A compact but stellar field of fillies and mares will travel 1 1/16 miles at Oaklawn Park on Saturday in the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2). Four of the six entered are Grade 1 winners in what appears to be a fascinating affair.
TAPA TAPA TAPA (#1) (10-1) draws inside in her toughest assignment to date. The Tapit mare comes in off a five-length romp in the Wayward Lass Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs and has trained swiftly in the interim. The multiple stakes heroine from the Timothy Hamm barn was fourth in the Honeybee Stakes (G3) last campaign in her lone Oaklawn performance to date. She figures to be the pacesetter from this post under jockey Antonio Gallardo.
Multiple Grade 1 winner and Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) third-placer MIDNIGHT BISOU (#2) (6-5) has never finished out of the top three in advance of her second run of 2019. The Steve Asmussen pupil had a solid prep with a score at Sam Houston last time in the Houston Ladies Classic (G3), and she will retain regular pilot Mike Smith. The classy four-year-old figures to improve in this spot second off the bench.
SUMMER’S INDY (#3) (30-1) has finished in the money in two straight allowance races at the meeting, but she faces a daunting task in here. The Take Charge Indy filly, a former claimer, looks overmatched against the classy cast. David Cabrera has the call.
Alabama Stakes (G1) queen ESKIMO KISSES (#4) (5-1) closed out 2018 with a pair of unplaced efforts but was a dual winner at Oaklawn last year, including an 11-length allowance/optional claimer romp. The Kenny McPeek charge is a one-run closer who lands in a spot without much pace, which might hurt her chances first off the layoff. Alex Canchari has the assignment.
Claiborne homebred ELATE (#5) (8-5) is a dual Grade 1 winner who is spectacular on her best day. The Medaglia d’Oro mare has raced just twice since 2017, but her works look solid and she has run well while fresh in the past. The five-year-old has tactical speed and might get a jump on a few of her rivals for trainer Bill Mott. Regular rider Jose Ortiz will be in the irons.
Champion SHAMROCK ROSE (#6) (6-1) ran fourth in her 2019 debut following a game victory in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) last November at Churchill Downs. The Mark Casse-trained daughter of First Dude stretches out to two turns while drawing the outside post in the field. David Cohen has piloting duties.
Tapa Tapa Tapa will be sent from the rail to lead early on. The sneaky exotics contender could be up front for a long way, as her foes generally prefer to come from off the pace.
Elate figures to be forwardly placed some behind a moderate tempo and I think she will get first run on favored Midnight Bisou turning for home.
$40 Tri 5 with 2 with 1 = $40
$10 Tri 5 with 1 with 2 = $10
$5 Tri Key 2 with 1,5 = $10
PHOTO: Midnight Bisou and jockey Mike Smith capture the Houston Ladies Classic (G3) at Sam Houston on January 27, 2019 (c) Coady Photography/Sam Houston