Oaklawn Park Racing Preview – 4/2/22 – By Eric Solomon (Arkansas Derby Day)

The signature card of the year at Oaklawn Park is here. There’s 13 races scheduled, highlighted by the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby. A rare occurrence of a filly taking on the boys in a Derby Prep Race is the big storyline here, as Secret Oath tries to take D. Wayne Lukas back to the Derby. Lightly raced runners like We the People and Doppelganger could be standing in her way. Three other stakes races and a host of quality allowance races support this oversized program with three Pick-5’s and three Pick 4’s on the wagering menu. The first post is scheduled for 12:10 CT/1:10 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
1 4 4,7 3,6 DBL, PK5
2 8 4,5,8 7 DBL, PK3, PK4
3 8 6,8 1 DBL, PK3
4 2 2 DBL, PK3
5 2 2 1 DBL, PK3, PK5
6 7 5,6,7 DBL, PK3, PK4
7 1 1 DBL, PK3
8 5 5,7 10 DBL, PK3
9 10 6,10 1,8 4 DBL. PK3, PK5
10 1 1 5 DBL. PK3, PK4
11 5 5,8,11 DBL, PK3
12 6 6 4,9 3,5 DBL
13 9 9,10,14 7,12




Race 1:

While there’s only seven runners entered, the opener on this big card is a complicated optional claiming/allowance race where there is absolutely no speed signed on whatsoever. I guess the closest thing to a frontrunner is Santos Dumont (#4) who is in search of his second straight win. Arrieta could certainly give him an edge with an aggressive ride from the gate. He has seven career starts, and the five that have come here have been very sharp. His two subpar efforts both came on the road. Manhattan Up (#7) was a stakes winner last year, taking top honors in the Los Alamitos Special in September. He struggled on a very sloppy course in the Fayette in October, and then dropped in for an optional $50K tag where he was claimed twice. Diodoro had him before and he wanted him back, which is a positive sign for me. I’ll cover with Starrininmydreams (#3) who seems like he has a shot, but has been held winless since November 2020. He’s met better fields in his last few starts, mostly in New Orleans. Johnny V. taking the mount can’t be a bad thing. Shortlist (#6) is the other short price that is worth covering in this race. He was knocking on the door with similar in his last few tries. He’s been away since the end of January though, and might need this race before we see his best. 


Race 2: 

The first of two maiden special weight races on the card is for three year olds going six furlongs. Dallas Stewart doesn’t have many horses on the grounds here, but he’s had Spankster (#8) working steadily over this course since the beginning of February. He’s taken his time with this $260K son of Mastery who has steadily improved in the mornings. Stewart has great numbers with first time starters over the last 15 months, winning 23% of his races with a big $4.78 ROI. Mean Jakey (#4) was rolling late in between horses last out before the runner up came into his lane, forcing him to take up late. He finished third, but was promoted to second via disqualification. He had a lot of momentum before the incident, and while I’m not certain he would have won, I think he definitely would have been right there with the race winner. Jose Lezcano is in town today to ride for Asmussen as Rosario is in Florida, and they have a host of live mounts throughout the card. Ludwig (#5) tired late in his debut at 1 mile and 1/16 in a decent maiden special weight race on the Rebel undercard. He’s another son of Mastery that seems to have a live look in this race. Bauer has decent numbers with second time starters, but not so much with horses cutting back from routes to sprints. However, his two speedy works last month indicate he might be better at one turn. On deeper tickets, I’ll use Speed Bias (#7) making his debut for Brad Cox. I’m sure he’ll take money, as the Cox horses typically do, so I’m not sure there will be great value. However, it does seem that this son of Uncle Mo has some ability based on his works. There are some good runners here, but if he gets hammered at the windows, I would think that’s a sign that he is well meant, as public money has been pretty smart all meet long in spots like this at Oaklawn.


