Oaklawn Park has put together another outstanding Saturday afternoon card headlined by the $600,000 Apple Blossom H. (G1) for fillies and mares. The featured event drew a full field of 14 and much like the other three races that make up a juicy late Pick 4 sequence, handicappers several ways to go.
Race 8: Count Fleet Sprint H. (G3)
#9 Whitmore is listed as the 5-2-morning line choice in this extremely competitive 6-furlong dash. The 7-year-old gelding has hit the board in all 13 tries at Oaklawn Park, including eight wins and has posted a pair of triple-digit Brisnet Speed ratings to start his 2020 campaign. He is the deserving top choice, but I will take a chance against him on Saturday afternoon. The son of Pleasantly Perfect has not won two races in a row since early 2018 and will have to work out a trip in a crowded field of 11 making a short price tough to swallow.
#4 Bobby’s Wicked One has not been seen since a pair of gate-to-wire victories in non-graded stakes events in Louisiana. Both races came back fast, but they were against just two other rivals where he had things his way on the front end. He will probably find his way to the front in this much more competitive spot, but he will likely have plenty of company to his outside.
#7 Hidden Scroll makes the second start of his 4-year-old campaign after crushing an extremely modest group of optional claimers at Gulfstream Park on Mar. 1. The Juddmonte Farms homebred is high on talent, but light on experience and stakes wins. That being said, if Martin Garcia can navigate a clean voyage from the 7-hole he is more than capable of getting to the wire first against this bunch.
#2 Flagstaff has run some fast races for trainer John Sadler and comes into his initial try in Hot Springs off a 1 1/4-length victory in the San Carlos (G2) at Santa Anita Park. I love the rider switch to Joel Rosario, but the son of Speightstown still has to prove he can be at his best against a large field and away from Southern California. All of his most recent races have come against fields of six or fewer.
#3 Hog Creek Hustle is my lukewarm top choice. The 4-year-old colt will have to run faster than he has in his first two starts of 2020, but he should get an honest pace to run into. His effort in the Gulfstream Park Mile (G2) when the son of Overanalyze was closer than he prefers sets him up well for the turn back to 6-panels. He should be rolling late.
#5 Wendell Fong ran well in his first start off the bench for trainer Jeremiah Englehart. I expect a career best effort in the second start of his 4-year-old campaign. 30-1 is way too high. #11 Nitrous attracts the services of Ricardo Santana, Jr. and has a win over this racetrack. If they fly early he will benefit.
The pace should be contentious in this optional claimer given the presence of #6 Break Even and #9 Mt. Brave. I will try to get out of the second leg using three runners that should sit stalking trips and get first run on the closers.
#1 Shanghai Tariff ran huge in defeat last time out. A repeat of that Mar. 20 runner-up effort to heavily favored Mia Mischief should be good enough to win this. #5 Meadow Dance drops out of graded stakes competition. She should be ready for a prime performance off the freshening. #10 Take Charge Angel draws favorably outside the main speeds. She will need to move forward off of her return race at Turfway Park, but the price should be right.
Race 10: Apple Blossom H. (G1)
#11 Serengeti Empress is listed as the third choice on the morning line, but I expect the 2019 Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner to go off as the favorite. The Tom Amoss trainee dominated a field of seven in the Azeri (G2) last month, but she was handed an easy lead when #3 Awe Emma dropped jockey Richard Eramia at the start. The daughter of Alternation is dominant when she is allowed to run loose on the lead, but that is unlikely to happen in this spot with #4 Come Dancing and #10 Cookie Dough drawn to her inside. If she does shake loose early though, they are running for second place.
My top choice in the Saturday feature is #5 Point of Honor. The Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners filly earned $442,375 in her 3-year-old campaign, including a 1/2 length score in the Black-Eyed Susan (G2). The daughter of Curlin disappointed her backers in her return race at Tampa, but I thought it was an encouraging effort off the bench going much shorter than she prefers against a legitimate sprinter in J P’s Delight. I am expecting a huge move forward and a big 2020 season.
#6 Street Band was up against it in the aforementioned Azeri. She should run much better on Saturday. #9 Horologist posted a 101 Brisnet Speed rating when losing by a nose in the Nellie Morse S. at Laurel Park last month. If she can avoid a step backwards off of the career best performance she could be in the mix late at a big price.
I am all in on #2 Kurilov in the finale. The 7-year-old gelding disappointed as the favorite twice last fall at Churchill Downs, but rediscovered his will to win in Arkansas this winter after a much-needed freshening. The son of Lookin At Lucky ran a better than looks fourth earlier this month, but ran into a monster in Pirate’s Punch. He drops back into a much softer spot where he should get a perfect ground saving voyage under Joe Talamo. I love his chances to get to the wire first.
- 2,3,4,5,7,11 with 1,5,10 with 5,6,9,11 with 2 = $36