Oaklawn Park Racing Preview – 4/30/22 – By Eric Solomon

There’s a ten race card this afternoon in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and there’s still some quality racing left at the end of this meet. The feature race is the Bachelor Stakes, which features some up and coming three year old sprinters from the Steve Asmussen barn. If either Cairama or Cogburn runs a big race here, I’d think they would be considered for the Grade 1 Woody Stephens Stakes for three year olds on the Belmont undercard, six weeks from now. 

 

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 8 1,8 7 DBL, PK5
2 10 5,7,10 DBL, PK3, PK4
3 1 1 3 DBL, PK3
4 4 4,6 3 DBL, PK3
5 3 3,7,10 DBL, PK3
6 1 1,4 2 DBL, PK3, PK5
7 5 1,5,7 DBL, PK3, PK4
8 2 2 6,8 DBL, PK3
9 3 3 5 DBL
10 3 1,3,10

 

 

Race 1: 

The day starts out with $16K N2L claimers going six furlongs. I’m going to try Bitcoin Banker (#8) on top here, after finishing 4th last out with $12,500 N2L claimers two weeks ago in the slop. He drew the rail in that race, in which he was dropping in class. He looked like he had some run, but he was in traffic for a good part of that contest, steadying once or twice, while trying to find a way out. The winner was much the best, and he’ll have to make up 6+ lengths on Appraisal (#1) who also comes back in this race. I think the outside draw will help his chances here, and at 8-1 on the morning line, compared to the 5-2 figure for Appraisal, I’m willing to wager that he can make up those lengths in this spot. Appraisal still makes a ton of sense and will be used on the A line for me. Asmussen claimed him for Clark Brewster in his last start and brings him right back. He’s been knocking on the door at this meet, but he’s yet to break through. It’s been over a year since his maiden score on this track and distance last February, and I think he’ll be bet down lower than his morning line figure. The value won’t be great, but he does fit well with this group. On deeper tickets, I’d give a look to Violent Pass (#7) who is dropping in class after a respectable 4th place finish against a better field of $20K N2L claimers a few weeks back. He’s another one that hasn’t won in a while, but his lone score came on this oval.

Race 2: 

$16K Arkansas bred maiden claimers sprint six furlongs here. Boston Wally (#10) debuted with $30K state bred maiden claiming company last month. That was definitely a sharper bunch than what he’s facing here on the drop in class. He was positioned near the back of the pack and finished within just under eight lengths of the winner. I think that was a good race to get experience, and I expect him to be better with this group today. Max’s Heart (#7) is the one to beat after finishing second in half of six career starts. Toss the two turn effort two back, and this three year old has been reasonably consistent. I don’t love him at a short price, but he’s one of the more viable options in this race. More Than Hamazing (#5) cuts back to a sprint after a pair of tries with better where he faded out of the picture. He had an excuse after breaking poorly in his debut, and his last race with $30K maiden claimers was an above average heat for the condition. Adding blinkers, along with the sizable drop in class could be the key for him today.

Race 3: 

I think Rubiginous (#1) is going to be tough in this state bred $12,500 conditioned claiming race. Randy Morse reclaimed this horse that he had some success with in 2021. He finished second in his most recent start for Morse and was a winner for Diodoro two back with open $10K N2L claimers. Morse got him back after that and ran him against better horses at two turns. That was a protected spot, but he was a puzzling entrant in that race. He drops in class and returns in a sprint race, which should be much more to his liking. Five O One (#3) is the logical alternative, making his first start since being claimed by Diodoro. He’s been tailing off in form after coming into this meet very sharp. Perhaps the barn change will help him get back to his better races.