Race 3:

While I’m usually a little cautious playing recent maiden winners when facing winners for the first time, I think this optional claiming/allowance race will be decided by Life is Hard (#6) and Alejandro (#8). I ended up on Alejandro as the top pick, shipping in from the Fair Grounds after finally breaking his maiden last month. He’s beautifully bred, sired by Curlin, out of the mare Rachel’s Valentina. She was the Grade 1 winning daughter of Rachel Alexandra. Alejandro finished first in a maiden special weight race last year in New Orleans, only to be disqualified. He was close in his next three tries, but finally broke through last time. He’s improving and he still could be a horse that finds a way to win some graded stakes races this year, assuming he continues to progress for Asmussen. I tried to beat Life is Hard last out as the heavy favorite in a maiden special weight race where he was trying two turns for the first time. Clearly that proved to be a fool’s errand as he dominated that field, winning by eight lengths on the wire in his second career start. There’s some speed drawn inside of him today, so Tiago Pereira will have to work to avoid having to go too wide on the first turn. However, he looks like he could be a nice runner, and he’s a proven commodity on this surface. Of the horses that have been facing winners, I will cover my bases with the other Asmussen runner, Caerus (#1). He cleared the N2L allowance condition at Sam Houston in his last start, and is now making his third start off the layoff. He ran a few competitive races on this course last season with maiden special weight company, and he’s in good form. He’ll need to take a step up, but if his odds go over his 6-1 morning line, he could become a viable alternative at a price. 


Race 4: 

It’s not very creative, but this race feels like Gun It (#2) will get the ideal set up in his second start off the layoff. He was sharp, finishing a close third behind Necker Island and Concert Tour at this level in February, despite losing ground while going four wide on both turns. Flavien Prat gets the call today, as he’s in town to ride We The People later on in the Arkansas Derby. There are horses to his outside that seem to have more interest in setting the pace, so I believe he’ll be able to use his inside draw to sit in the perfect spot, just off the leaders. I think he was good enough to win last time, he just covered too much ground. Barring anything crazy happening, that shouldn’t be the case here. He feels like a worthy single in a race where there are some talented runners that aren’t what they used to be, along with some others that are moving up the class ladder. 


Race 5: The $200K Carousel Stakes

The first stakes race of the afternoon is a six furlong sprint for fillies and mares. While this is the third time in a row that Li’l Tootsie (#5) and Joy’s Rocket (#6) are squaring off, I’m starting to think that the ceiling isn’t much higher for either filly. Meanwhile, Frank’s Rockette (#2), who is coming off a bit of a disappointing 2021 campaign, makes her first start of 2022 here. Looking at the other five she’s drawn, I suspect, it’ll be a winning one. She doesn’t have the same blistering early speed that she displayed earlier in her career. However, she’s a gritty mare who dug in and battled in every start last year. She has a tactical advantage over the other two short priced fillies, and I think she’ll make amends for her narrow defeat in this race last year. The one I’ll cover with on deeper plays is a longshot, Wildwood’s Beauty (#1). She may need to be aggressively handled from the outset as she’s posted inside. She was a winner at the start of the meet, but has struggled in her last two races. Her last start of 2021 was in this race when she was too aggressive. She wasn’t aggressive enough in her last two tries, so it will be up to Arrieta to try to find the right balance. If he can, she has an outside shot at a price.  


Race 6: 

