There’s a strong 12 race card this afternoon at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The featured race is the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap for four year olds and up, going 1 mile and ⅛. A field of seven has been entered there, with a local star, three Grade 1 winners, and a very promising four year old all included in that group. In addition there’s a pair of stakes for three year olds and three year old fillies that will sandwich the big race. The Bath House Row Stakes for three year olds going 1 mile and ⅛ is the 11th race today, and the winner will earn a guaranteed spot in the Preakness Stakes next month. First post for the loaded program today is 12:10 (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|
|2||8||1,8||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|5||10||6,7,10||1||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|6||2||2,4||1||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|8||4||4,7,10||12||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|9||2||2||DBL. PK3, PK4|
Race 4, #3 Candy Coop (12-1 ML):
This Candy Ride filly is an interesting longshot prospect in this one mile maiden special weight race. She debuted in a restricted maiden race and she broke slowly. She finished with a lot of interest along the rail, getting into third that day. Her speed figure puts her in the conversation in this race and I see her as a horse that should do better when going longer. She could be dangerous with a better start today.
Race 5, #10, Trafalgar (9-2 ML):
This is a deep optional claiming/N2X allowance race, and it could be the last race of the season at Oaklawn for many of these runners. This is a race that I will bookmark as an above average race for this condition here. I ended up making Trafalgar my top pick, hoping that he’ll continue to improve in his second start off the Chris Hartman claim. He showed promise at three, finishing 4th in the Lecomte Stakes, about four lengths behind Epicenter. He went off form a bit while running with some tough graded stakes company. He was away from June to February, and he’s looked very good since returning, beating $50K N3L claimers with ease and then handily beating $50K starter allowance company three weeks ago, finishing in front of a next out winner. I do think he is eligible to move forward and I suspect we might be able to get a better price on him than his 9-2 morning line figure.
Race 7, Perfect Wish (5-1 ML):
I like to bet high percentage trainers that are new to a given circuit and that is the case with Jayde Gelner and Perfect Wish in this maiden special weight. Gelner has won 23% of her races in 2023, but has only started one horse at this current meet. She sends out this Midshipman filly who paired her Beyers in her first two races in New Orleans. I do like playing the Fair Grounds shippers at this time of year at Oaklawn. She’s been working well and Luis Saez, who is riding here today instead of Keeneland, takes the call.
Race 8, Rock Star Parking (15-1 ML):
I have a few concerns about the second choice, Perfect Happiness (#12), who is clearly the class of this optional $20K claiming/N1X allowance field. Rock Star Parking (#4) is an interesting longshot play, coming off a race where she was injured and eased. She’s a talented five year old mare that is in for the tag. She may need this race, but she does like the course here a lot. If she goes off at or around her 15-1 morning line figure, I’d be willing to take a shot with her.
Race 9, The Valley of the Vapors Stakes, #2 Merlazza (8-5 ML):
Here’s another Fair Grounds shipper that looks ultra-tough in this stakes race. I see her as a single in the Late Pick-4 and Pick-5 wagers. She was very good in New Orleans for Brad Cox, winning her last two starts. She defeated both Ornately and Perfect Wish, both of which are racing today. If they both run well in their respective heats, that would certainly flatter her going into her stakes debut. With the lack of depth in the three year old filly division at the moment, a big effort here could put her squarely in the conversation as the favorite for the Black Eyed Susan Stakes next month.
Race 10, The Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap, #2 Last Samurai, (2-1 ML)
This is a deep field for sure, but I’m going to side with the local hero, Last Samurai. He’s been excellent at this meet and Cristian Torres rides him perfectly each time. He should have an honest pace to chase with Classic Causeway (#6) and Charge It (#7) slotted to his outside. I’m not convinced that these two will be able to hold in the final furlong. Also, don’t sleep on Senor Buscador (#5), who is the longest shot on the board. He looked very good at Sunland in his first race of the season. Toss his effort in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile when he had a wide journey. He ran very well in longer one turn races last season, so I do wonder about the 9 nine furlongs. However, his sire, Mineshaft, improved with age, so I think he can compete with this group.
Race 11, The Bath House Row Stakes, #1 Interlock Empire (8-1 ML):
I don’t trust the speed horses in this race, especially at this distance, so I’m looking for some horses to rally from off the pace. I’ll try Interlock Empire (#1) on top, while getting Lasix once again. He was empty in the Arkansas Derby last month, but his maiden breaking effort was strong. I’d like to see David Cabrera keep him a shade closer to the pace today, and his rail post should help with that. He’s bred to go this far and I think while some of the others are struggling, he could get rolling late.
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