Race 4: 4-6/3

This is a very good optional claiming/allowance for fillies and mares, sprinting six furlongs. I’d have to dig a little deeper, but with how the condition is written on Equibase or the DRF, I’m not sure how Joy’s Rocket (#2), who is the morning line favorite, is eligible to be in this race without being entered for the $75K tag. Regardless, I feel like she’s one I want to try to beat in here, since she just feels like she’s not as good as she was earlier in her career. I prefer her underneath, and will be taking a stand against her horizontally. Headland (#4) is interesting to me, making her third start off the layoff. She’s the kind of mare that gets better with each start. She was in very good form here last season. She had some gaps in her running lines, but seems to be trending in the right direction. Perfect Happiness (#6) has been burning up the track in the AM since being claimed by Chris Hartman. She was beaten five lengths by Joyful Cadence (#3) in her last start, when she was setting the early pace. I think she likes to be near the lead, but doesn’t necessarily like being the target. She was excellent on this course when clearing the N2X condition back in December. Joyful Cadence is coming in riding a two race win streak. She’s the most likely pacesetter in this field, as she continues to go through her allowance conditions. I think she could be a stakes quality filly, and I like the patience that Ortiz is showing with her. The large allowance purses at Oaklawn certainly help to afford that patience. This is a tougher group than she beat last time, and she’ll likely need to continue to improve to win, so perhaps there might be better value elsewhere.

Race 5: 

It’s tricky to get a read on a horse like Macho Rocket (#10) in this $16K maiden claiming race for Arkansas breds. He was claimed by Burl McBride for $30K when finishing 3rd in his debut here on 2/26. He ran back and finished a respectable 5th with state bred maiden special weight company on April 3rd. There is a maiden special weight race for state breds on this card, where he’d likely go to post around 8-1, as opposed to the first or second choice here. McBride has a small stable and has only raced at Oaklawn over the last several years. A win and claim gets the connections near the breakeven mark. If he isn’t claimed, he likely doesn’t run again until December, unless a private purchase or a trainer change is involved. On figures, he definitely fits with this level, so I’ll use him, but I’ll be cautious with how I do. Hardscrabble (#3) feels like the one to beat in this race. He debuted with state bred $12,500 maiden claimers last month and finished second, losing in a photo. He’s one of the better Arkansas breds, sired by Maclean’s Music, whose stud fee continues to rise. I’d expect this Ron Moquett trainee to improve in his second start. This may be a time to buy low on Mo Vodka (#7), who came up empty as the favorite in a $12,500 maiden claimer three weeks ago. He’s 12-1 on the morning line, which may be unrealistically high in this race. However, his prior starts would be competitive at this level, so if you’re willing to draw a line through that race, you’re still likely to get better odds than the 2-1 he was last out.

Race 6: 

The late pick-5 sequence starts off with a $50K starter allowance going 1 mile and 1/16. Both the shorter prices in here, Tiz Rye Time (#4) and Leading West (#1) are coming out of a four horse race at this condition where Sol Del Sur got an easy lead and kept on going, winning by open lengths, while putting up an above average Beyer figure for the condition. Both tend to be forwardly placed, but neither horse seems to want to make the front end. Toma Todo (#5) would be a gate to wire candidate, as he’s looked good doing just that with conditioned $30K claimers twice already at this meet. However, his lone effort at this level was not good, when he was setting a moderate pace. I think the favorites will prove to be too classy for him here. Leading West will get the narrow edge from me in this spot, thinking that his last race was an aberration. He looked very good from an inside post two back, and David Cohen, who was aboard for his last victory, reunites with him today. Tiz Rye Time is a consistent gelding that gets close often at this level, but usually comes up just a bit short. Perhaps his score with N2L claimers two back will help his confidence. Ekati’s Verve (#2) is the longshot play that I’ll cover with here. He hasn’t been as good here since shipping in from the Fair Grounds. He struggled behind Toma Todo last out when going nine furlongs with conditioned $30K claimers. Greg Compton claimed him out of that race and moves him to a protected spot, where there aren’t a ton of horses that love to win. His cluster of races with Chris Hartman was good. He was claimed two back by a lower percentage barn that struggles to win first off the claim. Compton has a smaller stable, but he’s hit with 20% of his starters in 2022, so I think he could right the ship with him.