The second maiden special weight race on the program is for three year olds that will be traveling 1 mile and 1/16. I’m a little chilly on both the two shorter prices in this race, Quick to Blame (#1) and Plausible Denile (#4). Quick to Blame has been close in his three tries at this meet, but has yet to break through nor has he shown real signs of growth in the afternoon. He’ll take money as he comes from the Brad Cox barn, but I’ll be trying to beat him. Plausible Denile ran a big race two weeks ago, making his second career start, finishing a close third. He comes back quick and adds Lasix and blinkers today, which I’m not loving since he ran so well last out. I’ll look to beat both of these by taking Western River (#7) as the top pick. He was flying late at long odds when making his three year old debut in a maiden special weight race on the Rebel undercard. He didn’t show much as a two year old at Ellis, but two of those races were on the grass. He was given time to develop and I think he could be rolling late here. Steve Asmussen is absolutely loaded on this card, and I think both of his runners in this race are live as well. Rider’s Special (#6) was 5th in the same maiden special weight that Quick to Blame and Western River are coming out of. He looked to take a big step forward in that race, after losing to Dash Attack at the beginning of the meet. David Cabrera has been upgrading many mounts over the last few weeks and he gets the call today. King Ottoman (#5) is the other runner he’s sending out, making his second career start after a respectable debut at the Fair Grounds in a maiden special weight on the Risen Star undercard. He’s bred to go longer, being sired by Curlin out of a Tapit mare. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him take a decent step forward in this spot today.


Race 7: 

I’m going to use another Asmussen runner as a single in another race where everything looks to set up perfectly for his horse. Pharoah’s Heart (#1) showed a ton of potential in Southern California last year, before going on the shelf after a dull effort when trying graded stakes company for the time in the Santa Margarita Stakes in April. She was transferred from Mark Glatt to Steve Asmussen, who had her run here back in February off the long layoff. She had trouble at the gate and was five wide on the turn. She came up just short of nailing next out  winner, Joyful Cadence on the wire. She was entered two weeks ago, but was acting up before the race and was scratched. There’s some cheap speed signed on here, which should allow her to sit the right trip, just off the frontrunners. She’ll be a short price, but she looks to be better than these. 


Race 8: 

I think this race sets up very nicely for Drena’s Star (#5) making his first start off the Diodoro re-claim. He was very good when he was in his barn last year, running three big races at this meet and then winning a small off the turf stakes race at Canterbury. He was claimed for $62,500, after getting a great return on the initial $30K claim last January. He struggled in his first two starts for Mike Maker, who dropped him to a $30K claiming race when winning at the Fair Grounds last month. That’s the spot where Diodoro swooped in and came back for more, this time for different owners though. He has good speed, but he’s proven capable to stalk from off the pace, which I think will be the winning style in this spot today. Wobberjod (#7) has been one of the coolest horses at this meet. He’s a gritty loss in a photo away from being undefeated. He debuted in a modest $7,500 maiden claiming race at Remington this past fall. Moquett used the waiver rule when he was able to enter him in a $10K N2L claiming race without having to worry about being claimed. He dominated that race, winning by three easy lengths. He came back to beat $10K starter allowance runners two back, and was nailed on the wire by a nice, more seasoned horse in Cumberland Avenue in $20K starter allowance last month. This is yet another step up in class, and the presence of Incorruptible (#10) to his outside, might hinder his chances, however, he’s a hard trying horse that doesn’t seem to want to lose. Incorruptible was scratched from a starter allowance race here on Thursday that was run for less than half of the purse of this allowance race. Looking at the results of that race, which was decimated by scratches, I think he would have easily won going gate to wire. Opting for this deeper race is a calculated risk, but he is definitely improving and being drawn outside of Wobberjod could give him a slight tactical advantage if they are dueling. His last effort with $30K-$25K N2L claimers was good enough to consider him here on deeper tickets. 


Race 9: The $400K Grade 3 Oaklawn Mile Stakes:

