (#4), who will likely be overlooked after two dull efforts. He might not love racing on this oval, going 0-5 in his career, however, he was much better in the summer and fall of last year and he may be able to return to his better races while making his third start of his current form cycle.
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