Race 7: 

Wildwood Z (#5) intrigues me in this maiden special weight race for three year olds going one mile. There is really no other significant speed signed on, so the lead should be there for the taking. He was solid in his debut behind Clancy’s Pistol, who came back to beat starter allowance company in his subsequent start and 4th most recently in the Oaklawn Stakes last week. He moved up in class from $30K maiden claiming to $62,500 maiden claiming in his last start. He took money at the windows, going off at 5-2, but absolutely misfired, finishing last of nine. Karl Broberg claimed him for that high number, and moves him to a protected spot with a $90K purse, showing some confidence that he can rebound off that poor effort. Rider’s Special (#1) has shown a very nice improvement pattern, finishing a strong second against a better field at the beginning of the month. He’s run into nice horses at this level at this meet, and feels like this could be the race where this $425K son of Union Rags breaks through. Speed Bias (#7) makes his second start and his first at two turns for Brad Cox. I feel like I’ve been wrong about every Cox runner over the past few weeks, but I do think he’s another live runner in this race. He was running well late in a sprint in his debut on the Arkansas Derby undercard. He was hammered down to 7-5 at the windows in that race where he finished 4th. There’s reason to believe that this son of Uncle Mo has some ability, and two turns should be where he runs his best races. Cox has good numbers stretching out and with second time starters. Ricardo Santana has hit 30% of the time at this meet when riding for Cox.

Race 8: 

A full field of 12 is signed on for this optional $32K claiming/N1X allowance sprint. Not all allowance races and starter allowances are created equal. The horses that Cumberland Avenue (#2) has been up against in starter allowance company feel stronger than the competition that most others in this race have seen recently. He finished a decent third behind Greeley and Ben, who is a win machine, and One for Richie, who won his next two starts after that race. He went toe to toe with Wobberjod last out, and got to him late despite a less than ideal start. I just don’t see anyone in this field that has run those kind of races against those kind of horses. He’s 6-1 on the morning, but I feel like there’s no way we’re going to get that price. I would consider singling him in this race. I will back up with both Devil’s Tower (#6) and Derby Date (#8) in here. Devil’s Tower won three straight before faltering with similar last out. He likes to win races and has shown the ability to rebound off poor efforts. Chris Hartman continues to win at a high rate in 2022. Derby Date is an interesting price runner in this field, coming off the Cipriano Contreras claim. He was very impressive clearing the N1X condition at Ellis this summer. He went off form a bit in the fall and was claimed in March at Turfway when making his first start of the year. He comes back to dirt in his second race off the layoff. It wouldn’t shock me to see him wake up at long odds here.

Race 9: The $150K Bachelor Stakes

The last open stakes race of the meet is a six furlong sprint for three year olds. It would be a surprise if Steve Asmussen didn’t win this race, as his two runners, Cairama (#3) and Cogburn (#5) look heads and tails above the rest on paper. Cairama cut back to a sprint after trying and failing at some of the two turn races on the Derby Trail here. He crushed a field of optional claiming/N1X allowance types here three weeks ago, looking like a horse that will be best at one turn. His dam sire is Big Drama, so that shouldn’t come as a complete surprise. While his speed figures jumped out considerably, his progression in one turn races is solid, previously finishing third in stakes race at 6 furlongs before his two turn experiments. I think he has a slight edge over his stablemate, Cogburn. He was a gate to wire winner in his last two starts. The track seemed to be playing fairly yesterday, as horses with different running styles were winning throughout the day. He makes his second start as a three year old and is another promising sprinter from this barn that has had some good ones in recent years.

Race 10:

The Saturday nightcap is a state bred maiden special weight sprint at six furlongs. Ev’s Sherman (#1) and Bettys Cash (#10) were second and third in the Rainbow Stakes a few weeks ago. They’re the logical players in this race and are hard to leave off any ticket. I was looking for an alternative, and ended up with Billhill (#3) as a horse that could be trending in the right direction in his third career start. He debuted in a snowstorm at the end of the card in March. He ran a much better race in start number two, finishing 4th, not far behind a few of these. I could see him taking a step forward today. Bettys Cash is preferred slightly over Ev’s Sherman, despite finishing behind that one last out. He was the favorite in that race, and was no match for Whelen Springs, who is taking his shot in the Bachelor Stakes right before this race. I don’t see a lot of pace pressure for him to deal with here today.

 

 

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