This is a very competitive ten horse field, where I think the Bob Baffert runner, Cezanne (#4) is going to get hammered at the windows. For me, I think it’s worth trying to beat him, as I’m not convinced he’s as effective at two turns. I’ll cover with him on some deeper tickets, since he’s obviously shown some serious ability in the past, but I’ll try to start off the Late Pick-5 by using another Southern California invader, Law Professor (#10) on top. John Velasquez will need to find a way to avoid being closer to the hotel than the rail on the first turn with his wide draw. While he’s shown a lot of tactical speed, he’s also comfortable coming from off the pace, which may need to be his move here. He won the Mathis Brothers Mile when that race was taken off the turf on Opening Day at Santa Anita in December. He was second to Express Train in the San Pasqual, and that one would go on to win the Big Cap in his next start. He went back to the turf in the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile last out and ran an even 5th, never threatening the winner. I think he’s an improving four year old gelding that is going to run better races on the main track. I like his chances today. Silver Prospector (#6) gave Olympiad, who is a potential future star, a good fight in the Mineshaft last out. That one would go on to win the New Orleans Handicap last week. He had a tough trip two back in the 5th Season Stakes when he was very wide on both turns. There’s going to be faster horses inside of him, I’m thinking that Lezcano can tuck in behind them, avoiding going more than three wide into the first turn. He will break through in one of these nice races sooner than later. Runnin Ray (#1) has speed along the rail and gets an acid test after two straight wins in allowance company. I think Martin Garcia might try to run them off their feet with a sharp break. On these big race days, if speed is playing well, watch out for a horse like this. Fulsome (#8) was a very nice three year old that won some of the low key graded stakes races like the Matt Winn at Churchill and the Smarty Jones at Parx. He took his shot in the Pennsylvania Derby in his final start of his three year old campaign, and was no match for the likes of Hot Rod Charlie and Midnight Bourbon. He’s been away since September and this is an ambitious spot to make his return. However, if he’s progressed from three to four, he may be better than many of these. 


Race 10: The $600K Grade 3 Fantasy Stakes:

This race lost some star power when Secret Oath opted to run in the Arkansas Derby later on in the card. However, there’s a solid nine horse field assembled in a race that looks like it has a lot of speed signed on. As a result, I like Dream Lith (#1) quite a bit to rebound off her dull seasonal effort at the Fair Grounds in February. She split the field finishing 6th in the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra that day. She was a winner of the Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill two starts back, showing a nice progression of improvement in between starts. She’s been based here and she’s been working smartly for Diodoro. There’s a chance this race falls apart and she’s the one best suited to pick up the pieces. Eda (#5) looks to win her 5th straight race for Bob Baffert while leaving California for the first time. She ships in from California after winning the Grade3 Santa Ysabel in her first start of the year. She ended 2021 with a win in the Grade 1 Starlet. While that wasn’t a particularly fast race, she was able to get the job done. My knock on this filly is that she’s had a lot of easy trips, facing some softer fields, while having favorable pace scenarios each time. She may just be better than these, but I think the potential for a pace meltdown is there, and I’m not sure that bodes well for her. 


Race 11:

I’m siding against the morning line favorite, Storm the Court (#1) in this optional claiming/allowance contest. He’s winless since the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and he’s making his first start in over a year. I’ve always liked this horse, but I need to see a race at this point in his career before taking any kind of short price on him. I talked about one of the cooler horses at this meet earlier in the card, Wobberjod. This race features another very cool local horse, Gar Hole (#5) who moves to open company today after absolutely crushing state bred opposition in all four of his starts at this current meet. He beat a good field of Arkansas breds in the Nodouble Breeders Stakes last month, drawing away to win by five. The next state bred stakes race is at two turns, so this is a logical place to try open company for the first time. He has good stalking speed, showing the ability to sit right off another horse’s flank and pounce on the leaders. His speed figures continue to trend up and he looks to be doing great for John Ortiz, who has had a tremendous meet. Macron (#8) is the main danger, who is a four year old son of Frosted racing for Steve Asmussen. He’s run three good races at this meet, winning once, and finishing a close second in the other two. He was down along the rail in a big field last out, causing him to be further back than usual. He still finished with a ton of interest to get within a half length of the winner. I think being closer to the outside here will be to his benefit. I think the same could be said for the horse in the outside stall, Supremacy (#11) for Brad Cox. He ran a sparkling race three starts ago on the Derby undercard, beating some very nice horses that afternoon in allowance company. He went on the shelf and returned to the races in January at the Fair Grounds. He had a little trouble at the break and was a dullish third in a race which allowed  him to shake off the rust. He missed the break last out at this level when he was about five lengths behind Macron at the end. He makes his third start off the layoff, and I think this start will prove if he is a runner or just a one hit wonder. However, I think this might be a spot where there could be some value on a Brad Cox horse, who could be rounding into some better form.


Race 12: The $1,250,000 Grade 1 Arkansas Derby:

I wrote about this race more in depth on the ITM Kentucky Derby Blog, which I’ve linked below. I think Secret Oath (#6) is the one to beat in this race, She has been so dominant in her last three starts on this oval. Her connections are taking the chance to see if she’d qualify for the Derby after already qualifying for the Oaks. 

For full transparency, my Top 3 for this race would be Secret Oath, Barber Road (#3) and Un Ojo (#5), under the belief that those bottom two are better suited for underneath in the vertical exotics. In the multi-race wagers, I’ll use both Doppelganger (#4) and We The People (#9) on the B line, as they have a higher ceiling than the other two. Doppelganger could improve with the change in scenery, and We The People may very well respond to the rise in class. While I’ll be trying to beat them, I think they have a better chance of winning outright compared to Barber Road and Un Ojo. However, I think the risk in playing both Doppelganger and We The People to win is higher




Race 13: 

When the Arkansas Derby was on closing day at Oaklawn, this last race was always a 1 mile and ¾ starter allowance contest. They’ll save that marathon for closing day next month, and let Arkansas bred optional claiming/allowance runners go in the nightcap here, which is set for a 7:10 local start (8:10 ET). I ended up with Mahomey (#9) on top in this race, getting the services of John Velazquez. He was a decent third when making his first start in over a year back at the end of February. Mrs. Beans (#14) got the better of him that day, but I think he’ll be more fit and more effective in this start. Mrs. Beans is entered in a one mile race at this condition tomorrow, but I think the preference would be to run him today. If he does get to compete, he’d likely be a tough customer from his outside draw. He was no match for Gar Hole in stakes company last month, which was a quick turnaround for him while coming off an optional claiming/allowance win. He’s entered for a tag here after clearing this level two back, however, that’s not a big concern as we’re nearing the end of the meet, and he has already exceeded expectations from his $10K claim last March. Topf Road Rules (#10) is also entered tomorrow, and while he’ll be a shorter price tomorrow, I think he’s better suited for a sprint. He feels like a buy low sell high horse. He was terrible last out when blowing the break at two turns, but he’s run better races when sprinting. I think he gets overlooked in this race from a wagering perspective, and if he goes off near his 12-1 morning line figure, that’s a risk I’d be willing to take. He beat the morning line favorite, Bellamys Roan (#7) on the square in a route two back. Bellamys Roan cut back to a sprint after that race and was an open lengths winner in a driving snowstorm last out. He’s steadily improved, but is facing winners for the first time, and has lost to many of these runners in the past. I think he’s got a shot, but I’d want better than 3-1 (ML) to use him on my vertical tickets. Goodnight Archie (#12) is one that has a shot at a longer price in here as well. Toss his last race in the slop, and you’ll find two decent efforts prior to that. He was no match for Gar Hole two back, but this field doesn’t have a runner like that. 


Favorite Bet Today: Late Pick-5 ($75 Ticket, $0.50 Base Wager)

I’m going to craft a ticket using Secret Oath (#6, R12) as a single in the Arkansas Derby. I’ll place some back up wagers with Doppelganger (#4, R12)and We the People (#9, R12), but I think the filly is the one to beat in this race. I also like Dream Lith (#1, R10) quite a bit, but I’ll put Eda (#5, R10) on this ticket as well, trying to narrow down in those legs. I’ll go five deep in the first leg and the nightcap, but I don’t think all five will be running in the last leg, which may shave a few dollars off this ticket. 

The Ticket:

Race 9: 1,4,6,8,10

Race 10: 1,5

Race 11: 5,8,11

Race 12: 6

Race 13: 7,9,10,12,14

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